Under The Light

In the big lead up to Thanksgiving, my son had Hand Foot and Mouth (HFaM). We didn’t have to make an extra trip to the doctor to confirm this. We were already headed in for one of the regular checkups and the doctor confirmed our fears.

HFaM is one of those awesome things like chicken pocks. Everyone warns you about how very contagious it is. They put the fear of death and suffering in you about how much worse it is for adults to live with than small children.

So we kept the kid home for a couple days and he had some extra one on one time with mommy and daddy and he was happy as could be. I am pretty sure I was more fearful of him having HFaM than I actually needed to be. The only signifier that he even had HFaM were some bumps here and there.

The hardest part of the whole thing was the day I had the pleasure of staying home with him. Part of my day was running a few errands in the car and he was strapped into his car seat. And as toddlers often do, he fell asleep in his car seat. he fell asleep early. So when we got home, I navigated him up to his room and put him to be for an early nap.

Then, I slipped out of his room to have my few minutes of peace and quiet while he napped.

And to guess I had a few minutes would be an overstatement. The kid woke up and started crying. So, I brought him to be with me and hang out while I worked on some odds and ends. And after a bit, it seemed like he was ready for a nap. A little lethargic and emotional.

Again, I whisked him off to his room. I rocked him till he was out cold. Then I rocked him some extra because I never feel like I get enough moments to cuddle my kid. Finally, I deftly transferred him to his crib. Like a ninja lowering the most fragile of eggs into the most dangerous of traps. I deposited him in his crib, slipped out of his room without a sound, and returned to the living room for a nap time reprieve.

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Not more than a few minutes later was my son crying.

I almost felt myself snap inside.

Then I thought to myself, “It will be fine, he will fall asleep, he needs to get some emotions out. Then he'll give in. It is nap time.

I thought wrong.

Very wrong.

And so, when my patience had run out and my last nerve was ground to dust underneath the grinding of his crying. (Which is one of the saddest things in the whole world to me.) I retrieved him again.

Now we are both tired. Emotional. Frustrated. And stuck with each other.

Me: Trying to breath through my anxiety and feelings of failure and absolute frustration because my son missed his nap.

Him: Not having the words, or mental abilities to express his toddler state.

The saving grace of the day was my wife, who was working a short day. Because most of corporate America works a short day the day before Thanksgiving. She came riding in on her white horse and helped manage him, so I could have thirty minutes to myself.

Not the sort of thirty minutes where I unplug and forget the world exists. But the sort of thirty minutes where I load the car, take out the trash, and prepare for holiday travel. (Which is akin to doomsday prepping.) I returned to my wife who has our son enraptured in his ten millionth reading of the riveting literary work of “Go Dogs, Go” by the esteemed PhD. Seuss.

We then load ourselves into the car and travel to the Thanksgiving festivities.

How do you process stress? How do you process unexpected pressure and anxiety? How do you work with other people who are not in the best emotional/mental/physical state? How can you plan to better work with stress and anxiety?

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The Dad Life

This is the dad life. If only I could encapsulate 68 years of my father in a video like that. I could maybe cram the 27 years I knew him into a video that skips a rock over the surface of his life. But truly, I don’t have much more than that. Lets be real about those first 8 years or so, I didn’t really know him in the sense of a friend or neighbor. I knew him in the sense of I woke up, ate, played, and stayed out of trouble. 

Otherwise, I don’t know much about anything before that. He told me many stories of his growing up years, but he left out the hard parts and accentuated the good parts. Some people might say he exaggerated the good parts. I would agree with that. Which isn’t that rare, we all do that to some extent. I couldn’t prove the stories he told were outright lies though. 

I couldn’t really prove much more than what I can remember and what other people corroborate. Which isn’t surprising. The more I learn about my dad the more he is a bit of a puzzle to me. The things I can prove are things like my grandpa Jack Patrick Manning being a cartoonist. 

But I can’t prove that he was a cartoonist at Hannah Barbara as much as my dad said he was or that he drew cartoons for training videos for the Navy during WWII. My dad told me all sorts of different thing about himself.

My dad was in the Navy. 

Was he really a pilot? Did he do barrel rolls in helicopters like he said he did? What about the stories he told about his time in Vietnam? Can I prove those? Do I want to do the work of proving/disproving? How do his stories interplay with him being dishonorably discharged from the Navy?

My dad raced race cars.

How about his stories about racing against Darrel Waltrip and Dale Earnhart?

My dad knew the Beach Boys.

Then there are stories about how my dad sang the high part of Barbara Ann for the Beach Boys…

You could see how I might start to become skeptical and cringe when my friends teased that my dad probably knew George Washington and signed the Declaration of Independence. But I am cringing because I know there is more truth to their teasing than maybe there is to his stories. 

You see, the more I talked to my half siblings, the more it became apparent that my dad lived a rather remarkable life. I’m sure there were mundane moments. But truly, his life was remarkable. He built homesteads and settled his family into the wild wilderness of Montana. Providing for his family off the land. 

But he never settled for reality. He always had his extra he had to add to the story. 

His life was a good story he never settled for. He always wanted more than what was real.

I now struggle with this too. I want more than what is real and I want to exaggerate my stories.

I can’t let myself do that though. Reality is where I wake up and go to sleep every day.

Reality is where my wife and my friends are. 

Reality is where my community is.

Where do your stories come from? Where do you live? Do you tell your friends, children, and family about the true version of you and who you’ve been?