In November 2012 we were nearing completion of our basement in preparation for putting our home on the market. We wanted to get into something more suitable for Mitchell’s growing medical needs and hoped to simplify our lives a little. Though everything seemed to fall into place at the time, things didn’t turn out as we planned. In retrospect, I can see that all that happened was, in fact, Heaven’s plan.
While construction was underway, we received two large cardboard boxes, each containing a bathtub. Wyatt and Mitch immediately staked their claim on each box and wanted to make forts of them.
Every morning Wyatt would come up with a new way to configure his fort, and we’d find him breaking his box down more each day. His box was akin to cardboard origami, and we never knew what shape it would assume each day. It wasn’t long he broke his box into oblivion.
By contrast, Mitchell’s box was always in mint condition. In our living room, he carefully placed his box fort next to an electrical outlet on the wall. He then approached me and whispered, “Dad, will you help me cut a hole in the box?” I giggled as he pointed to the outlet. Mitch then ran a cable through the box so he could charge his iPod. He also asked me to cut a few secret flaps, allowing him to get a beat on people who were approaching him.
When visitors came to our home, they’d enter our front door and see a large box just a few feet away. It never bothered us. While we always keep our home clean and orderly, Natalie was never caught up with pretense, pomp, and show. She cared far less what others thought, and instead focused on helping our children learn and grow. I’ve always loved that about Natalie – she always chose the better way. For years, our China cabinet was a showcase for Lego creations, not fancy dishes. And when it came to any part of our home, it was dedicated to children’s youthful adventures.
Mitch slept in his box fort almost every night for well over a month. Sometimes he imagined his fort a pirate ship flying through a sea of stars; other times, his cardboard box became a log cabin deep in a dark forest.
At bedtime, we’d tuck him in, and he’d fall fast asleep surrounded by his dreams before dreams.
When I examine my footpaths as a parent, I always find myself treasuring the little moments far more than the big ones. I hope to always remember what I learned from Mitch; at the end of the day it's not the things we get but how well we play.
I love moments like this … building blanket forts, box forts, or cuddling on the couch. Fancy things are great, and all … but they get old and decay. And to worry about the opinions of others ... well, that just gets in the way. But the soul of a child is forever, and they are here to stay. So doing things that build their minds and hearts is always the better way.