A few weekends ago, Autumn and I skipped Tot Rock class because she didn’t feel like going. It wasn’t easy for me with my gluttonous appetite for plans and schedules. Even before Autumn, there was my goldendoodle, Tod, who never missed a doodle romp or pet parade. But I made a promise to myself that I’d more often consider what my daughter wants, and I’d be more open to spontaneity. Change is hard, and it doesn’t happen overnight. The next time she protested, we still went, but the time after that, I conceded. And because I did, something amazing happened.
It’s important first to understand Autumn’s obsession with Princess Anna and snowman Olaf from the movie Frozen. My father and I are equally to blame. I was the one who got ecstatic when hearing the word Autumn – twice! – in a song from the film. It’s called “Some Things Never Change,” and I admit to prompting Alexa to put it on repeat day after day. However, it was his bright idea to show Autumn the film clip of Anna singing it. From there, things snowballed. She began speaking in Frozen. Anything purple became “Anna” in honor of the princess’s dress. Every carrot is “nose,” every twig “hand” because of Olaf. She wonders aloud why Anna is missing from family pictures. After all, she shows up on the screen in the family room so often. Why wouldn’t she be standing front row center next to Auntie Robin?
Rewind back to last week, and instead of music class, Autumn, Tod and I walked to the park. A few older girls – at least four and six – had just arrived with their grandparents to go sledding.
“I want,” Autumn said pointing.
Had I heard her correctly? For the two winters she has been alive, I’ve anticipated playing with her in the snow. I pictured us in a Hallmark movie, giggling while light flakes melted on our cheeks. Then we’d cozy up at home with hot cocoa and marshmallows. But our reality resembled a Christmas Story, where Ralphie’s little brother was so plumped in layers he fell down and couldn’t move. I had decided the snow pants fights weren’t worth the struggle, and had come to terms with skipping straight to the Swiss Miss.
“You want to go sledding?” I said.
“Yeppa,” she replied.
“You know you have to wear snow pants?”
If she initiated the idea, there was a good chance things would go differently, and I had to capitalize on the moment. We ran home to get gear, arriving back at the hill just as the girls were leaving. That’s when we noticed something that hadn’t been there just 15 minutes prior.
“Olaf!” Autumn pointed. And after going down the hill twice, which she didn’t completely enjoy, but also didn’t fight, the rest of the afternoon was spent in disbelief. She hugged him, fixed his head when it fell, and used his hand to shave snow off his sides. Two things cross my mind as I recount the experience.
Those two girls made a snowman, and will never know how much they affected my daughter’s life. How often do any of us do things, and never know how much they mean to complete strangers?
What other amazing things might happen if we live life unscripted?
This past weekend, we were for sure attending class. I had the toddler dressed and the snacks packed. We were both on board.
“Down,” she said before I got her into her car seat. She threw the ball she had been holding, and then chased it. When she didn’t head back toward the car, I called after her.
“Aren’t we going to music class?”
The truth is, I wasn’t super excited about going, either. It was unseasonably warm, and the thought of putting Tod on the leash and running to the park was far more enticing than putting Autumn in the car and driving to the park district. The former won, and we spent the most delicious day outside, playing ball in the field and experimenting with bubbles. It used to be that when I signed up for something, barring illness I would 100% attend. These days, it’s down to 50% – simply because the sun might be shining or a tricycle might need riding. Maybe someday, I’ll stop registering for things, but probably not. Because like the song says, some things never change. But I’m okay with that, because on the flip side, other things do.