This year sucked.
Butts! It sucked buckets of butts.
Business was slow and complicated and I made a lot of mistakes that cost money so money was a source of concern in grownup land. For most of the year your job was stupidly stressful, with layoffs looming and a shitty commute, so I felt super guilty about all the money I was losing by being an idiot.
And in the background there were other things. We were all sick at various times all winter. Graham was sick.
I decided to adjust my dose of zoloft and OH NO that was bad WHY. Side effects may include deciding you don’t need this medicine even though you so very very much do.
The social life we had worked hard to cultivate went all wobbly as some of our closest friends ran off down a path we didn’t understand.
Graham was sick all the time and it made him afraid to leave the house so we were stuck at home with this miserable little person.
Everything piles up, you know? But somewhere in all of the pile of stressful bummers was us. This basic core, the heart of the house of Ards. We’ve never stopped talking and connecting and trying to find our way around all the obSTACles so we can move forward. New job for you, much better commute. Correct dose of medication for everyone involved. Testing for Graham, ruling out the scary stuff. Simplifying the business stuff so we can breathe. Making new friends, slowly letting go of old expectations.
We’ve talked through so much and found that we are absolutely on the same page. Parenting, goals, priorities, and the kind of things that other people do for fun… like woah, they’re having fun! Maybe WE should branch out a little?
“Would you ever –”
“No. I mean I might fantasize…”
“Oh no, god no wouldn’t actually want to –”
“All those poor little animals.”
My friends don’t actually have sex with animals — I mean as far as I know, it hasn’t come up specifically in conversation and I know at least one of them has cat allergies — but it’s my blog and I get to retell events in whatever childish way I wish. I’m working on being less sad and unattractively bitter about it all. Plus this way I can be silly about it and not out them for what they actually do now, which lies somewhere between doing cocaine with hookers on my driveway and joining a Multi Level Marketing deal on the spectrum of things other people do that makes me not want to spend as much time with them. I realized that I need to update my list of different kinds of jerks. See below, where red is more annoyed, orange is less annoyed but still annoyed.
Anyway. The important thing is that we discovered that you and I agree on those kinds of things. We were also reminded that yes having friends is wonderful but at the end of the day, it’s us that matter. We are the ones we can rely upon, we are the ones raising these boys, it’s down to us. Village, shmillage; the rest of the world could be consumed by some fiery horror and we would be sad but basically okay here in our weird house with our weird kids.
The kids. Oh man. They are growing up to be SUCH awesome people.
Nicolaus thinks big thoughts, and at different points over the years we have worried that he could easily go down the path of depression and anxiety. This year I have been amazed by his resilience. He’s twelve. We are seeing some definite twelveness. He pushes to be allowed to play violent computer games, he wants to make sure there’s food on hand at all times, he sometimes rolls his eyes when we are being obviously hilarious. But so far no angst, nothing terribly intense. His moods are more even than ever, actually.
This year he learned that people on the Internet can be mean, that some friends will always want more more more, some friends aren’t really friends, and some friends ARE friends but are also complicated humans who need a little benefit of the doubt sometimes. You helped him navigate that stuff and as hard as it is to watch a kid lose his innocence, I love knowing that he feels ready for more of life’s challenges. Where he used to fall apart, now he rallies.
No one can make fun of him because he is so well grounded that most rudeness bounces off. His favorite response to an insult is “I know, right? It’s SAD.” which lets the air out of the balloon instantly.
“You’re a stupid little kid!”
“I know, right?”
We could throw him into an arena with a pack of middleschool bullies, and he would laugh and shake his head and sit down and start inventing a game using whatever shards of bones were scattered on the ground. Pretty soon the other kids would be crowded around waiting for their turn to play his game, the audience would be trying to see the game and he wouldn’t even realize that anything unusual had happened.
I don’t know what we did to help him become this excellent human kid, but let’s take credit for it okay? It’s been a crappy year, give us this one.
And Graham oh Graham Graham Graham. Nobody’s brain works like his. If he didn’t border on misanthropic he could do anything. His moods are challenging sometimes, let’s say that, but he bounces back. He is so damned observant, nothing slips by him. He has become my editor and art director and not in a cute let-the-kid-pretend-to-help way. In a oh-wow-this-is-a-lot-better-now way.
They’re easing towards adolescence. This was the year we let them watch inappropriate stuff like the Simpsons and (eventually) Futurama before moving on to harder stuff: 1980s family movies. Graham learned to use the stove and the oven, and he loves proving his independence. He wants to learn how to do everything and is full of amazing questions even when he feels utterly like crap.
What does this have to do with you being an awesome father and this being father’s day and all? Well first of all they still think you are the coolest. That’s good because they emulate you. They see you working hard to do well at things you don’t always enjoy, they see you laugh at yourself (and me, thanks for that), they see you do creative work, and they see you make time for them and us. It all matters, it all goes in.
They are learning how to camp, how to talk to strangers, how to make friends when it’s hard to make friends, how to ask questions and make guesses and own your flaws and try new things and have the courage to be honest even when the fallout isn’t fun. They bicker, yeah, but when they get along they are unstoppable.
Second of all, the biggest thing you’ve done this year is helped your crazy wife. When I was losing my mind worrying about Graham, you helped me keep things in perspective. You constantly help me sort through all the jumbled messes I manage to create because I avoid thinking about some (important, impending) things for too long and ruminate about other (trivial or unlikely to happen) things way too much.
We take turns being the one who needs help. That’s how marriages work, right? Ebb and flow, wax and wane, gibbous and the other one.
This year let’s shoot for more ebbing and waxing, less of all the bullshit.
I love you,