Snowball Fights

Thursday 4th January, 2024

The other day, I had my first snowball fight with my son. And I almost missed it.

Despite how Hallmark movies depict the American midwest, the perfect day for playing in the snow is fairly rare. It takes the right combination of factors - snow wet enough to pack, but not wet enough to be a slushy mess, temperatures cold enough to keep everything frozen but not so cold that you freeze too, and as for wind - if there's wind, forget about it.

This year, our first real snow brought such a day. I enjoy a degree of flexibility in terms of where I work, and on this particular day I decided to stick with the home office rather than braving the wintry weather. As the day was winding to a close, my wife stuck her head in the room to let me know she was getting ready to bundle our two-year-old up to go play in the snow. "Come play with us!" she said, in that tone that every husband knows he'd be a fool to refuse. No problem - I just had to wrap up the last few minutes of work, and I could join the fun.

If only it was that easy…

Closing my laptop wasn't the hard part. Neither was walking out of my home office and shutting the door. Putting on my coat and lacing up my snow boots was only a little difficult because the boots were new, and I still hadn't quite gotten used to the lacing pattern.

The problem was, while my body had left the office, my brain was still at work. As we walked down the sidewalk and my son slipped his little mittened hand into my much larger gloved one, I was still working on that last problem on my desk. As we approached the park down the street from our home, I was thinking through my upcoming calendar of events. As our little guy took off running for the big snow-covered hill, I was stuck in the office, trying to pin down all the disparate, elusive threads of my day.

It was a snowball, smacking solidly into the small of my back, that snapped my brain back into my body. My son is pretty coordinated - for a two-year-old - but the integrity and velocity of the snowball makes me suspect he wasn't the one who threw it. My wife, for the record, can neither confirm nor deny my theory.

And as my mind rushed down the handful of blocks between our home and the park to catch up with the rest of me, in that moment, I had a choice to make. I thought I had made it when my wife asked me to come play in the snow. But I hadn't. I tried to be two places at once, and I had to choose one.

And as I scooped up a handful of snow, the choice was made.

I don't know who you are. I don't know if you have a spouse, or kids. I don't know if you work from home, or from an office, or a little bit of both, or if your home is your work or your life takes you so many different places in one week you wouldn't even know where to start describing it. I don't know if you have snow year-round where you live, or if it ever snows at all. But I know that there are snowball fights in your life you don't want to miss. If sharing this little story has earned me the right to ask you for one favor, it would be this: don't try to be two places at once. Show up for those snowball fights. You won't regret it.

On the way home from the park, my wife and I mused about whether or not our son will remember that day when he's older. Probably not; I hear that some people form long-term memories at his age, but it's rare. If he does remember it, he'll likely remember a hill as high as a mountain and snow three feet deep, even though the reality was a little less spectacular. More likely, he'll only ever hear stories about his first snowball fight - if even that.

But I'll remember. I'll always remember my first snowball fight with my son. And to think - even though I was there, I almost missed it. I'm so glad I didn't.

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It's free
always has been, always will be