Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spend Some Time Outside With the Kids

I'm not sure what game this is.

 It is that time in Arizona! That time of year when I love being outside, when yard work feels more like a treat than a chore, and when I feel like a kid who needs to be told to come inside. I love Arizona in the wintertime.

Camouflage practice
This past weekend I decided to do some major bush trimming. I have a hedge of oleanders that was getting out of control and it was time to show it who is in charge. So I began hacking away and almost instantly all three kids wanted to be outside. My initial thought was to tell them to stay inside, to keep out of the way, to avoid the dangers of a falling branch or a splinter. And then I realized that I had absolutely no basis for them not to be outside.

We went over the safety rules, which were mainly to ask permission before touching any of the tools that were out. And then something magical happened. Part of me wishes that I could say that the magic was that the kids took over and trimmed the bushes while I watched from the hammock with a cold beverage. Some day...

All hail the queen!
No, the magical part was the playing, the laughter, and the imagination. Listening to the giggles as the kids hid behind branches, or pretended that one was royalty and the other two would fan with branches, or building a mountain of branches to see who could climb up the highest. Listening to these giggles and this excitement and this joy made my chore that much more bearable. At one point my six-year-old asked me if they could go watch t.v.. I told her that I was enjoying listening to them play and I wanted the company, and they stayed out with me for another hour. What a joy it was to have the kids imagining and playing and interacting. Yes, there were branches everywhere that I had to help them pick up. Yes, there were some owies from branches being swung around or stepped on. But the kids were having a great time, and I am so thankful that I got to be part of it.

Chipping up the branches
This made me think about what would have happened if I let them go watch t.v. instead of play outside. I would have missed out on the teaching moments ("Daddy, what's the difference between that trimmer and a chain saw?"). They would have missed out on the fresh air and the sunshine. We all would have missed out on the time together.

Day 2-3 involved chipping up all of the branches using my Patriot Electric Chipper. I started by sharpening the blade, and man did that make a difference. I chipped for three hours on day 2 and two hours on day 3, creating enough chippings for the next year of compost. The great part of this was that the kids again wanted to be outside with me and wanted to be part of what I was doing because the stage was set from the day before. We talked about compost, princesses, garbage trucks, and power tools. It doesn't get better than that.

Spreading chippings around the trees
My six-year-old was again heavily involved, bringing me branches to chip up. She even got to run a couple of branches through the chipper (with daddy's very close supervision), and the smile on her face was priceless.

He thinks he's smiling.
This whole project made me wonder how many times my immediate response to my kids is to avoid the work area. There are times when I want them to help me with a project, but other times when it feels like a hassle to have them around. It would have been so much easier if I had cut the oleanders and left everything in a nice neat pile, rather than having the branches and debris spread all around the yard. I may have even saved a day of chipping if I could have moved at my own pace. But I would have missed out on time spent with the kids. Sure it is more work, and yes there were plenty of fights that I had to mediate (please do not assume that my kids are all smiles when they're playing), but the time spent with the kids, the lessons that they are learning, and the love of doing things as a family make that extra work worth it.

Have a wonderful Christmas, Renaissance Dads and Moms.
This little beauty.

Still working on the pile

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