Setting Fire to the Past

I’ve made so many moves over the years it’s hard to keep track of them all.  Besides the physical moves I’ve made—from Wyoming to Chicago and various suburbs thereof—I’ve made personal, emotional and relationship changes.  It is surprising how much distance one can cover without ever having to take a step.

Through all these moves I’ve carried a trunk with me.  It was a high school graduation present from my grandparents.  The trunk has been a bench, a footstool, and a table, as well as being the holder of those things I couldn’t bear to toss, but had no need to be out in the open.  Journals, letters, cards, old ids, and other ephemera.  For the past couple of years it has sat under my desk, home to the garbage can and a laptop that I don’t use any more.  I haven’t opened it, partly because I haven’t had anything to squirrel away (e-mail, Facebook and WordPress has digitized much of my correspondence and thoughts); but also because it is full.

In mid-December I dragged the trunk out.  I was looking for a notebook, and was certain it had to be there.  This happens on occasion. I’ll be seized by a need to find something and I tear apart the house in search of it.  Usually, I fail to find whatever Lost Ark I’m chasing; if it were still around I would have found it easily.  I’m then stuck with a mess and a heavy weight of frustration that my quarry managed to escape the nets of my organization zeal.

This time was no different.  The notebook, and the information therein, was nowhere to be seen.  In my digging through the trunk, I flipped through the dozen-plus journals there.  They were varied: cloth covered ones bought in a three pack from Sam’s Club in the early 90s, spiral bound ones from Borders, “leather” covered ones, five subject Mead notebooks, even a manila envelope stuffed full of loose-leaf paper.  This represented more than a decade of my life: from about 1995 to 2005.   There were some random pages from earlier and later, but the bulk of my regular journaling ended shortly after Charlotte was born.

As I flipped through the pages all I read was misery.  Every randomly picked page was a chronicle of how desperately unhappy I was.  Did I write only when I was upset? Or did I only write of my unhappiness because that’s all there was? I think a little more of the former than the latter, but there was no denying that what I had committed to the pages was unpleasant.  I wanted to reach out to my past self and tell her that it was going to get better … in a way.  I can’t reach her, though.  She is in the past and trying to cast back would only slow down the momentum I have gained.

But I didn’t have to keep carrying the millstone of unhappiness.  What did I gain by keeping these journals around? Evidence of my unhappiness during that time?  Did I really need it?  I had my memories, if ever I wanted to revisit them.  Which, again, wasn’t going to help me move forward.  I had learned all I could from that time.  There was nothing more these journals could tell me about myself.

I grabbed two cardboard boxes and filled them.  The letters, cards, notes, pictures and miscellaneous bits and bobs stayed.  The journals went.  For the first time in years there was room in the trunk.  Room for more pleasant keepsakes: love notes from Stephan, birthday cards from my children, perhaps even a letter to my future self, telling her that I am okay.  She can let me go and move on.

The first of January I took the journals out to the fire pit and burned them.  The day was sunny, if cold, and windy.  Despite the helpful nature of the weather, burning a decade’s worth of misery isn’t easy, even when it is bound in paper.  You can’t just set fire to your past and walk away.  You have to tend to it, or else it won’t be fully destroyed.  Blackened bits of paper constantly tried to escape, flying high and forcing me to run around the yard to catch them.  Some were still burning and had to be stomped out.  I had to open up the journals with a poker to make sure all the pages burned.  I got a surprising, and disturbing, insight into just what goes into a book burning.

The whole process took three or four hours.  As I worked I kept thinking, “This is who I was, but it is not who I am now.”  As the paper turned to ash, I felt the truth of it more and more. I returned to the house cold, smelling of smoke, my hair peppered with ashes.  I can’t say if I have completely divorced myself from the misery of those past years.  However, I won’t have those words sitting at my feet, their ambient unpleasantness influencing me.  And if that isn’t a solution, it’s at least a start.

 

Who is Viking Dad? (in about 750 words)

Well, I can start by saying that I’m not the guy in the YouTube video of the same name. That’s a start.  I was adopted, raised in Michigan, spending the school year in the lower peninsula and the summers in the upper peninsula.  I also, with this blog as a record, am living for and through my family.

