Tag Archives: dads

S’mores, Road Rage, and 911. Summertime Fun with Lady the Fearless.

One night a couple of summers ago, my family decided to make a late night S’mores run to the grocery store.

My husband had made a fire pit out of some kind of giant can, and the kids wanted to roast marshmallows.  We do exotic S’mores at our house, my personal favorite with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, recipe here.

But I digress.

The point is, we needed supplies.

Our neighborhood is quiet, but to get to the store, we have to pull out on a busy highway with a 50-mile-an-hour speed limit.  It’s a little  bit out in the country, and people seem to think that the speed limit on that road is more of a suggestion.

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When my husband pulled the car out,  we could see a car coming, headlights far in the distance.  Plenty of time.

But then, he sped up, flooring the gas.   “Aw, he had to come up so quick!  I wish he would just pass!”

I looked back and saw headlights really close in the back window.  “Oh, well,” I thought.  It happens a lot on that highway.

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We drove the few blocks down to the grocery store and pulled into the parking lot.  I heard my husband say, “Oh, great. here he comes.”

We parked, and a man in a dark red SUV slammed into the parking space next to us on my side.  He motioned for my husband to roll down the window.

My husband, a logical and peaceful fellow, obliged.

The man was shaved bald.  Mean bald.  He was also brawny and belligerent and very angry with my husband.

He pointed at my husband and shouted over me, “HEY man, YOU CUT ME OFF!!!”

Ben said, calmly and logically, across me in the passenger seat, “Oh.  Well.  I didn’t realize how fast you were going.”

Mad Bald Man did not appreciate the accountability my husband offered.  He raised his eyebrows and  shouted again, “Well, you CUT ME OFF back there!!”

And I sat between these two, with Ben in the driver’s seat to my left and this man in the parking space to my right.

Ben kept repeating that he had not intended to cut the man off, but he did not know how fast he was going.  Mad Bald Man kept yelling and shaking his finger at Ben.  At one point he mentioned the two of them getting out of their cars to discuss it.

I looked back and forth at them as Ben talked and the other guy shouted, like watching a very dark and mildly violent parking lot tennis match.

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Finally, Mad Bald Man pointed at me and said, “And you know what YOU need to do–you need to tell your husband he needs to learn how to DRIVE!”

I had been praying the whole time, “Oh no, God, what do we do?”  Just a quick prayer, an S.O.S.

At one time in my life, I would have been freaking out by now, uncertain and deeply afraid.

But that night, I looked at the mad bald man, his face red, veins bulging, fist shaking.  I looked at my husband, earnestly telling the whole truth.

And I wanted to laugh.

I did know that it was possibly dangerous, but I have just become bored with bullies.

He shook his finger at me and told me what I needed to do.

I looked at him and cocked my head to one side.  I said, “Actually, I  know what I need to do.  I’m calling the police.”

“What for???  For your husband cutting me off?!?”

“No,” I said.  “For harassment.  From you.”

And I picked up my phone and dialed 911.

My husband said, “Oh no.  Don’t call them.  Too much paperwork.”

Paperwork.

The guy wanted to fight, and Ben was worried about paperwork.

At that point, I had already called 911.  But for some reason, it didn’t go through.

I looked at it again.  I dialed it again.  I held it to my ear.

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Nothing.

I looked at it, holding the screen where the guy couldn’t see it.

For some reason, my phone wasn’t dialing.  And everyone was looking at me–Ben, Mad Bald Man, and a car full of kids.  My husband said, “Oh, please don’t call them, we’ll be here all night.”.

Mad Bald Man shouted, “NO, you call them! Go ahead and call ’em!!  CALL THEM!! and I will stay right here, and I will tell them how YOUR husband cut me off!”

And I looked at him and said, “Ok.  I called them.  Just so you know.”

And then proceeded to talk into my phone.  To an imaginary 911 operator.

“Yes, Operator,” I said, into the silence.  “We are being harassed by a white male in his mid-30s.  Bald.”  I gave the location of the store.

And I kept talking.

To the home screen.

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The guy sat there really mad for a minute and then totally deflated.  He slumped over his steering wheel like a broken man and stared out the window.  Then he got out and slammed his door and walked into the store.

I got out too, so he could hear me, and I said, “Yes ma’am, he’s still here, I can see him, he’s entering the building.”

After he was gone I walked back to my family in the car.  I still had the phone on my ear and was still talking, even though the guy was gone.  My husband said, “Please tell them not to come.  It’s fine.  Tell them he’s gone.  No biggie.”

I forgot–they didn’t know. The whole imaginary-operator thing.  They had no idea. I put the phone down and looked at my kids, all round eyed in the back seat.

