Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Weekend with Harry Potter

(cc) Douglas CooteyA weekend consumed by a certain wizard wasn't part of my adult plans, but I'm sure glad things happened that way. Sometimes we need to be flexible, positive minded, and patient to be rewarded with new and delightful experiences.

Those who follow my column know that my life is not my own during the summer months. As a stay-at-home dad, I've got four kids to manage. As a stay-at-home dad with AD/HD and Chronic Motor Tic Disorder, I sometimes wonder if I have four kids too many. I'm not SuperDad, that's for sure. The dull household chores are pure torture for me, the laundry is always behind, I don't enjoy cooking, and my ticking often makes us late to the various lessons and performances we need to be at. Frankly, I'd rather hide inside my iBook. Is it any wonder I stay up late to finally get into my personal projects? I am a conflicted man. I want to wear the Daddy hat, but the career hat just looks so much cooler. I've tried wearing both hats, but that doesn't work and I just end up looking silly.

This is why I was so surprised to find myself happily putting on the Daddy hat for an entire weekend. Last weekend, as you would already know unless you were a muggle, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had finally arrived. My oldest daughter has been reading the books since 1998 so it was with great excitement we approached July 21st. She was certain that this was the year she would beat me to the end of the book.

I have to admit. The hat was a poor fit in the beginning. I feared Barnes & Noble was suffering from Harry Potter fatigue worse than I was. There was the distinct scent of neglect in the air. For instance, the freebies were set out unsupervised while children ravaged them with all the delicacy of a Whomping Willow. Then there was the quality of the freebies. Harry Potter's glasses were glow-in-the-dark white for some reason. There were plenty of those left. There was a tattoo of the number 7. They littered the carpet. The cool little Griffyndor graduation tassels, however, were gone in moments. Apparently, there were none set aside for people actually buying the book. The only way I could score any was to pay some teenagers a dollar a piece for them. Their pocketbooks were spilling with tassels, interestingly enough.  

You may think I had a horrible time, but I listed all the negative things to make a point. I could have used any one of them to justify a foul mood, but I was determined to be happy, and so I was. I grabbed that Daddy hat and crammed it down onto my head and enjoyed myself despite myself. The pandemonium at release time was almost enough to push me back into the black, but I perservered.  Fortunately, we had the foresight to plan an "After Purchase" party. This saved the evening for the adults, all of whom were a little grumpy. We served tea and crumpets. We played Harry Potter games. We laughed ourselves silly. Then we all settled in for a good read despite the late hour before finally retiring.  

Sometimes I am depressed for no reason at all - part of the burden of living with Depression. Sometimes, normal events can trigger abnormal sadness. Last weekend was filled with many such normal events that could have triggered Depression but did not because of my attitude. I am so glad I discovered this little secret: your thoughts trigger your feelings. I determined to have a good time. It wasn't easy, but it didn't require strenuous effort. It wasn't a matter of being superficial either. I genuinely wanted to enjoy myself, so I refused to dwell on negative issues.

Consequently, I have two wonderful memories to take away from that weekend instead of a fog of anxiety and sadness. First, I will always remember the look in my second oldest daughter's face as she finished the book before my oldest daughter. There was exultant pride there that only younger siblings can experience. Second, I don't believe anything can replace the joy I experienced listening to my now 15 year old gasping and crying and thoroughly enjoying herself while racing through the pages of this much hyped book. Sure, trying to read while somebody makes such a reading racket is difficult for a poor ADDled mind at four in the morning, but there was a joy to it I wouldn't trade for any evening of sound sleep or quiet repose. By Monday, all had returned to normal except that my oldest daughter had beaten me to the end by a page and a half - a new feather in her cap.  

I didn't write in my novel. I didn't draw. I didn't blog. I didn't freelance. I simply spent time with my girls. This could have been grounds for Depression creeping in. I base a lot of my self-esteem and well-being on whether I am productive or not. Certainly, my AD/HD self was itching to get at my projects during the boring bits. The ground was fertile for all the negative emotions and behaviors to rear their ugly heads. However, I didn't give way to any of it.

All I can say is "Thank you, Harry". Or perhaps more appropriately, "Thank you, Ms. Rowling." It wasn't her best book, in my opinion. I found the epilogue with its Little Archies ending a bit self-indulgent, but it was a good book and an even better experience. We will miss life with Harry, but now that this chapter is closed in our life we will be open to others.

I guess this Daddy hat doesn't look too bad on me after all.

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