We’re Right Behind You Dad

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When I was a boy, we moved from the city to a farm near my grandparents.  Our little trailer house was nestled right between three things that often kept me awake and worried after dark at night.  They were a dilapidated hundred-year old two-story house to the west, an even older (and only a bit smaller) barn to the east, and an ancient cement cellar with a heavy metal door to the north.

By day, these three places were a boy’s adventurous dreamscapes and were replete with hidden closets under creaking staircases and musty smells and scratch marks from who knows what kinds of animals.  There were boxes of old newspapers and various pieces of archaic furniture in the old house’s nearly collapsed attic and large leather harnesses and ropes and pulleys hung from wooden slats of the dark stalls that lined each side of the old barn.  The dimly lit cellar was a great place to think of spooky stories to tell my younger sister and an even better (and brave) place to hide in a game of hide-and-seek.

By night, these three places were another thing altogether.  They represented every scary movie that I had ever heard of (and I only knew of a few at this point in my young life) and seemed to surely be the birthplaces of every monster and ghost and eerie sound that the world of a young boy’s mind could muster.

By day, they were my Mt. Everest.  By night, they were my Legend of Boggy Creek.

Today we visit the old house, the spot where the barn once stood, and the musty cellar with my children and I tell them of the feelings I had when I was their age.  I keenly remember the experiences, the sights and sounds of it all, as the memories come flooding back to me – the fun and the fear and the courage and the weakness and the dark and the light, the dreams and the nightmares.

While we were searching through the ruins of these familiar places, I noticed that when we would enter a particularly dark or cobweb-infested area my youngest daughter would say, “We’re right behind you dad.”  And then…they would only take a step after I took a step.  They would only move ahead after I moved ahead.  They would only laugh after I laughed.

And it all makes me think – I was only taking a step because I knew they needed to take a step.  I was only moving ahead because I knew they needed to move ahead. I was only laughing because I knew they needed to laugh.

Then as a boy, I remember how it felt to try to navigate my courage and my fear, my dreams and my nightmares, all at the same time…for myself.

Now as a father, I know how it feels to navigate my courage and my fear, my dreams and my nightmares all at the same time…for them.

 

‘Win or Lose Part 2’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

 BF Race 1

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and parades with marching bands full of trombone players; but he did not like to lose.  Here is part 2 of his story (for part one click here):

The moment Grenelda the Grasshopper’s purple and pink car won the race, Baby Frederico was mad.  He did not like to lose and he did not like that he lost to Grenelda and her, well his, purple and pink car.  And he told her so!

Grenelda was surprised and suggested that they try the race again because, “Surely you’ll win this time buddy.”  They raced again…and again….and even a third time – but each and every time Grenelda’s car won the race!  And Baby Frederico became angrier each time.

BF Race 2

In fact, Grenelda had never seen Baby Frederico get so upset – especially at her, his best buddy.  She was hurt, yes, but what really surprised her was how quickly all the fun they had while they were building the racetrack and talking and laughing all afternoon had so quickly and painfully come to an end.

Baby Frederico left her standing in the hallway with nothing more to say about it, so she decided it was time to leave and began the short walk home.  She felt terrible inside and even wished that she would have never won even one of those silly races at all.  She knew she had not cheated, that it was just how the car went down the racetrack that caused her to be the winner.  She knew she had done nothing wrong, but she still felt terrible.  Baby Frederico was her friend and now she missed him.

It had only been a moment when Baby Frederico, feeling embarrassed and sorry for they way he had acted, came back into the hallway to apologize to Grenelda…but she was gone.  He had no sooner realized she was gone, though, when he caught another glimpse of that purple and pink car and the long racetrack that they had built down the hallway…and he became angry all over again.  He did not like to lose.

That night, Baby Frederico slept fitfully and had a dream that turned into a nightmare.  When he would finally awake from it, everything would be different….(more next week!).

 

Storytellers in the Making

My 8 year-old nephew is here with his sisters enjoying a summer vacation with their grandparents, who live near us on the other side of the farm, and we sat and talked for awhile last evening. He has been having bad dreams…well, one bad dream that recurs time and again, and his description of this dream is something like the great classic pieces of literature that have survived the ages! Now, don’t get me wrong about him. He knows exactly how to act his age and he is boy through and through (just ask us about the time he decided to hook one end of a bungee cord to his electric scooter and the other end to our swingset and then took off), but when he began to tell me about this dream he sat up straight and tall in his chair; even his voice went an octave lower than normal. His eyes were focused straight as an arrow, though not looking right at me, but somewhere off in the distance as he shared his story.

It is a simple dream really, no people other than himself and no elaborate sets – just a very deep and very dark lake, a seemingly endless wooden bridge, and a large circle that turns around in the middle of the lake. The bridge leads to the circle, always to the circle, no matter which way you are walking on the bridge. He says, “I just want to get somewhere else and find people, but the bridge keeps bringing me right back to the middle of this big lake and I end up sitting on this circle…thinking and thinking.”

Read his quote there one more time. Do you see it? That is a STORY my friends. He is a writer, a storyteller, a master at describing what he knows…and he doesn’t even realize it yet. My kids and yours are the same. They have stories to tell, things they know and understand that rest rumbling somewhere inside them just waiting to make their debut, to share with someone, anyone, who acts like they want to listen.

Something in the telling of his bad dream has helped my nephew, at least for now. We ended up deciding the stuff going on in his dream could really be quite an adventure after all, so he is making himself a boat out of different objects lying around the house and is going to sleep with it. I imagine you too can see the logic in creating such a boat. If you can’t, ask your kids and I bet they can tell you…all they’ll need is a moment of your time.

Books and Dreams