undeaddad

explorations of mindful fatherhood


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Get Out of My Way, I’m Trying to Get to Diagon Alley!

20141229_073410After months of saving and anticipation, our family was lucky enough to visit Orlando this holiday for a trip to Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade! This was a trip that dad was looking forward to perhaps more than anyone.

Last winter, I had been searching for new jobs options and had some interviews. I told myself and my wife prior to one very pivotal second interview that if I didn’t get this (dream) job and found myself in the same crap job in the summer, then we were all taking a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios as my consolation prize. As the title of this post suggests, I did not get the job and, unfortunately, my current job ramped up to a flurry over this past summer, so much so that I couldn’t even take a vacation as planned in June. So we postponed everything until December.

Needless to say, I had a lot invested emotionally in this trip. First, it felt like something I was owed. If I had to languish in my demanding and thankless job, then I was damn well going to get a fun vacation out of it. And “fun” was the key word. Although we could have saved up for the Caribbean or an overseas locale, I needed somewhere that would serve up simple, unadulterated fun, and only Harry Potter would do the trick. Secondly, if I was driving my family out (yes, driving, 20+ long hours from New England), then it had better be good. I felt like it wasn’t only me who was “owed” a good vacation, it was my entire family, and I had been the guiding force for devising this trip: scheduling the vacation package, booking the hotels, even coming up with an itinerary. And so felt that the responsibility of providing a fun time rested upon my shoulders.

I was smart enough to get a package that included early admission to the park, which felt a little crazy at first, arriving at the park in the pitch-black of 6:30am, but was well worth it. Early admissions folks got herded forward to the Wizarding World locations before the gates opened, giving us full access to the best parts of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade before the throngs. It was upon our very first entry through that brick wall that I realized we had done it, and damn was it worth it. As completed Potter nerds, my wife, son, and I reveled in every nook and cranny of Potterdom. Seeing it for the first time, and getting into the attraction without hassle caused me to drop my shoulders and relax into the experience.

20141229_153751And then the craziness happened. Surprisingly the Sunday after Christmas, the crowds were not that bad. We were reasonably well prepared for the amount of people we’d be seeing, but the next two days were shoulder-to-shoulder crowded. I particularly remember our second day of early admission (heading to Hogsmeade this time), and feeling the stress as folks rushed past one another, causing me to instinctively move faster and usher my family along. It was almost as though my body reacted uncontrollably to the pace of others. On one of our return visits to Diagon Alley, the crowd was so bustling, it was difficult to move anywhere without knocking into others. I recall how someone would cut me off or bump into me (“Asshole”), but the next minute I’d be cutting someone off or accidentally bumping into them (“Who’s the asshole now?”). I wasn’t intending on being opportunistic, is was just that the shear number of people made it difficult to navigate the crowd and time my movements.

What helped were these little “a-ha” moments when I could see my body and mind responding to the throng of people, whether speeding up to match the pace of the crowd or nearly crashing into some unsuspecting park attendee because I was simply trying to move forward. I wanted a good experience for my family. I wanted to make the trip worth all the trouble and “get mine.” When, in fact, everyone there held the same desire for their families. Folks had come from all over the world, investing hundreds if not thousands of dollars to give their children and families this experience, and we were all working off that same adrenaline and need to take care of our own.

20141229_154936 (2)When I realized this, I was able to take things in stride. This realization made it much more tolerable when someone bumped into me or seemingly cut me off. In the chaos of excitement, anticipation, and humanity, everyone wanted a good experience. They wanted to show their families a good time. This was the motivation that bonded me with them in some way, and I realized (in that very Buddhist-y way) that working solely for the betterment of our own rather than for the good of everyone truly is the root of much of the strife in the world. Sure, I still wanted a good experience for my family, but getting caught up in the competitive spirit would have only caused my trip to suffer. When I was able to see that we all wanted the same thing and reminded myself that we’d get our turn, everything fell into place, and we had a great time. Or, perhaps it wasn’t some great realization. Perhaps Harry Potter simply cast his spell on me.

I wholeheartedly recommend the experience to all my fellow Harry Potter fans. Universal has done an amazing job. And I fully recommend visiting Orlando Informer, which is an invaluable on-line resource of planning your trip to the Wizarding World!