Born in 1970, I displayed signs of Alopecia Totalis (meaning I have no body hair at all) starting when I was two years old.  It made elementary school a bit rough, as even those children in the minority still had each other, where I was the only one with that condition.  I found the wonderful worlds of Gary Gygax (Dungeons and Dragons) in the summer of 1980 (I was 9) and embraced it whole-heartedly.

I also went through an awkward (just like everyone else) time in that social circus we call junior and high school.  I was not the average kid. I didn’t like or play sports, I didn’t have an affinity for anything other than escapism by not really being present in my own world and substituted by living in a fantasy world.  Thanks to R.A. Salvatore, in the mid to late 1980’s I had a realm to escape to.

I had anger management issues. Having been picked on and made fun of my entire childhood and adolescence (and not having a solid sense of self at all, nor any confidence to be able to shrug it off as I desperately wanted to be a part of a group, to feel like I belonged), I repressed all that hurt and anger.  I then found an outlet for it, though it was unhealthy and hurtful.  I worked out lifting weights (not all that bad), trained a bit as a boxer (still not all that bad) and then started picking fights (bad).   Being beaten within an inch of my life (maybe a little bit less than) by several people put things into perspective for me.

I turned to theatre.  I got a scholarship at the local community college and started succeeding. I transferred to a four year university and at the direction of everyone other than myself, I failed. I moved around, got married, got divorced, moved some more, tried again and this time got my B.A. in Theatre and started feeling really good.

Then I went to graduate school and it all went downhill again. I moved around some more, got married again.  I found solace in escapism once more, in the worlds of darkness presented by the NPO (then) called the Camarilla, now known as the Mind’s Eye Society.  Things went downhill once more and I got divorced… again.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  I met the shield-maiden in the Cam/MES and it has lead to the happiest, healthiest, most fun relationship I’ve ever been in (going on seven years now, married for five of them).

In 2008 I moved to the Chicagoland area, in 2009 I married the shield-maiden and in 2011, our son, Benjamin (aka Benvolio, Viking in Training) was born.  He has an older half-sister from the shield-maiden’s previous marriage.

Together the four of us work to not just survive, but thrive and live in this world.  We are trying to live creatively, choosing happiness over struggle.  We are in debt, always. We have struggles, perpetually.  We have bills, things breaking down, issues and obstacles from both of us having previous marriages.

Despite all that, we choose to embrace the moments of happiness instead of dwelling on the struggles.  The moments shared playing and working together:  Bonding over Minecraft and Nachos; Planning for the future of training with swords and archery.  In the process of teaching, I am learning the real life issues of helping my children grow up in a world that is nothing like the one I grew up in.

My children see me working on tasks that break stereotypes.  I cook, I bake, I do dishes, I do laundry. I make their lunches, and help with the homework.  I bake bread for our family two to three times a week.  I make sure the kids have a decent breakfast.  I play with them and involve myself in their creativeness.  I say, “Yes, and…” (most of the time).

Today, Ben turns 4.  Today celebrates over 1200 days of successfully raising our son and helping him survive (despite our setbacks and failures during that time).

Today, we have birthday cake for breakfast.  Happiness.

Find your moment of happiness and embrace it!

 

VikingDad Pro-Tip #15: The Power of Nachos

If things are going rough, make a snack and bond over it. I’ve yet to see two people be angry at each other while eating a plate of nachos.  Kids are no different. They get angry and frustrated, particularly easily when hungry, so take a few minutes, sprinkle some shredded cheese over some tortilla chips, pop it in the microwave for a minute or so and then voila, you have a plate of instant bonding. Never underestimate the power of nachos.

The value of solitude

The pressures on all sides to bond make those who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone uneasy and even guilt-ridden in their situation.  Even worse they reduce the possibility of success for the relationships which they constantly promote. If, as we are told, our lives can be fulfilled only by our intimate attachments to others, then those attachments are from the beginning under a weight of responsibility that cripples their growth.  Even more importantly, this current insistence on relationships not only spoils our chances of relating—it gets in the way of our discovering the value, perhaps the necessity, of solitude.

