‘For the first time in a long time, I was having pure, unbridled fun’

For one memorable family outing, Chris Hunt learned to stop sweating the small things, and embraced a worry-free day with his toddler

Ever wonder if, as a parent, you spend more time worrying about the little things at the expense of the important things?

That thought hit me hard as I sat in an army field hospital watching emergency care performed on a member of my family. With silent urgency, the doctor and nurse worked in practised tandem to splint a badly wounded leg.

My son Riley sat close enough to see the duo delicately set the limb before deliberately wrapping it in wet plaster.

He cast a furtive eye every so often at the picnic table that had been pressed into service as an operating table. His inherent shyness was apparent, but saturated in every fleeting glance was a sweet marriage of concern and maybe just a hint of fear. He was overwhelmed but didn’t want to show it.

We were at the annual CHEO Teddy Bears’ Picnic and the patient was none other than Riley’s own bear, Teddy, who had sadly fallen down and broken his leg right outside the medical tent set up as part of the day’s activities. Next to the med tent was a mock vaccination tent, where stuffed bears could get their shots and a dental tent where bears could have their teeth examined.

As we watched the emergency team wrap the cast, I was aware of only two things: my son’s rampant concern for his buddy, and for the first time in a long time, I was having pure, unbridled fun.

It was his mother’s idea to attend of course. She is brilliant and diligent when it comes to planning fun outings. Fun for Riley, I mean. I tend to be too busy sweating the small details to fully give myself over to amusement.

I’m not saying I don’t have any fun with him. I do, but it’s tempered, weighted down by the shackles of my obsession with details. If we go to the beach, I worry if he’s getting too much sun. Has his sunscreen worn off? Did I bring enough water to keep him hydrated?

If we go to a park, I’m painfully conscious of the time. If we stay much longer, will it infringe on his naptime? That laundry is still sitting in the machine, isn’t it? I need to get that done. Did I bring enough healthy snacks?

At the picnic, there was a merry-go-round with motorcycles. My kid loves motorcycles. Thing was, it was “kids only,” so the question of letting him go alone ate at me.

The issue with obsessing over these things is that it’s tiring. That, and you tend to not truly enjoy those great little moments as much as you should.

I was watching the subtle faces Riley was making when I realized my mind was barren of concern. I don’t know how it happened, but I was just enjoying my son. His mother saw me smiling and said, “It’s past lunch.”
I laughed and said, “We’ll make a day of it.”

And we did. We played games, stuffed a super bear and named him Super Batman, ate some bad food and drank some sugary lemonade. And yes, he rode that merry-go-round. Over and over and over, until it was well past time to go. As we were ready to leave, we ran into one of his friends from daycare, and of course they wanted to ride the rides together.

We got home late, but I didn’t care. We had fun.