Twenty years ago we stood on a deck over-looking Manitowaning Bay and said “I do”. It has been an incredible ride so far filled with world travel, two fantastic kids, interesting careers, an overly shedding dog, a few tears and many more laughs. It hasn’t always been easy. Marriage takes work and gets messy from time to time. Finding the right partner to pick you up when you’re down, celebrate your successes and help you clean up those messes is what makes it worth living. I found mine and can proudly say we’ve made quite a life over the past 20 years. While today’s anniversary insisted that it should be filled with cortisone shots, orthotics and the inevitably late night packing, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The other night, during the harvest moon, I slept outside with my son. We’d just watched Spiderman:Homecoming (awesome) and we had the kind of conversation that only seems possible on warm summer evenings. I luxuriated in the banter over which super hero we’d be, as ourselves, in their costumes and with their powers. It was thoughtful and carefully deliberated and after talking through all the Avengers, we settled on the hero we’d picked initially. We talked about other super cool stuff like flying cars, inventions that would make us rich and who we’d take to a dance if we absolutely had to or else we wouldn’t be allowed to create inventions that would make us rich…
It’s moments like these that need to be taken and remembered. It’s what keeps us young and connected to our kids who are growing faster than the weeds in the backyard where we pitched our tent.
Parenting doesn’t come with a play book. Things happen unexpectedly and I try to be pretty close to right more often than I screw it up. The jury is still out on whether I’m succeeding or not.
So was the case tonight when we were faced with the request from our daughter to join friends who’d invited her to dinner in advance of the grade 8 farewell party tomorrow. While my wife and I hadn’t formalized plans together or as a family, we’d both separately had it in our minds that we would have a family dinner after which my wife would help with any hair drying and styling needs, we’d take the family photo to capture the moment and then head down to the school together.
So, like the true rookies we are in these days of teenagers and digital planning, we fumbled. We first said yes, then reflected on our disappointment that we wouldn’t be having the dinner we imagined, then rallied to support the idea that there is a peer group that included our daughter, then doubted ourselves again over the reality that our child only graduates from grade eight once, until finally the confusion on our faces led our astute 14 year old to ask us what we were really thinking.
It may seem quaint we said, but the celebration of graduating from middle school and the traditions that go with it carry an emotional side to things that we were only just realizing at that moment. We reflected on our own grade eight graduation (my wife’s with jewelry from her parents and grandparents that she still has today and plans on wearing tomorrow night, and my own memories of being dragged out to Tip Top Tailors to buy stiff and scratchy grey flannel pants and a blazer that I’m sure were only worn that one night, and my mom crying at the playing of Pomp and Circumstance). Graduations like this may in fact be more for the parents than the actual participants because the importance of the moment can’t be fully appreciated without the benefit of time. It’s lunacy really, that as parents we work tirelessly to raise our children to be confident, independent and thoughtful people, only to feel a palpable sadness when they start to demonstrate those very qualities that we’re hoping they’ll attain.
In the end, we all felt better and agreed to let her enjoy the dinner and preparation with her friends but we made her promise that the moment we got the chance we’d be making a great fuss over capturing the occasion in an awkward and sure to be greatly treasured photograph.
I saw a scene not far off from this at a local coffee shop the other day and I was reminded again of the bravery of parenthood.
To all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day.
Happy Wednesday! My apologies that I haven’t been posting lately. I was lucky enough to work with a team at Toonbox Entertainment on a new feature film that took up almost all of my time. Contractual obligations prevent me from saying anything about it (really, I can’t say anything or post any of my work until the movie starts to get marketed!) but it was great fun.
What little time I did have was consumed by a recent passion of creating pastel paintings of Bison. After a 150 year absence, the prairie bison have been re-introduced into Banff National park and I’ve been creating pieces to commemorate that. Here’s a quick sample from my Instagram feed:
Finally, I did a little re-design and freshen up of the site. Anyway, I’ll be back at it with more crazy family sketches. See you soon!
My mom had an expression: “Never go upstairs empty handed”. This also included downstairs, outside, inside, into the garage… you get the point. Family living means things get left, placed, intentionally situated, all over the house. How long they remain in that spot is directly proportionate to your family’s adherence to the “never go anywhere empty handed” protocol. In my house, adherence is spotty at best. My tactic has been to place items that need to be taken to people’s rooms, the bathroom and linen closet, in the middle of the stairs that lead up to those rooms. Despite going up and down countless times these items can remain fixed on the stairs for days. Clearly I need to change tactics. If there is a world championship for indoor stair climbing my team would be in the final round.
If your home is also nurturing future stair climbing champs, send me a pic of your stairs full of stuff and I’ll pick one to draw an Art of Dad original!
Daniel Lewis is one of the co-founders of an outstanding online resource for dads and parenting, thedadwebsite.com. I was delighted when he contacted me about an interview on my life as a dad and an artist after coming across my work on this site.
Please check out our chat at the following link: TheArtofDadInterview and spend some time on Daniel’s site, it’s fantastic.