Peter France, Hermits

VikingDad Pro-Tip #3 (Yes, and…)

One of the things I’ve learned from interactive and improvisational theatre is the rule of “Yes, and…” as opposed to “No, this…”.  This works for children at play as well.  Kids have an expansive imagination that doesn’t adhere to many rules, if any, since they’ve not had the experience to apply them. That means they think of things that are hilariously inappropriate to any laws of science we know. Encourage this.  Instead of saying, “No, Boba Fett can’t wear Princess Leia hair, have Han Solo as a boyfriend and won’t be able to fly in the McGonagall dress using his jet pack” say, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool, and how about giving him a purple lightsaber” or something to that effect.  It will help both avoid a potential argument AND help the child feel you’re on the same page.   Also, as an addendum, when your child does say, “No, that won’t work…” ask why.  Encourage them to also embrace the “Yes, and…”

 

Elder Futhark Cross-stitch Patterns

Cross-stitch was one of my first hobbies.  I’ve never gotten into crochet and knitting (I could never get my stitches tight enough), and sewing came much later.  I enjoyed picking out new skeins of thread (back when one could buy four for a dollar at the local Pamida).  They were little brightly colored threads of potential.  Winding them on little cardboard bobbins was incredibly soothing.  The limited number of stitches and the structure of the Aida cloth were less intimidating to me than freehand embroidery (I could never get my stitches even enough to look right).

At some point I stopped stitching.  I got busy with the sewing, and then the publishing, and then the stress of just getting through the day.  Sitting down and working on something just for myself seemed indulgent and irresponsible.  The boxes of thread, the Aida cloth and cross-stitch books got pushed to the back of shelves to make room for bolts of cloth and serger thread and depression.

Hestia Pouch
Design cross-stitched on linen, turned into a pouch to hold items and hang over the door.

In November, as we reorganized the garage into a workshop, I found all of my cross-stitch supplies.  They were dusty and wrinkled, but no worse for wear.  I sat down one evening with some linen and waste canvas and my Celtic Cross Stitch book by Gail Lawther.  I had an idea to create something I could hang over the front door, a pouch I could fill with herbs, stones, medallions, whatever represented to me safety and love and protection.  I have an affinity for Hestia, who is often represented by a circle, and Stephan has a strong connection to his Celtic roots.  I picked a design that was circular and got to work.

The actual stitching took a week or so, working in the evening.  The whole time I had to remind myself that it was okay to take this time for myself.   And as the pattern emerged, as I looked from design to fabric and back again, as my hands worked, I stitched pieces of myself back together.  Those parts of me that had been torn away because I felt I didn’t have the right to self-care were reattached with careful rows of Xs.  Breathe, I told myself.  This is okay.  You get to do something solely for the joy of it.

And it worked.  It was soothing to concentrate on the rhythm of the needle going in and out of the fabric.  I had to give all my attention to keeping the thread from tangling, to the number of stitches, to the tautness of the fabric.  There was no room for other concerns.  I made sure to tell Stephan several times how much I was enjoying this one simple act, to reinforce the good feelings.

Hecate's Wheel Cross-stitch Decoration
Hecate’s Wheel cross-stitched on my bag in green and red. Design from http://crossstitch.about.com/od/freecrossstitchpattern1/ig/Wiccan—Pagan-Symbols/Hecate-s-Wheel-Pattern-Chart.htm

After the pouch, I embellished my bag with a design of Hecate’s Wheel.  I started having issues with leaving the house last year.   Not so much agoraphobia, as anxiety about being around people.  I thought that carrying a reminder of Hecate, a goddess that I associate with strength and protection, would help with my feelings.  I am taking medication and am in therapy, both have helped with this particular issue (among others), and I think that the cross-stitch has aided in my healing.

