The Ferretastic 4th of July

As a writer and father, I sometimes wish I could change the ending to my real-life stories. “The tired dad found plenty of energy to keep up with his daughter.” “The worried dad relaxed as he knew his daughter would make good decisions.” “The quick-to-comment dad listened intently while his daughter shared her thoughts and feelings over a well-balanced dinner at the kitchen table.” “The formerly impatient dad transformed into an unflappable father … and his family lived happily ever after in perfect harmony.”

Conversely, sometimes the real-life story ends just right. No fiction writer could compose a more inspired ending, even if they toiled for hours trying. I’ve been blessed with many of these happy stories during the past twelve years as a stay-at-home dad to an awesome daughter and an outstanding wife.

The stories come and go, some repeat and others flash by only once. It’s up to me to make the most of them, hold on through the challenging ones, and try to learn from and appreciate them. Sometimes, I can find teachable moments as the stories unfold. I can even write entertaining stories about a few of them.

One of the great joys of watching a daughter mature is that she can start to write her own stories, both figuratively and literally. That’s been the case as my daughter, Jessie, plows through her tween years. Here’s one we wanted to share.

    Jessie, Age 12
    Yesterday was the 4th of July 2017! I sure had an exciting one! First, I went to a family party. I ate food, played with family, made slime with my cousin, and went swimming. That was an amazing time and helped to contribute to the 4th of July fun!

    Next, Daddy and I went for a walk to see fireworks. We live in an apartment in a pretty populated and popular part of town. We had fireworks blasting in the night sky from every direction!

    Finally, we went up the hill to the amphitheater lawn. You will never guess what we saw.

    Really, try! This was the highlight of my day!

    I saw, petted, and held a ferret on a leash! His name was Oliver, and he was 3 years old. It was really friendly and soft. It was also super clean! It was really fun to play with … even if it did pee on my shirt. Now, here’s Dad.

A happy story, one I wouldn’t change – except maybe the part where I had to pretreat the laundry for ferret urine.

As Jessie explained, we had an exciting July 4th with some favorite summer activities: eating, swimming, playing, and spending quality time with family. All that made for a good real-life dad story. Yet, I’d like to focus on the events after the family party that made the story even better.

When we arrived home, even though I had only watched the slime and didn’t exert energy in making it, as the author and protagonist father in our story, I was tired. Here’s where I could have inserted the happy ending, “The fatigued father grabbed a good book and pushed back his recliner. A broad smile came to his face as he reflected on the wonderful day with his family.”

However, the real-life story continued with Dad and daughter walking around the apartment complex and the adjacent park taking in fireworks displays from around the city. Exhausted? Yes. But with each booming firecracker, my energy level increased.

Then we reached the amphitheater lawn and met Oliver. Who would have thought Jessie’s “highlight of my day” would be a ferret on a leash that used her shirt as a bathroom?

Had I surrendered to my craving for a good book and comfortable chair, the story’s real-life ending wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable or memorable. I’m so glad I summoned the energy to take in the spectacular fireworks and unexpected ferret visit. This July 4th we didn’t just have a good Independence Day, we shared a ferretastic moment we’ll always remember.

But whether Jessie is petting a ferret on a leash or Dad is throwing a shirt into the washing machine, one thing is certain ’tween daughter and dad, I love my girl and my girl loves me.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments.