Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Fire Within

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Fire Within

Article excerpt

His teenage son, with a propensity for T-shirt and shorts in winter, faced the cold in the most surprising of ways.

A winter's day in Maine, with a cobalt blue sky and a lacing of snow in the pines, is incomparably beautiful. If not for the biting cold I would more deeply partake of it. As it is, on the coldest days I generally spend time outside only by necessity: to shop for food, shovel snow, or split wood for the ever-hungry stove. But my 15-year-old son is a different story.

It is 7 a.m. and I am standing on the warm side of the kitchen window, hot cup of tea in hand, watching Anton trudge off to school in the dim and frigid Maine morning. The only thing more remarkable than a teenager's ability to drag himself out of bed and hit the road at such a lonely hour is his attire: shorts and a T-shirt. I glance at the thermometer: 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes. Remarkable.

A well-meaning parent once scolded me for "letting" my son go out in the cold so scantily clad. But Anton has always been like this. From running barefoot in the snow when he was 5 to jumping into freezing Maine lakes in autumn, he just doesn't seem to feel the cold. I think, then, that it is a matter of his strength rather than my weakness as a parent.

Early on, of course, my impulse was to bundle him, against his will, to the point of suffocation with woolens, doubled socks, scarf, and gloves. And that would have made him uncomfortable and resentful. Considering all the other complexities and challenges of raising a child, I soon learned to choose my battles with care. Dressing for warmth just didn't seem like one worth fighting, no matter how cold I felt just looking at Anton plowing his way through the drifts in his sneakers.

And then, one day, my forbearance bore unanticipated fruit.

I awoke at an early hour to the wind howling about the eves like a spirit possessed. …

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