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It was dark before I got around to shoveling the walkway.

The girls were excited to be outside, but I had a chore to complete. They wanted to go sledding, so they started down the hill toward the field below our house where there is a nice slope. They were sure I would tell them, “No, it’s too dark, and I have to shovel snow.”

But I decided to let them go themselves.

They were surprised, but happy; empowered by my confidence in them, yet still a bit unsure.

I told them that I would be down in five minutes to check on them. So they went.

Three minutes later I saw DancinGirl (8yo), trudging up the hill, checking on me. She wanted some assurance that this really was OK, that I really was letting them go sledding … in the dark … alone. I reassured her, and off she went back to her sister (9yo), around the corner to the sledding slope.

I continued to shovel … and to worry. “What am I crazy? Someone will snatch them away. It’s not late, but it is dark,” I thought to myself.

I shoveled faster.

After five minutes – it felt like two hours, I walked down to check on them. They were fine, laughing and playing. We went over a few safety rules, and I reminded them at our friends live in the house at the top of the slope.

Then I went back to my chore.

I started to shovel again … and to worry again.

“What am I crazy? Val is going to kill me. Yeah, that will make for a great headline: ‘Two Girls Snatched From Sledding Hill; Their Stupid Father Murdered By His Own Wife’ And I would deserve it too,” I thought.

So I shoveled faster.

When I was done, I grabbed the extra sled and headed down our hill to the sledding slope.

From the top, I could see them heading back up for another run; so I jumped on the sled to meet them.

Great excitement ensued.

After a few runs, ArtGirl wanted to head back; but DancinGirl and I stayed for a while longer – she wanted “Daddy time.”

So I told her I would give her a push and meet her back up at the top, but after the push, I jumped on the sled behind her – just the sort of surprise that delights her.

And down we went, fast and cold, snow in our faces, all laughter.


  • Catherine Fischer says:

    BEAUTIFUL!!!!! Hugs to you all! C&J

  • Russ says:

    What a great story. I think you know how to be a Dad and, I’d like to think I had something to do with that. I love you. The Papster.

  • Vincent Colapietro says:

    William James, as quoted in volume II of Ralph Barton Perry’s biography (the Thought & Character of WJ), writes: Some people truly “are flexible, sympathize with the free flow of things, believe ever in the good, but are willing that it should shift its form. They do not close their possessions. When they profess a willingness that certain persons should be free, they mean it not as most of us do … but in all sincerely. … They let their bird fly with no string tied to its leg” (II, 269). To position ourselves as parents, however, to do just this, we must live through the terror of letting even our young children have their adventures – for instance, sledding in dusk on their own! To be guided by a finely attuned sense of the “flow of things” is arguably one of the most imperative virtues of parents who see their task as being, at bottom, an initiation into freedom.

    • Christopher Long says:

      I can always count on you, Vinnie, to find the perfect passage to give voice and texture to an occasion or experience. I appreciate these words from James in particular.

      How to “believe ever in the good” without being naive is a challenge, and to do it when the lives of your kids are at stake verges on lunacy. Still, if parenting, as you suggest, is at least in part an initiation into freedom, then such risks may be necessary.

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