Monday, October 8, 2012

An Assessment of Fatherhood

Standing next to McDonalds on the top of Timp.

I took my boys (ages 7 and 10) to the top of Mount Timpanogos this past weekend. This was the hardest thing they have done to date and quite honestly, I wasn't sure if I was getting them in over their head.  Needless to say, we made it to the top of the peak and back all in one piece.  The total round trip was just over 14 miles with close to 5,000ft of vertical elevation gain.

The day was a long one, and there were many times both of my boys wanted to turn back.  I continually reassured them, sometimes with sugar, other times with blatant lies about things such as a magical ski lift that would take them the last 1000ft to the top if they would only make it up to the saddle.  I assured them they could do it, over and over.  I even attached a tow rope to my pack and let the 7-year-old hold onto it to help him keep up.  I kept their minds off the constant climbing for over an hour asking them about Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, something both of them are experts in.  We hiked for hours, talking along the way about anything I could think of to keep their minds off the task at hand. We looked at the rocky peaks and took turns suggesting what they look like.  The back side of Timp looks like an aligator head, by the way.

Eventually we arrived at the saddle where the view of Utah Valley opens up.  "Wow", the boys said.  We took in the view for a while and eventually my youngest said, "Well that wasn't so bad" thinking we were done.  I reluctantly turned him to the south and pointed to the peak towering another 1000ft above us.  Both of their hearts sank "Dad, there is no way we can climb that" my youngest said.  My oldest was equally disappointed and they both said they were done.  I dug deep for something motivating.  "See that freeway down there?" I said.  "How many times do you think we've driven up and down that road?". "A bunch" they mumbled, knowing what I was trying to do.  I told them that if they turn back now, every time they look up at this mountain, they will be reminded of how they *almost* made it to the peak but decided to turn back instead.  If they would just push a little bit more and make it to the top, every time they look up at the peak, they will be reminded of how awesome it was to accomplish such a feat at such a young age.  I told them it would change their life forever.  They thought about it for a minute, there was a long silence, then I said "see that little building on the top? That's a McDonalds and I'll buy you some ice cream if you make it there".  Being young, they half-way believed me but it seemed to be enough to turn the tables.  "What about the ski lift that will take us to the top?"  they said. "Um...", my credibility was starting to decline.  I eventually came clean and the negotiations continued.  We finally struck a deal, if they made it to the top I would take them directly to Pizza Pie Cafe when we made it back to town.  Nothing is more motivating to young boys than the chance to stuff their face with pizza and that place is their favorite in the world to stuff face.  We started in on the climb again, up the narrow trail and sketchy switchbacks.  The little "McDonalds" was getting closer, their spirits lifted,  and we finally made it to the top.

We achieved the goal for the day, now all that was left was to get back down, a feat that will be almost as hard as the climb.  We started the trip down, caring on in conversation much like we did on the way up.  Their legs started to turn to "jelly".  To put a positive spin on it I asked them "What kind of jelly?".  "Strawberry" they both said.  Seizing the opportunity to draw their minds away from aching muscles, I quickly changed the subject to Star Wars where it remained for the next 45 minutes.  After the lengthy discussion, things grew silent leaving only the sound of feet beating on the trail.  I started to reflect.  My oldest boy is now 10-years-old, which means my time with him as my boy, living in my house, is more than half way over.  Soon he will be all grown up, out of the house,  and off to live his life.  Soon enough, I will long for days like this one where it's just us, doing things together.  Sure, we will do a lot of things together the rest of our lives as grown-ups but it will never be like this again.  I reflected on how I am doing as a father, as a dad, as a role model, as a hero to these two boys.  I'd like to think I've been doing a good job but my perspective isn't their perspective, and their perspective is what matters.  I finally broke the silence and asked "How am I doing guys?".  They looked at me a little puzzled.  "I mean, how am I doing as your dad?  Do we do enough together?".  They thought, then both said something like "Yea, we do a lot of hard stuff, but it usually turns out to be fun".  Their answer was delivered nonchalant but carried a massive amount of weight with me.  I know my boys and they aren't afraid to tell me what they think, even if that means I suck at being a dad.  It's a trait they  no doubt got from their father.  So when they say I'm doing a good job they mean it.  Hearing that made me pretty happy.  I was given a passing grade.

I have written a lot of things on this blog, the majority has been about racing mountain bikes and that was the the reason I started writing.  Admittedly, I am not very good at writing but I do love the sport and want to document my involvement as much as possible.  Mountain biking has been life-changing for me and for my family, but not always in positive ways.  I will continue to compete and write about my adventures doing so, but the greatest fulfillment I find in life happens on the weekends I am not racing for myself, but when I am competing for a passing grade with my two boys and the rest of my family.  I hope to have more opportunities like this hike to keep me grounded and focused on the things that matter most.

Photos of the whole adventure.


Adam said...

That is a great story, and a great accomplishment. I think I want to make a goal for myself to be able to hike Timpanogos, but that might mean cutting back on the Mt. Dew.

Jeff Higham said...

Adam. I'm sure you'll make it with the Dew. Let's hike it next summer.