Me being me, though, I started playing around with the idea of creating my own cross-stitch patterns.  I’m also working on another book with Stephan, and I am looking to incorporate the cross-stitch into that.  To those ends, I pulled out some graph paper and started with a topic that seemed easy enough: the Elder Futhark.  The runes are all lines, with definite proportions.  I wanted to design something that could be repurposed for various projects, and thought of all the alphabet samplers that one finds in various cross-stitch project books.  I researched various viking design elements for the borders.  The actual drafting took several weeks of graph work and then stitching out the designs to see how they looked.  In the end I drafted two samplers, both on the small side so that they can be completed in a single sitting.

The first design you can see above, the runes are four stitches high by one or two stitches wide (depending on the rune).  The finished design is approximately 2 1/4″ tall by 3 1/4″ wide on 14 count Aida cloth.  It has been worked with two threads: the runes in red and the border in red and black.

The second design (below) is even smaller, the runes two stitches high and one or two stitches wide (again depending on the rune).  The finished design is approximately 1 1/8″ tall by 2 1/8″ wide on 14 count Aida cloth.  It has also been worked with two threads in the black and red colors.

Elder Furthark Cross-stitch Sampler Small
Worked in two threads over 14 ct. white Aida cloth, this sampler features the Elder Futhark runes and a Viking inspired border design.

Both designs are done in back-stitch (making them less cross-stitch patterns, but that’s the term I’m going with).  The stitches include half and quarter stitches, so you have to work between the weave at some points.

I used the program KG-Chart LE to make the charts.  I will definitely be buying the program as it very easy to use and does exactly what I need it to do.  I highly recommend checking it out if you want to make your own patterns.  You can view the designs by clicking on the links below:

Elder Futhark Cross-stitch Sampler Large Pattern

Elder Futhark Cross-stitch Sampler Small Pattern

If you like this project and want to see more, help support this site. You can buy something my Etsy store. Or check out our first two books, available from Amazon.com:

The Viking Dad Midwinter Gaming Convention Re-cap

So, you’ve seen the shield-maiden’s report of the Midwinter Gaming Convention held this past weekend in Milwaukee.  Now it’s my turn.

First things first, I recall attending this convention 4 years ago, a few weeks before Benjamin was born.  In fact, we incorporated that into the characters we played since the shield-maiden was very obviously pregnant.  It was a great time and even though we were utterly new, we were greeted warmly and treated to a warm welcome.  That first experience, four years ago, is the main reason we continue to return.  It’s how conventions should be run and they hit it on the head.

As the name suggests, this is a gaming oriented convention and that said, I did get to partake of one of the LARP events.  It was a great deal of fun and is one of the past times that I fully enjoy, but was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why this convention rocked!

I mentioned above the welcoming and accepting atmosphere at the convention.  No matter what your flavor of gaming, all were welcomed.  The convention and volunteer staff was helpful and friendly, there were a ton of things to do from video gaming to table top role-playing  to board gaming to collectible card gaming.  From live action to full contact immersion, there was something for everyone.  I can’t count the number of “Wows” I felt and uttered at this convention.

Ben versus the Bustle
Ben wanted to try on one of the bustles, but without a booty or hips, it didn’t really stay on.

I spent some time in the booth, but with the addition of two booth helpers, I got to spend time off on my own for a bit, or with Benjamin (trying on various wares to model as seen in the picture above), or (most importantly) with the shield-maiden, enjoying the convention.

The shield-maiden and I in costume, ready for Changeling: the Lost
The shield-maiden and I in costume, ready for Changeling: the Lost

I can’t stress enough the importance of having an accepting or welcoming atmosphere.  In relation to other conventions, and I’ve been to quite a few gaming conventions, this one is the best by far.  Let me show you an example of comparison:

October of 2009, the shield-maiden and I went to a convention (as our honeymoon) in Atlanta.  It was a national convention for the then titled Camarilla (now known as the Mind’s Eye Society).  We vended at that one as well and the first thing we noticed was that the vendor’s hall was tucked far away from any of the “action”.  This really limited foot traffic and for the number of attendees, the space was a fraction of the size that Midwinter had for its Vendor’s Hall.