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4 Comments

99%

As effective in an argument as Ron Wesley with a broken wand.

As effective in an argument as Ron Wesley with a broken wand.

It all boils down to this: Ron Weasley did NOT enter the Forbidden Forest in the first Harry Potter book when Harry and Hermione served detention with Hagrid.

Let me explain.

My wife and I have an ongoing joke that when there’s a factual dispute in the house, and our recollections on a topic differ, she’s correct 99% of the time.  Whether it has to do with directions, someone’s name, or a piece of movie trivia, she tends to be correct…always.  At least that’s what she says.  If I had to admit it, I’d say she’s right.  In my family, if there’s a factual dispute and it turns out one person is correct, the winner points at him or herself with their thumbs and intones, “ding!” as though we’re on some perpetual game show.  Let’s just say that I get to “ding” very infrequently.

I bring this up because my son has jumped on this train wholeheartedly. With most things, he tends to side with his mother.  Usually it’s around things such as tastes or preferences.  Dad likes goat cheese, mom hates it. Ergo, my son hates it.  Mom loves vanilla ice cream, dad thinks it’s boring. What’s our son’s favorite ice cream?  Vanilla.  It’s gone so far that when a new type of food is introduced, I’ll ask my wife to withhold her assessment, and get my son to weigh in.  He might say that yes, he likes Twizzlers.  Then I’ll agree that Twizzlers are great, but my wife will say she hates them.  My son will pause and then say, “On second thought…”

Now that he’s watching more movies and TVshows with us, my son’s begun chiming in more on media-related disputes.  It’s not surprising that he jumps into my wife’s camp at nearly every turn.  It makes sense. He likes liking what my wife does, so why not agree with her on other things too.  I think he’s also playing the odds.  How could you blame him?  I mean, he’s been around enough to see who gets the most “dings”, so why not play for that team?

So we’ve been plowing through the Harry Potter books.  We tried when my son was about 4, but at the time, his limited attention span for reading long books got in the way.  We held off on any of the movies, wanting him to be able to read/listen to the books first.  About 4 months ago we started reading the books, and following up with a movie any time we complete a book.

At one point we were reading the Chamber of Secrets and got to the part in which Ron mentions that he’s never been in the Forbidden Forest.  My son sits up and asserts that Ron had been in the forest in the first book.  My wife agreed.  They insisted that Ron went in with Hagrid and Fang for detention.  I said that was just the movie, and that Ron was injured with something in the infirmary.  I was hazy on the details, so couldn’t assert a good story.  They balked.  There goes dad again, all turned around.  The synergy of their mutual agreement magnified their assertion.  “No, he TOTALLY went into the forest.  JK messed up on this one.”

I kept reading aloud and ignored them.  Even when I think I’m right about things, there’s always this voice inside that says, “…but probably not.  You know your record.”  I forgot about it.  A few days later my son was watching the Sorcerer’s Stone again, and there’s Ron in the forest.  “See Dad, see!” my son called. “Yep,” my wife agreed.  I fetched the book and found it.  Ron had been bitten by Norbert and was in the infirmary when Hermione, Harry, Malfoy, and Neville were caught and sent to detention.  The movie changed the scene. Ha ha! “Ding!”

Here’s the funny thing about this little family narrative about dad being wrong 99% of the time: I don’t mind it.  I grew up as the oldest child of four, and with that came the bravado and smugness of being the eldest.  I was always older, taller, smarter…and always right.  It’s not a good situation for practicing humility.  So, for much of my life, I think I’ve walked around thinking that I’m right about most things.  (Having two narcissistic parents only inflated those feelings.)

But I’ve found that one of marriage’s major lessons is humility.  That you’re not always right, and better yet, you shouldn’t always be right.  It’s taught me to slow my roll when I think I’m beyond reproach.  Even though I like to ham it up and give my wife a hard time when I think I’m right, I know that I’m just playing a game.  I know that I’m not always right, and it helps me to hear the other person’s argument a bit clearer.  Now my son gets to see me being wrong, and that’s okay.  I want him to see that I can be wrong and bow out gracefully.  I think it’s an important practice in humility and admitting that we can’t always be right.

And yet, in those 1% of times when when I am right, I can bask in the glory of it and “ding” with flourish.