Taking time for reflection

I somehow convinced my 16-year-old daughter, Bianka, to head up to Horsetooth Reservoir to have a little picnic with me the other day. To sell her on the idea, I had to buy her carryout from Noodles & Company. And I let her drive my Honda Fit so she could practice for her upcoming road test.

As we were sitting at a picnic table, admiring the lovely waterfront view, I said we should have picnicked at Horsetooth more often over the years, especially since the picturesque setting is just 10 minutes from our house. “Whose fault is that?” asked Bianka, in her best snotty tone.

At first, I felt a pang of guilt—we should have done this more often. Work and the everyday stuff of life could wait.

But then I realized, we did our fair share of picnics over the years in local parks. Grill outs in the backyard count, too, don’t they? When the girls became teenagers, however, we no longer were in charge of their schedules.

Kalia, four years older than Bianka, broke out of most of the family stuff when she started high school. Occasionally we lure her back when it’s her birthday (gifts still matter!) or when we plan a trip to Mexico. (Who wouldn’t want a free trip to Playa del Carmen?) So, when Bianka entered high school, the same trajectory began. Whatever excuse not to hang with us.

I miss those days when she was a middle-schooler and I could bribe her with a mere $5 to accompany me to a craft brewery. Now, as a part-time restaurant dishwasher who has absolutely no expenses, Bianka seems to have more expendable income than I do.

Lately, I am spending an inordinate amount of time reflecting on my daughters’ days growing up. Maybe it’s because my oldest brother in San Diego died last fall and I’ve been pondering the meaning of life. Perhaps it’s just the age of COVID-19, and everyone relishing the good, old pre-pandemic days.

As I reminisce, I miss simple things like reassuring the girls during thunderstorms, or helping them roast marshmallows over a bonfire, or watching the skies for shooting stars, or eating popcorn at the movie theater, or stopping for a treat at Dairy Queen or Culver’s after school.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I was a terrific parent who always did tons of stuff with my kids when they were young. We’d go to festivals, fairs, concerts and amusement parks. We’d hit the playgrounds, tot lots and city parks frequently. We’d go on bike rides. We’d go on adventures along rivers and creeks. We’d explore forests. We’d go for weekends in the mountains.

In the winter, we went sledding. I got them ski lessons and they loved it, quickly catching the snowboarding bug, too. In the summer, we’d go to beaches. I signed them up for sleepover camps, camps at the zoo and aquarium and sports camps. They played volleyball and softball. They learned karate. They did cheerleading lessons. My thinking was, I wanted to expose them to everything.

Admittedly, I probably forced too much upon them. Isn’t that what good dads were supposed to do? They started resisting a bit earlier than I had hoped.

Thus, I’m left clinging to the memories of all our adventures. I can’t pass a park these days without remembering pushing Kalia or Bianka on the swings or playing on a teeter-totter with them.

And don’t get me started on all our road-tripping, cross-country adventures, which, by the way, often involved picnics.