I mean, the gaming track wasn’t that bad… I just wasn’t “wowed”, until the night game of Changeling: the Lost, which was the main thing both the shield-maiden and I were looking forward to playing. We were both very excited about it and she had spent the entire day working in the cramped vendor’s room on her feet with the hopeful expectation of the both of us getting to play this game together.

We get food, we eat, we change and then head down to the room that the game is being held at to find the doors locked. We knock, we hear people inside, but no one is coming to open it.  We knock louder and then an ST from a different game comes to us and says we can’t go in.  When asked why, he says that the doors locked at a particular time and after than no one else was allowed to enter.

Now, I should preface this with that the locking of the doors was not mentioned anywhere in the programming guide (because if it had, we would have been there at that time). It was something that, apparently, they had just decided upon.

So there we were, in full costume (which by the way, the shield-maiden glued sea shells to her face, so you know that our costuming was extensive) being told that we were out of luck.  We voiced our concern that this wasn’t right, but he said that there’s nothing he could do.

Needless to say we were very put off by this.  Not ones to sit idly by, we voiced our concerns to the Event Staff.   We were blown off with the words (paraphrasing), “Not my problem”.

That is an example of how NOT to do a convention.  Midwinter Gaming Convention was on the complete other side of the spectrum.  They have grown, steadily, each year and by being inclusive of all aspects of gaming, I believe, will see that trend continue.

So, to the staff of the Midwinter Gaming Convention, I salute you.  Well done and I look forward to many happy returns.

The shield-maiden and I in costume, ready for Changeling: the Lost
Awesome venue, awesome game, awesome job Midwinter Gaming Convention!

 

 

Convention Report: Midwinter Gaming Convention

Last week we headed up to Milwaukee for the Midwinter Gaming Convention.  We had a booth there, and had plans to get some gaming in.  This is Midwinter’s fifteenth year, and our third, and it has grown larger and better every year we’ve been.  This was the first year both Stephan and I had wares to peddle, and the first year I had so many booth helpers.  It all added up to a lot of fun.

What made the biggest difference, I think, is that I had two booth helpers throughout the convention.  Our friends Denis and Chrissy came along, and with them on hand, we had four adults to cover the booth the entire weekend.  That meant Stephan wasn’t stuck on Ben patrol the entire time.  It meant we both got to go to lunch together one day.  It meant I got to spend time with my son outside of the vendor’s hall for the first time ever.  I can’t thank the two of them enough for their help the entire weekend.

SCA costuming at Midwinter.
SCA costuming at Midwinter.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed gaming cons.  Midwinter’s focus is on LARP, but it has programming dedicated to board and video games, as well as a strong reenactment presence thanks to the SCA.  So while there is a costuming contingent, it isn’t a costume heavy convention.  And the convention has a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere.  I found myself joking and laughing, things I hadn’t done in a long time.  I managed to deal with the little anxiety that cropped up throughout the weekend, which means that medication and therapy is working for my mental health issues.

The Milwaukee Hilton is a beautiful hotel, with lots of ornate staircases and decor, as well as hallways and seating areas for hangouts.  I spent most of my time in the vendor hall, which was placed in a baroque fantasy of a ballroom with chandeliers and gold molding on the ceiling.  The hotel staff was super friendly and helpful, a big plus when you are attending a convention where there can be tension between fans and non-fans.

That same weekend there was a girl’s volleyball conference in the hotel.  This led to lots of interactions with non-gaming people.  I witnessed an abundance of stares and whispered comments, but I was never the target of them.  In fact I had several women approach me to ask about what was going on.  I think the pink hair establishes me as part of the “weird people” but that my size and gender makes me non-threatening enough to be approachable.  This isn’t the first time I’ve played ambassador for the geek community.  Back in 2002 at ConJose in San Jose, I fielded questions from people on the street who saw me wearing a badge, but not a costume (no pink hair back in those days).   And the fan side of things gave as good as they got on the passive aggressive front.  I overheard one LARPer bragging about having invented “Trolling: the LARP” where he and his friends paraded past groups of volleyball players and parents in their costumes and played their characters to an exaggerated degree.

