In 1st Generation Dad, Evergreen, Parenting

ah, hah”…with both hands open, shaking back and forth – picture a two handed wave goodbye – in our house this is toddler speak for “hot, hot”. See, a wood stove is the primary source of heat in our home. It accepts 16” pieces (preferably Fir or Larch) and pairs perfectly with a mug of hot Caramel Apple Cider. It also means we’ve raised infants, toddlers, and small kids to understand that a hot stove burns.

Thankfully, all of our kids have taken our word for it, instead of finding out on their own. We’ve noticed that as they grow, so does their understanding. Fear and respect are only the beginning of learning about a wood stove, and a lot of other lessons.

What was once a warning, grows into a comfort. What once was given a wide berth, grows to be warmly embraced.

In Spring and Summer there are firewood days. Days when the family loads into Chuck (our “wood grubin’ truck”) and heads into the mountains. We’re all learning together – Dad falls the trees, the three older kids learn how to safely sharpen the teeth on the chainsaws, mom lays out a picnic lunch with the toddler, and Ruger (our black lab) does what Labs do best – acts like every day in the mountains is Christmas. Once a tree is on the ground, one of the kids whittles a branch to 16” in length and sections the tree with a red wax marker. Dad, starting at the butt, rounds the log, carefully noting the red marks along the way. Mom, starts from the other end, branching the upper section.

Once the rounding is complete the log races begin! Rolling rounds toward Chuck might as well be the Indy 500, complete with glorious wins and victory laps. Of course pageantry inevitably turns into our best Smash & Bash impression. Smash & Bash being our local, annual demolition derby, organized by Kyle and Woody’s Gun & Pawn. Yes, bruises, to the ego and the body, are part of the game, part of the fun.

We head home once Chuck’s tires begin to show the weight of the wood…a Full Day indeed.

What begins with “Hah hah”, learning to respect a hot stove, ages into knowledge, wisdom, honor, good judgment, longer life. But don’t take my word for it, Solomon is who I learned it from. For a two year old, a hot stove represents the most baseline lessons, it “burns” and fear makes him walk a wide path around it.

But for my older kids, the same wood stove represents those family wood trips into the mountains and all of the resulting memories. For a boy, there are few things cooler than the sound a 60 foot Fir Tree makes hitting the forest floor. On cold days, after playing outside all day, they draw near the stove, warming their hands and feet. Late on those crystal clear and bitter cold nights, they see me load and stoke the stove, closing the dampers, and they head off to bed smiling, knowing the stove will keep the house warm as they sleep.

The older kids still respect, and hold a healthy fear of, what the stove can do if touched at the wrong moment. But that fear has been joined by the knowledge of picking out trees, the wisdom of working safely with mom and dad falling trees, living a fuller life as they help split, stack and sort the wood, then help build the fires. They sleep soundly in the warmth it provides.

Here’s the thing…this is really about Kelsey and I as parents, understanding our children as they grow. Graduating them to higher level courses and giving them opportunities to find passions. Just as there’s a physical lesson in touching a hot stove, one that commands a memory be made, so a day getting firewood can embed lessons of hard work, responsibility, effort and reward. A firewood day plants the seeds for falling in love with the mountains, the forest, and spending time unplugged. It gives direction to my boys, direction for their endowed desire to provide, protect, to see that those in their care are warm and content. It presents the idea of beauty to them. It shows my daughter how to run with the boys and to stop and pick flowers along the way (her room is never without them).

The whole wood stove/firewood thing not working for you? How about a hot kitchen stove. The lesson is exactly the same for an infant. But for my daughter, who has found a love for baking, it fans her passion to create and serve her family. The look on her face when all of us are sitting, in front of the wood stove, dunking her butter cookies into mugs of milk…she already understands that our silence, due to full mouths, is the highest compliment. I catch her grinning in the kitchen, by herself, soaking in the gift of her labor. She has graduated to cooking entire meals for the family…she asks us to let her.

A child learns that a wood stove can burn. A father harnesses that burn to warm his family.

A child learns that a stove, a kitchen stove, can burn. So a chef, passionate and in love with their work, sears, grills, blackens and broils with the same heat. Fear, pure and real, it’s just the start of a life of lessons.

A few days ago I headed out the back door to grab a bundle of wood. My two year old, who fears the burning stove, wanted out with me. I assumed he was headed to the trampoline or play set, but he stayed right on my heels. As I loaded up my arms with firewood he stretched out his arms…no “hah, hah”. I found a small piece of wood and layed it across his forearms. He turned and headed towards the house, pausing after a few steps, a look thrown back at me as if to say “come on Dad, the stove needs more wood”.

That first lesson, the one about fear, respect…is only the beginning.

“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” – Solomon, The Bible – Proverbs 19:23

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