I looked back at my husband, and I said, “It’s not them.  I never called anyone. I faked it. I’m just talking to myself.”

And I fell over laughing.

My kids’ faces. Priceless. Scared expressions went from confused disbelief to relief and laughter.

Ben shook his head.  It’s not the only time in our seventeen years of marriage that he’s looked at me like that.

We waited a minute.  We moved the car, and then we went in the store and got our S’mores ingredients.  When we came out, the red SUV was gone.

Now. By the way.

I do not recommend fake calling 911 as a course of action if you are harassed.  And for the record, technically, I didn’t lie.  I did call 911.  Twice.  It just didn’t go through.  But it worked.  And the guy got mercy.  And we laughed.  And we went home.  And we had S’mores.

And my kids still tell tales of this night.

It will go down in history.

***

I’m asking for new ways to deal with old stuff.  For all of us.  Ways that make us laugh.  And bring breakthrough.  And go down in history.

Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.  Ps 126:2-3

Oh, and P.S.  Happy anniversary, Honey.  We make a great team.

A Good, Good Father.

These dads.  The difference they make for mothers and for children.

A great father brings identity.  The lack of a good father can steal it.

A study published in 2013 says that the absence of fathers in mice   causes brain damage in offspring, in the part of the brain that controls social and cognitive behavior. The implication is that the same could be true for humans.

But, we already know that.

Children do not need scientists to tell them how much pain is caused by an indifferent or angry parent, how they question everything about  who they are and why they were born when a parent is cruel or habitually careless.  Or how much fun a Dad’s love can bring, and confidence, and courage.

The wonderful inverse of this fact is that the presence of healthy fathers encourages healthy brain development in children.

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The good news is that, no matter the condition of our earthly fathers, each one of us has a devoted father in the form of Abba God.  He made us and loves us and likes us, even in our brokenness and mess and mistakes.

No exceptions.

And in that unconditional love, we get to see our worth. Our value.

When my husband came in to my life, he saw me for who I was.  He saw my wounded and damaged heart.  He saw my hopelessness in relationships.  He saw my cynicism and my anger.  And he promised to love and cherish me in spite of all of it.  And he has done so, every day since.

I knew he was the one when he came over to paint my house.

I was in the middle of trying to fix up a horrible dump that I was renting in a terrible neighborhood.  I was young enough to think that painting the brown walls a pale yellow would make up for the strange man that walked through my yard at night, whistling ballads from another time under my window.

That one act of kindness would have been enough to show me who he was, but then he showed up with a box of tools.  And he went through the whole house fixing everything.

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He worked two jobs during the week, and, on the weekends, he drove two hours to come to my city. When he wasn’t working on my house, he came to the mall and waited for me to finish my shift so he could take me to dinner.  He walked the mall while I worked and bought me presents to pass the time.

He wasn’t flashy. He wasn’t a smooth talker.

He was good.

He was quiet.  He was tall and tan.  He was dark-haired, but there was such a golden glow about him that my mother always called him blond.

He was generous, and he was a caretaker.  “He would make such a great dad.” I remember being surprised at the thought.

A great dad. That was one of the most important things to me that he could be.

I wasn’t even dating him at the time, and he still wanted to be around me, no agenda.

I felt safe with him.  I didn’t feel that queasy twinge of regret, vaguely wondering why I was with him.  I didn’t feel a mania either, but something different, something deep and sure.

He was unexpected.  And yet, he felt like someone I had known all my life.  He always says he wished we met and played in the sand box as kids.  He wanted to share his whole life with me, even the moments that had already passed.

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I was dating someone else, and once, just once, he told me, “I hate to see you with him.  You deserve someone who treats you better.”

And then he waited.  And he worked on my house.

And I came to my senses, and I left the other guy.  And I went with him.  And he treated me better.  And we got married.  And we had a bunch of kids.  And he’s still treating me better, all the time.

And watching him be a great dad to our kids is one of the best gifts of this life.

So thankful for my good man and for all the good men.

You make a difference in this world just by doing your best, giving your all.

You can be so hard on yourself.  Please know that just being here means you are helping us live our best lives.  Even in situations where you can’t be there all the time, thanks for making yourself known with cards and calls and texts and gifts.  Everything you do to reach out, we notice, and it has an impact.  Nothing is wasted with a child, with relationships.

Early mornings and late nights at jobs that are sometimes boring and challenging and infuriating and uncertain.  Trading your time to pay for football helmets and baby food and stuffed animals and college tuition.  For the things a family needs, for houses and medicine and braces and cars.  Thanks for fixing everything around here, for opening jar lids and for cleaning all the yucky messes.

