Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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My Most Memorable Failures Are What My Kids Remember Most Fondly



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Two years ago, when Tristan was five, we took a family trip to the coast. Mel and I were celebrating 8 years together, and this was our first year living in Oregon. We didn’t have any family around, and we didn’t really know anyone well enough to drop off our kids, so we took them with us. We stayed in a hotel right on the beach for three days. However, it was near the end of October. We were new to Oregon, and I assumed we might get a little rain, but I didn’t realize that it would rain the whole time.

Tristan and Norah were restless in the hotel most of the trip, and once they got sick of watching TV, or hanging out in the hotel pool, we’d take them outside to the beach, in the rain, and make the best of it.

One afternoon, Norah, who was three at the time, was taking a nap. Tristan really wanted to go outside, so I took him to the beach, while Mel stayed with Norah. It was raining in big messy drops that pushed at us from the side, and it was so foggy we could hardly see the ocean. By the time we made it to the sand, I couldn’t see the hotel anymore. I was wet and cold and miserable within a few minutes.

The wind was blowing too hard for an umbrella, and we didn’t own rain jackets yet. Tristan was in a hooded snow jacket, jeans and flip flops, and I was in an old snowboarding coat because it was the only thing I owned that might keep me dry.

I crouched down, and together we made a sand castle, and as I worked the sand, my fingers were cold and stiff. With the wet sand and the rain, everything we made didn’t stand long. Tristan got really frustrated with that, calling the sand stupid and irritating. He stomped his foot every so often. At one point we got a large mound of dirt built that looked like a wet lump, but it was standing. I told him it was the castle, and we needed a moat, so we dug a ring around the mound.

Just for a few minutes, the moat and the mound stood, and Tristan smiled, like we’d really accomplished something. Then it all washed away, and he was, once again, frustrated. Total, we were on the beach maybe 45 miserable minutes before we came back in cold, wet, and filthy.

I recall leaving the beach the next day feeling like the whole trip was a huge failure.

Flash forward two years to when Tristan was seven. It was summer on a Saturday. Tristan was on his roller blades, and I was on foot. We were taking a trip around the block, something Tristan loves to do with me. He looked up and said, “Dad, remember when we made a castle in the rain?”

I looked down at him, not sure what he was talking about. Then I remembered. “You mean during our trip to the coast a couple years ago?”

“Yeah,” he said in a chipper, top of the morning to yah, voice. “That was a lot of fun. We should do that again sometime.”

He stopped skating to look up at me with big blue eyes, and I got the impression that he will remember that moment for the rest of his life. Sometimes it seems like my most memorable failures are the moments my kids remember most fondly.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter


Barrie Evans said...

I've had this kind of experience, too, from times when I was underemployed and depressed. Then your son or daughter remembers one little thing you did and makes you see it differently. I wish I could let my kids get in my brain and edit my memories for me.