Creeper
This was Ben’s favorite costume, by far. “Next year I want to be a creeper, too. And then we can creep together!”

I only ran into one instance of bad customer behavior: a woman incredulously demanding to know if “that ruffle thing” truly was $75.  When I confirmed that, yes, I do charge $75 for my bustles, she huffed off.  I know that prior to her asking she had snapped a shot of the bustle (the flash is a dead giveaway) and suspect she’ll show the picture to a sewing friend and ask if said friend will make one for her.  I wish her good luck with that.

I did overhear another customer ask the vendor next to me if they would get a discount on a $20 item if they carried it around the convention and told people where they would get it from.  There seems to be this belief among a certain set of attendees that vendors are starving for marketing and will give away their wares for word of mouth advertising.  I have never once met a vendor who has done such.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one or two who have, I just have never encountered them.

The only other annoyance was the number of times people congregated in front of my booth and blocked access to it.  That is easily dealt with.  I whip out my phone and ask the people if they could move because I want to get a shot of my set up.  Nine times out of ten the people realize they were blocking the way and move on apologetically.  The tenth time, the people move, but with resentment at having been asked to move.  Either way, it’s not skin off my nose, I got them to clear the way.

The final attendance count was just shy of 1100 members.  Not a bad showing.  I made just over 50 cents per attendee (which is about what I plan on making at any convention).  It was less than I had hoped, but I didn’t have any big items with me this time around.  There’s time before the next convention to get plenty of coats made up for off the rack purchases.

roach and the orc
I found an orc!

According to those we talked to, Midwinter has seen an average of 10 percent growth in attendance each year.  It’s clear that they do a lot of work not only in planning great programming, but also in advertising their presence.  They do a lot of social media work, have a strong Facebook page, and got the convention covered by local TV press.  It is a lot of work, but it is paying off for them.

I mention this because over the course of the weekend I was approached by two different conventions about vending.  Both are brand new, both are asking for $200 for booth space.  One mentioned on its website that they expect anywhere between 350 to 2,400 attendees at their first con.  Think about that for a moment.  Presuming that they reach their minimum number, and that I make 50 cents per attendee, I will lose money attending that convention.  The other is one  could see slightly better numbers, but it is still the first year, still untested, and still not worth paying that much for a space.  When conventions charge that much for a space, with such low numbers, it is clear they are looking to cover their costs on the backs of their vendors rather than through ticket sales.

We’ll be back to Midwinter next year for sure.

 

Putting a Price Tag on it.

I am writing this with my experience viewed through the lens of a now stay-at-home-Viking (aka dad), but I believe that the perspectives I discuss in this post can help enlighten those who have never thought about what it means to be a stay-at-home-parent.

There are two very distinct perspectives that I believe need to be discussed and thought about when looking at what it takes to support your family with a stay-at-home-parent:

  • What does your family need, financially speaking, to maintain their current standard of living;
  • What worth are the efforts put forth doing the menial duties in supporting the family.

A very prudent note is that none of these things can really happen effectively (or to help promote a happy family since there’s a very distinctive difference between surviving and living) without, at minimum, a strong level of communication with your partner.  This should not be an ultimatum given, but a plan open to discussion and malleable.  Respect given is respect earned and received in kind (which goes for more than just family, but that’s another blog post for another time).

The first point is the most utilitarian but also the most necessary.  Every parent should know what they need, financially, to make their house run (utilities, mortgage, groceries, gas, etc…). If you know that, then you can break down what needs to be brought into the household (through whatever means) in order to make sure that your family has a roof over its head.  Whether this is from an alternate source of revenue (like starting your own business, or freelancing) or from the standpoint of the spouse finding a new line of work, it’s important to know how much, minimum, you’ll need.  This is the easy part since it’s a somewhat static number and is told to you by someone else.

