…to assume you had character to begin with.
Not a single one of you accepted my challenge. Not-a one. Your silence allowed my mind to wander. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t think through my challenge before I declared it. Of course you wouldn’t understand you had been attacked and defend yourself. You don’t have character. Character requires perseverance, and perseverance requires overcoming some sort of difficulty. No, not the difficulties you’re thinking you have overcome. Neither exasperatingly stuck-open selfie sticks, nor completely spelling out words live under this umbrella. I’m talking difficult. I’ll give you an example.
H-‘s Spring Break was last week. (To new readers, she’s my seven-year-old daughter.) The entire reason I moved to Denver was proximity to the mountains. I wanted to live near the ski-resorts and I wanted H- to grow up skiing. The opportunity finally arrived to take her skiing. In short, the ski-lessons turned out to be a bust. She didn’t know the other kids, and the instructors were very un-ski-instructory.
The proper bunny hill, however, was open for another hour after the lesson, so I took her to the line for the unthinkably slow-but-brief chair lift. Suddenly she had to go to the bathroom.
“Too bad,” I said.
See, I have a younger brother. Once, when we were about to ride the Power Tower at Cedar Point–last ride of the night–as we crept closer to the terrifically terrifying thrill ride and heard the screams, he suddenly had to go to the bathroom.
I also said, “Too bad,” to him back then.
I can only imagine the transition H- experienced as she went from fear of the unknown, to fear of heights, to fear of how to get off the lift. But I don’t have to imagine her relief as I firmly held onto her and we successfully dismounted without hiccup.
“Ready for this?” I queried, absolutely certain she wasn’t.
She soon fell.
I didn’t help her up and I felt like a jerk.
Luckily, ever since she was very young, upon her falling down, I’ve been asking her, “Why do we fall down, Bruce?” and she answers with, “To learn how to pick ourselves up.” (Thanks, Mr. Nolan.)
We maybe made three trips up and down the bunny hill before we called it quits. If she ever chose to fall because she got going too fast and decided to bail before things got ugly, I would help her up. If she fell because she was afraid, I ski’d to her and told her to get up. That was day one.
Day two, we started fresh. After more of the same, she began to fall less and eventually proposed an intriguing deal.
“Hey Daddy. I was thinking. If I can ski down this without falling, can I have a stuffy (her name for Beanie Boos)?”
“I’ll make that deal,” I confirmed, quickly adding, “But you can’t fall once. But you’ve got a deal. It doesn’t matter if it takes all day either. If by the end of today you have made it down one time without falling, you get the stuffy.”
“Not once. Got it. Can I have one for every time I don’t fall?”
“No. But,” I continued, eyeing the larger mountain to our left, “If you go with me on that chair lift, all the way to the top, and ski down the green with me, then no matter how many times you fall, I will get you a second one.”
“So two total?”
“Yes, H-. If you don’t fall on this short one, and you simply go with me on the long one, you will get two stuffies.”
She agreed and we eventually boarded the longer lift. She seemed in awe of how much longer it was. I’m sure she was not looking forward to skiing down the mountain.
This green run took me about thirty seconds to make it down if I didn’t stop.
My mother, H-, and I took one and a half hours. Well, that’s not true. After about an hour, my mother just left us, unable to believe my treatment of H-.
H- cried most of the way. She fell about every ten feet. Only rarely did I help her up. At one point some stranger lady began giving H- tips, I didn’t acknowledge her existence. Probably five minutes went by before hah-sah-tahn concluded it was best to leave.
Are you getting the picture? I was aware that I was coming off as literally employing every horrible parenting tool out of the tool-bag. To these people, I was the tool. But they were mistaken.
See, they thought I was trying to teach H- how to ski. Far from it. It’s possible H- may never really take to skiing like I want her to. Instead, I was teaching her to have character. (Something I’m especially glad I did, considering I have since learned that none of you have it.)
Again, an hour an a half later, the last thirty minutes of which my dad and mom spent actively debating my sanity, H- and I finally made it to the point where she could see the bottom. Naturally she fell at that point.
“Get up,” I said.
Then, totally surprising me (for what reason, I do not know–this was the skill I was teaching) I hear her say to herself, “Okay. There’s the bottom. You can do this.”
I had to look away lest she see my joy; better for her to harbor whatever kind of ill will little girls can have for their fathers at this moment.
During the late lunch she further surprised me by suggesting that she probably shouldn’t get the stuffy because it took so long.
“A deal’s a deal, H-.”
Then she asked if after we go together a few more times on the bunny hill if she could try going by herself–after we ride up together.
Overall, H- did not take to skiing like my younger brother did at her age. She doesn’t turn much.
But she has something you don’t. And she will not forget it.
PS – The conversation with my friend didn’t go well, or develop at all really. We met. I barely and playfully broached the topic, and he said, “I’ve already replied.” It reminded me that he definitely carries the fire. But it also made me sad. Because I love conversation.