Amy Choate-Nielsen
Amy Choate-Nielsen's daughter pulled her youngest son on a sled on a recent winter outing.

There is a saying in Utah that goes like this: If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.

It turns out that the same could be said for my children — only it goes both ways, for good and bad. Be sure and buckle up because whatever their behavior is, wait five minutes and it will probably change.

Just like the clouds that boil over the mountain range on the horizon, turning angry and dark in an instant, with the smell of rain in the air, the same impending storm can flicker through my children’s eyes, and you know it is time to take shelter. Then, as the rays of light burst through a cloudy day and the sun is all around, they can beam with kindness and joy toward each other. Occasionally there is thunder and lightning, and then sometimes there is a sunset that radiates a purple flash of love through the atmosphere of their hearts that is unbounded and beautiful.

One mood, one type of weather, is no indication of what is to come, nor reflection of what has just passed. I guess that is what happens when you are mercurial, passionate and young.

I remember wishing for these days. When they were toddlers, bumping into tables and dribbling dissolved fish crackers into the carpet, I used to think, someday these children will be old enough to entertain themselves. They won’t need help going to the bathroom or feeding themselves. They won’t need to take three naps a day, and we will have so much fun.

What I failed to calculate was that I would lose my influential power as a parent in proportion to their independence. They sleep through the night now, but they refuse to pick up their dirty clothes. They don’t need me to feed them, but they have opinions about what I make for dinner, and it’s not usually favorable. They can read and be entertained in a room where I am not, but they get angry when I give input on whether the thing they’re doing for fun is appropriate.

They are great human beings, really, and I love them and appreciate them, I do. But this is part of the pain of growing up. They don’t feel it, but I do. And there are times now that I wish I could go back eight years and chase my oldest around a playground — the most exhausting task — just for an hour or two. I would happily wipe the pulverized peas off their faces and have a 6:30 p.m. bedtime again.

But then again, time has made my children bloom in ways I didn’t imagine. I saw shades of it all — independence, emotions, storm clouds and calm — this week when I took my children sledding.

They can all walk on their own now, so I took my children up the mountain in search of sled-able trails. It was cold and snowing the whole time, which was fine when we were moving, but cold when they wanted to stop every 10 feet and see if they could slide. They squawked and complained when I urged them on, because I could see the terrain they were considering wasn’t going to work.

Finally, about 20 minutes into the hike, they found a steep drop-off on the side of the trail. It was powdery and deep, and fairly clear, although the path through the trees was kind of narrow. They were so impatient to use their sleds I agreed to let them try it out. My son went first — head first — down the hill, laughing all the way. He came to a stop and then started trudging back up the path when my daughter and youngest son gave it a try.

Immediately they veered off the narrow path and plowed through a patch of spindly bushes, then crashed into a very small tree. The force of the collision sent my youngest tumbling into a cloud of snow, where he rolled a few times and landed at the feet at his big brother.

His brother removed his gloves without hesitation, dropped to his knees and instantly started wiping the snow off his little brother’s eyes and cheeks and glasses. He patted him on the back and tilted his head forward in love and concern as he asked his little brother if he was OK. My youngest was crying and upset that he had a face full of snow, but otherwise uninjured. Back at the sled, my daughter extricated herself from the bushes and trees and started the tiring climb back to where I was standing on the trail.

“That wasn’t a very good idea,” she said when she reached me. “I think I’ll stay on the trail from now on.”

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For the rest of the hike, she pulled her baby brother, as the light of kindness made the clouds of complaining part. Her middle brother, on the other hand, got mad he wasn’t being pulled, and so his generosity gave way to a squall of frustration and anger.

In five minutes, the weather — and tempers — can easily change. But in my house, there’s no time to wait for only sunny days. We’ve got it all, blue skies and black clouds, good times and bad. Among all of our ups and downs, laughter and tears, and fun and frustrations of growing up, another saying also rings hauntingly true: don’t blink, or you’ll miss it.