“We can’t live like this,” my overheated 14-year-old daughter declared.
We were a few days into our recent move to a new house — actually, to a very old house with many things that needed fixing. Its lack of air conditioning added to our misery, especially given the unfortunate heat wave.
At first, my wife and I laughed at my daughter’s melodramatic statement (and her humidity-induced curly hair). People lived without air conditioning for millennia, I explained to her. Discomfort builds character, I reasoned to myself. Besides, we planned to install air conditioning in the near future.
But over the next few weeks, the move-in process worsened. The house consumed my attention: fixing minor issues like creaky doors, getting estimates for major problems like a driveway so bad my wife trades heels for sandals to walk on it, and gleaning as much wisdom as possible from all the workers traveling through the house. Thanks to fancy technology, the chimney guy showed me the innards of my aging chimney, the plumber showed me clogs in my drain tiles, and the heating guy showed me rust in my boiler.
Instead of fretting over all these X-rays, however, I should have been taking the pulse of my relationship with my two teen daughters. Our family health was suffering, and it showed in the increasing number of slammed doors and sighs of exasperation. I grew to hate being such a distracted dad. Echoing my daughter, I finally realized: “We can’t live like this.” We needed to add some fun to this process. But how?
Elevate your perspective
Enter the roofing guy. One day he invited me to follow him up a ladder to inspect a flat roof outside my daughter’s bedroom window. As I ascended, I got a charge. I had forgotten how exhilarating it can be to (safely) explore a flat roof—the sense of freedom, the altered perspective, the aerial view of the neighborhood. As I looked out from the roof, I also reveled in the rooftop memories from my own childhood house and the small, flat roof outside my bedroom window.
Later that day, I texted my 14-year-old in her lingo: “if u wanna climb on roof outside your window I have the ladder up!”
“I’ll be right out lol,” she replied instantly. Who could say no?
After climbing up the ladder to the roof safely, we enjoyed the good stuff — the new perspective, the sense of adventure (and slight risk), even a few memories from my childhood. It was sublime. And I could tell she appreciated me sharing such a mature, potentially dangerous experience with her.
Then her 14-year-old mind brought me back to earth with the casual request: “Can me and my friends climb out the bedroom window onto this roof sometimes?”
As a montage of noisy teen girls and trellis-climbing suitors rocketed through my head, I replied: “No. And we should probably get down now.”
But the rooftop moments with my daughter have stuck with me as we settle into our “new” old house. They remind me to take time to savor the high points of parenting. Never lose sight of the big, aerial picture of family life. For that is no way to live.