The second point, while not the most necessary, is more important to recognize and extremely vital to a healthy family environment.  As such, it is the more difficult to assess.  Making sure the family has a nutritious breakfast, lunches are made (for the partner or children who leave the house for the day) and everyone has what they need is just the start of the day.  Then there’s the pet maintenance, cleaning, cooking/prepping for dinner, dishes, laundry that needs to be washed and dried and folded and put away, bill paying, list making, and consumable household supplies that need to be noted (if not acquired) though this is not the comprehensive list. For increased difficulty, add caring for a newborn/infant/toddler (again only by experience can one understand just how difficult it can be).  All these things require attention and doing it with a child not only adds time to the task, but also splits attention which exponentially increases the amount of energy required.  Then there’s helping school age children with homework, making the dinner, cleaning up after the dinner and making certain the children are showered/bathed and put to bed.  Is there a price that one can put on that?  If you say yes, then think of that number.  Now triple it (at least).

Like educators, stay-at-home-parents are greatly under-valued and under-appreciated (not to mention under-paid in the case of teachers) in our society and why I feel it’s important to have a strong relationship built around respect with your partner who is performing these tasks. They do it out of love and necessity and it oftentimes can be linked to their sense of self-worth.  Keep that in mind the next time you put on a clean shirt or eat off a clean plate.  Take the time to speak your appreciation. Not only will it help your family thrive happily, but it will set a great example of how parents should be to the children who are paying attention (even if you think they don’t listen).

While this is certainly not the definitive list of perspectives to consider, I believe they are very important to keep in mind.  Remember, the parent who stays at home works too, quite a bit and deserve to be recognized for their efforts.  It’s not all wine and Minecraft when the other parent is away at work.

It’s Not All Wine and Minecraft

So, if you were to read a lot of bloggers out there, myself included, we joke, we poke fun, we appeal to heartstrings.  A lot of what you don’t see, however, are the moments where we are less than the ideal picture represented online.  I don’t want to speak for any of them other than myself, but as I’m a human and as they’re human, I simply assume that they have similar feelings… like all parents do.   Granted, I’m just going off my experience as both having been a child and now being a parent.

These moments exist in a similar fashion as their more jovial counterparts, fleeting and yet mood-changing.  The amazing thing about children can also be the most frustrating.  They have an almost zen-like ability to be a screaming tantrum monster one second and a cherubic cute factory the next with no turn-around time.  Adults take longer to adjust and tend to hang on to stuff longer, especially the negative.

There are moments when my near inexhaustible levels of patience have been nearly exhausted and I’m just counting the minutes until bedtime.  Suddenly, an explosion of anger from him (which usually involves throwing things or fists or feet) or a sudden explosion of pain from me as I’m hit in the runestones for the umpteenth time causes a string of obscenities to race through my mind (as well as some anger, frustration or rage to course through my body) and occasionally a few spew out (which then necessitates a discussion about what are and are NOT ‘Ben Words’).  These are the moments that take the most out of you as a parent, these are the moments that make you long for just five minutes alone in the bathroom.

It’s hard during these moments to recall that the little emotional maelstrom of spinning bellicosity in front of you is not your enemy, is not trying to intentionally hurt you, and is, in actualty, one of the greatest loves of your life.  It’s hard sometimes to stay calm and rational and, above all, act as an adult, when you’re surrounded by the tiny terror of tantrums all day.

So, what I’m saying, essentially, that while a lot of the times the internet makes parenting look easy or funny, it’s not the whole picture.  Parenting is difficult and filled with a LOT of unexpected twists and turns, not all of them good ones.

For all of you who are parents, I want you to know that your efforts are appreciated.  Maybe not by the child, and not at that moment, but there will be a time in that child’s future where the light bulb will spring to life and the epiphany will hit when they look into their own child’s eyes and realize the love, patience and effort it took to bring them to where they are today.   Those are the moments we work so hard for.

Parents, tonight in the quiet, take time to enjoy what you’ve done so far, have a glass of wine and congratulate yourself on your efforts.  You’ve done well.  Reward yourself with a little Minecraft (or whatever past time you enjoy that you’ve not gotten to do as much because of your priority of raising children), but above all, love and forgive yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  After all, we know that kids are prone to do what we do and not what we say, no matter how often we encourage the reverse.