It’s not often your children surprise you completely. Particularly – and I say this with the utmost amount of love, affection and parental pride – since children, by their nature are a bit selfish. It’s not a bad selfishness. Kids, you see, have to eat, drink, sleep, play sports, play music, inhale every bit of food in your home…they are needy individuals because they are raised by you.
They take for granted, you see, that their parents are there and helping them. It’s not because they are necessarily egomaniacal in their selfishness, they just…well they are. You have to take care of them. You’re their parents. So when their mother passed away, my kids’ level of selfishness diminished. The level of care increased on my part because I was determined to give them some sense of normalcy. It wasn’t because they asked it. Their job is to be a kid and ask for things you won’t give them and bug you over and over again and say “I love you” at the end. That’s what kids do.
So my surprise came when they were told they had to do service hours for a school project.
My kids could easily have chosen something easy. Pick up trash in the park. Do some reading at the library to little kids…something like that.
But my kids wanted to work with the National Wildlife Federation and do something that helped a National park or preserve.
So on Saturday we were up, at o’dark-thirty in an effort to drive to Petaluma and help at the Cullinan Ranch Wildlife Preserve.
Just a few months ago this was a ranch. In some way, shape or form it was given back to the federal government who breached a levee and allowed the saltwater to re-enter this bay and create the environment it had been over a century ago. They needed new and indigenous plants to protect the wildlife and the landscape.
And they really wanted to help this little piece of the San Francisco area.
So here we were, all four of us, at 9am with boots, buckets, gloves and equipment.
It hurt their hands, their feet hurt, too. Their pants, shoes, shirts, hair and other places none of us thought dirt could gather had dirt in them.
We didn’t care.
Where so many would likely be at football games or soccer or whatever my kids wanted to volunteer and not just anything to get it out of the way.
We stopped at a diner, had huge lunches to make up for the calories we’d burned and my son looked at me and said “we did something really cool today. This was a lot of fun.”
You can be exhausted from fear, from stress or any other number of issues. The exhaustion from a good day’s work and from doing something worthwhile, though, that’s never an exhaustion that you regret. You don’t collapse from this you sit, letting the muscles try to slake off the acid making them sore, and you close your eyes knowing you have accomplished something.
Of course, by this point I heard all three ask the question: “so, Dad…what’s for dinner?”