In-N-Out, Star Wars, and De-Stressing During A Pandemic

Real talk time. Being a parent is stressful. It is wonderful, but it is also stressful. On a good day it is stressful. On a normal day it is stressful. There are very natural fears and worries about caring fully for them. This was true almost nine years ago when I held Bowman for the first time. In that moment, along with the joy flooding into every bit of who I am, came a deluge of stressors wondering if I could always be the dad he would need. This same feeling occurred when I first held Lorelai and Cohen and Clara. This stress of being a parent was there when I raced to meet the ambulance at the ER after Cohen had a febrile seizure. It is there when I watch Lorelai dance her heart out at a recital or in the living room during a family dance party. It was there earlier tonight as I held three-month-old Clara and she decided to spit up all over my very comfortable pajamas as I got her to sleep. This parental stress never leaves.

In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place/quarantine all stress, including parental stress, is heightened. When Cohen asks for his 1000000th cup of ice water before 9:00 AM, or Lorelai has multiple blood curdling screams in the middle of your zoom call because one of her brothers touched her pencil, it gets tough. Some work from home moments are humorous, as when Cohen interrupted my video conference call to demand I peel his banana or he would punch me in my glasses. Some moments are precious, like when Bowman or Lorelai get so excited over everything I cook for them.

To be honest though, the stress has outweighed all other moments over the past two months. The normal fears have been accompanied by intense new worries. I will admit I have been on edge a lot. I think a lot of us have been in this place recently.

Today, though, I did something wild and crazy. When I read my Facebook memories I saw that twice on this day I had been at an In-N-Out Burgers in the Dallas area. I jokingly told Stephanie I should keep that tradition alive. That joke turned into reality. After a good 1.5-mile run to start my day, Bowman and I drove over 3 hours just to get a cheeseburger. The random adventure turned into an all day adventure as I took the opportunity to show my son a couple of places I previously lived. As we drove Bowman watched, and I listened to several Star Wars movies. At one point, as we were starting on the way home, Bo was asking a lot of questions. I will admit, out of habit I saw the questions as stress and was about to attempt to stop them. However, I stopped myself first, and thought what else do I have to do right now then to be present for my son. So, I went against my instinct. Instead of getting annoyed, I leaned into and fully embraced the point where my son needed me most.

I let my son ask what seemed like a million questions. We discussed whether Thanos or Darth Vader or Voldemort was the most powerful evil being (it is Voldemort in case you are wondering). We pondered whether Yoda or Dr. Strange is the better hero (I say Yoda, Bowman is pretty partial to Dr. Strange – his favorite Avenger). We never fully decided on the status of Count Dooku though, in Attack of the Clones, he is a bad guy but everything he tells Obi-Wan about the Republic is proven true in Revenge of the Sith. It was amazing. Instead of causing anxiety and bringing stress, being present with my son brought joy and was overall relaxing.

I hope I take this lesson and learn from it. I know I will never be a perfect dad, but I want to present more and more with my children and create memorable experiences for them. It will be better for them and me in the long run!