Thanks for being generous with yourself.  For giving your all and not giving up when women are moody and the kids are testing.

There is a song about the way the love of a good father influences his children.  I love this line,

You’re a good, good father.  

It’s who You are,

It’s who I am.

It’s who I am.

The love of a good father defines his children as good.

Thanks for your love and for all that it carries.  Thanks for showing us that we are good.

Thank you for everything.

Happy Dog and Pony Show. For Father’s Day.

My father was so tall.  The way he threw back his head to laugh, he could make anything look like fun. I was about four, still in ruffly pants and shiny curls.

There are pictures in an old album of that day.  I think my uncle even had a mustache back then, so dark and swarthy, he looked like a Spanish pirate. In flannel.  With glasses.

I remember their hilarity, they laughed out loud all morning.

I was curious, peeking around corners, watching the construction.  With my little red wagon, horse bridles and buckles, and maybe some duct tape, they built a small buggy and hitched it in on to my uncle’s Doberman. They planned to take me for a wild ride.  It sounded fun.  It looked fun.  And I loved their handsome giggles, dimples showing.

The laughter, I loved, the joy and the silliness of these grown men.

On the other hand, I had always been a little bit afraid of that dog.  She never hurt me, but still. She had a “liver” coat, a color which, to me, was about as appealing as its name.

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And looking down her long sloping snout, all I could see was a swirling vortex of drool and steam and pointy teeth.

The wagon was good, I was used to that.  It was a little bumpy, but sometimes they put a blanket in for a cushion.  I liked it.  The horse bridles were fine.  I hadn’t had the great fall yet at that time, and I loved everything about horses.

But the dog, she and I kept our distance.  She was so hard and sharp all over, and jumpy.

By the time they finished the cart and harness, they were laughing so hard they could hardly stand up, and someone had out a giant camera, a silver box that blinked and caught time.

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They came into the house.  I took one look at that liver-colored dog, the straps and the wagon.  No blanket.  And, just like that, I changed my mind.

I did not want to get in that wagon.  I did not want to put my life in the control of a dog that was, at best, a toothy acquaintance.  I did not trust her.  Too many angles, too little fur.  Suspicious.

I did not want to put myself in the hands of these near hysterical men.  I had seen their exploits and bucking stallions.  My heart pounded.   Mayday, mayday!

As a mother, I now call that feeling “Daddies do it different!”  And I smile brightly and make sure I know the location of the nearest ER, and I send them on their way.  A bandaid here and there is worth an adventure with Dad.  Dads have a way of planning these beautiful disasters that usually turn out alright.  And the kids get tougher.  And the memories are priceless.

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But I didn’t know that then, and I shook my head.  They laughed and said,  “Come on, come on, it’ll be fun!”

“No.” I whispered, a mixture of wanting to, but not, a sick feeling at disappointing them, and fear of the dog, and of bravery at saying what I felt, a tiny voice in a room full of deep and boisterous sound.

My grandmother was there.  She must have agreed with me, because when I whispered “no,” she grabbed me up and hugged me against her plump chest, and said, “This little baby does not have to get in that wagon.  You boys take it right back outside!”

She tucked me next to her and got out a lapful of books.  I felt some relief, but I peeked out from under her soft arms at my uncle and my dad, giving up, disappointed, no more laughing, sighing out loud the way that big boys do.  The last thing I saw was the tail of that liver colored dog walking out the back door.

I was a tiny adventurer who got afraid.  I wanted to do it, but I didn’t.

I wish someone had put a stuffed animal in the wagon to show me it was safe and familiar.  I wish my grandma had said she’d hold my hand and walk next to me if i wanted to try it.  I wish I would have known that a chance to ride in a Doberman-dog-and-pony-cart would not come again.  I wish those men had tried harder with me.  Not just that day, but every day since.

But it’s hard when a child is pushing you away, and the women around them circle to protect.

I think I would have said ok, and I think it would have been crazy fun.  Bumpy, yes.  But, then, Daddies do it different.  Gloves off.  Rub some dirt on it.  Get back on.

It can be hard for moms too, when something looks like a danger to a child, a child they looked death in the face to bring into this world.  Like I always say, if men gave birth, you would never see a baby on a motorcycle.

There is a balance in this child rearing thing.  And it’s a challenge to find that balance when we don’t know how to be a team and the moment takes us by surprise.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back and try it, that dog and pony show.  The wild ride the men had planned, holding on to my grandmother’s hand.

We need the men and women both, in our lives.  It’s important that moms and dads look at each other and know it, that we all look at each other and know it.  And love and respect . And help.  And share.

Fathers are so important.  

Mothers are so important.  

Blessings on all your efforts.  

Thanks for all you do.