Personal Musings

If You Give a Squirrel a Cookie

Allison and I go for a long walk every day. We refer to this time as our mini-dates. It’s less a break from being parents and more a time to be husband and wife instead of always mom and dad. Pausing “mom and dad mode” is necessary for a healthy marriage.

That doesn’t mean the conversations we have on our walks are absent of our children. Our kids are a topic: what’s working? What isn’t and what can we do about it, if anything? The answer to the latter is often “ride the wave.” Thanks incoming teenage years.

That’s what I call weathering my kids’ mood swings: riding the wave. Just stay on the board. You might eat s—t. You’re probably going to eat s—t and sand and saltwater that scrunches up your face sideways. But stay on the board. The wave will crash at some point and the ocean will settle. Sure, there’s another wave coming, bigger this time, but hold onto the board. Balance while you can. Then hug it when it drops you to your knees.

I feel like a failure as a parent more than I’d like to admit. It may be a product of not having any close friends where I live to have these conversations with. To realize I’m not alone. That it’s just as bananas at times in their house as my own. I don’t know.

But taking a walk with my wife and taking a break from the madness or the sadness or the frustration is good for my soul. I don’t mean to paint a picture that this is what it feels like in our house always. It isn’t. It’s usually full of love and good family vibes and positive energy. But not always. And the “not always” moments can bump you down a notch emotionally and mentally.

Stepping away is good. The topic of conversation may start with parenting. It almost always starts with parenting. But at a point during the walk it transitions to something else. Something unrelated. A book one of us is reading. A movie we watched together or would like to watch together. A bird nearby.

Just yesterday, there were a pair of red-shouldered hawks perched down the hillside on our walk. They rested above a creek. Red-shouldered hawks are beautiful birds with black and white checkered wings. They eat amphibians and snakes and small mammals. They’ll snack on the occasional bird which I like to pretend isn’t part of their diet, but it is. Which is why, as we walk past the two hawks, you hear smaller birds sending out alarms of the intruders in the area.

A couple of catbirds are perched somewhere in the trees, too. Keeping an eye out I assume. They meow to one another like little kittens.

About a mile and a half later, as we are walking up a path spliced between two streets filled with two story homes, we see a squirrel. Then another. The first has a chocolate chip cookie in its mouth. A human bite has been taken out. The other squirrel follows closely behind. They pause when they see us. The squirrel with the chocolate chip cookie turns toward us and freezes. I say hello because that’s what I do when I see a squirrel. The two squirrels continue up the tree.

“If you give a squirrel a cookie,” I say to my wife referencing the children’s book. She laughs. We continue on our walk through the tunnel that’s cut underneath the road, then around the lake where we dodge Canadian goose droppings left and right.

We’re back home now. Our mini-date is over. I feel better for having walked. Sometimes you need a break. Sometimes you just need a moment. A pause button to press. Sometimes just seeing a squirrel with a chocolate chip cookie half the size of its body is all you need to push on.