Tag Archives: fatherhood

Mr. (Not) Right

Welcome to Team Henneke, where everybody not only wants to be right, but needs to be right.

No way will we give into the other person because that would be — wrong.

We have to be right about everything, it seems. Including the exact date when dad first reached puberty, the number of times he posts on Facebook each day, who did the last load of towels and the proper location for toothpaste on the bathroom counter. mr-right

At our house, folks exercise their right to be right in practically any instance. It could be during a blessing on the food, during a football game or in a room full of VIPs.

As for me, I can’t say here if I am right or not, because somebody might take issue with it. Because it’s my blog, just pretend that I speak the truth for the next 30 seconds.

It doesn’t matter to me as much if I win a debate. I don’t care to defend any allegations that somebody does more housework than me. Or that nobody believes me when I deny any responsibility for using the milk jug as a doorstop.

Actually, it’s quite entertaining to purposely mess with those who have to be right. It shakes them up, makes them question the very reason for their existence.

The key is to calmly state any of the retorts listed below and walk away.

1. The sun won’t come up tomorrow.

2. I don’t owe you any money. If it’s not on Facebook, it didn’t happen.

3. Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. I’m not at my best under general anesthesia.

4. I firmly believe Congress will do the right thing.

5. Nobody has shown any conclusive evidence that leaving mayo out for six hours can be harmful to you.

6. That Billy character on Family Circus should do stand-up. He’s that funny.

Now that I know my place, I don’t always need to have the last word. Unless you disagree with me, then I will have speak up.

Because, let’s be honest. It’s the right thing to do.

What the boy said about me

One of these days, it will sink in. Especially when the words come from my own son.

He’s said it before multiple times and I’ve blown it off. That’s nice, I would smile. Now go clean your room. Get to bed. We’ve got more important things to do.

But last night, he said it again, from his bed, shortly before drifting off to sleep.  I was ready to walk out of the room when he called me over one more time. The room was dark and I knelt close to him so I could hear him, my head inches from his face while he talked in quiet tones.

I just got through telling him what I loved about him. Wasn’t expecting him to respond in kind. Wasn’t expecting the level of sincerity, and how the words would hit me hard.

His message? You don’t know how good you are, dad.

You’re more than just a blogger, he said.

You’re more than a columnist, he said. You could have an audience that reaches the whole world. You make people laugh. You make them cry. You have a way with details.

“You’re a legend,” he said.

My first thought: This 14-year-old speaks fluent hyperbole. I need him to run my dad PR firm whenever I get in trouble with mom. What teen tells something like that to their parent?

Wonder what would happen if I saw myself the way he sees me. I bet things would be different. Bet I wouldn’t flounder as much as I feel I do.

After he was done, I thanked him. I told him I needed his help to never settle for mediocrity, to always reach for the stars.

And if he already feels that way about me, then in a way, I’ve already succeeded.

7 tips from the Facebook Dad

No time for moping when there's dad stuff to be done.

I think all my tools from home are gone. That’s probably for the best. I didn’t know how to use most of them.

I imagine that most loose items in the home have been sold or given away. Bedtimes could be blown out of the water, there could be olives in the house or much disrespect directed toward the Vizio.

See what happens when I’m not there? See the chaos that can ensue, the destruction of the space time continuum and new black holes on a daily basis?

You can’t? You’re probably right. Even without the dad, life continues as normal. The dog still smells, the car still works, food still gets devoured and the house hasn’t caved in.

It’s tempting to imagine them saying, “It’s become necessary to outsource you, dad. We’ll see you on the other side. Whenever that is.”

But come to find out, I am still very much needed. We’ve had to rewrite the playbook for these few months while we’re apart. (Click here to catch up on why jobs are forcing us to temporarily be apart.)

So we do the best we can until we can be together again. Here’s 7 ways we work to keep the family unit intact.

1. We try to pray once a night as a family. As often as I can, I participate through Facebook video chat.

2. We talk almost every day by phone. I never let a conversation go by when I don’t tell my wife that I love her.

3. Letters home. I nearly forgot how to print, but that was one of the best Sundays I ever spent, writing handwritten letters to my boys. I need to do that again.

4. Still live the values that I believe, even though there’s nobody in this tiny apartment to check to see if i’m watching the right movie or engaging in other debauchery. I’m still accountable to my family and my God.

5. Let them be surprised when I see them again, that only 1 in 5 socks end up under my side of the bed. Don’t want to shock them too bad.

6. Online grade reports allow to check and see if we need to hold an accountability session with one or both of the boys.

7. It’s fun thinking of all the ways I can tell my wife how much I love her from two states away.

Come to think of it I haven’t sent her flowers in awhile.

That gives me an idea.

What other ideas do you have for us?

 

 

 

 

The magic chair

I love this chair.

It doesn’t look like a magic chair when you see it at first.

It’s the one with the comfortable cushion seat, a high back complete with the buttons and rust-colored fabric straight from Goodwill central casting.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad thing to be associated with Goodwill. That’s where my wife gets her best inspiration, revelations from on high about that hidden soap carving of Tom Selleck’s 70s mustache, waiting to purchased.

I have nothing but love for my chair right next to my nightstand, consisting of two gray Rubbermaid containers. On top of the two plastic bins sits a borrowed black desk lamp.This is the night stand that Home & Shack wants a cover story on.

At this moment, a laundry basket sits in the middle of the narrow living room with dingy white walls. Four (clean) black socks hang on the side of the basket where they’ve rested for at least a week.

I’m grateful for my borrowed chair because it’s so comfortable. It brings some life to a colorless place filled mostly with silence.

But that’s not entirely the reason for magic chair status. The real reason is that I’ve nearly read a complete book in that chair.

A book with pages.

It didn’t come with an app or a request to put it on my Google reader. Nor was it downloaded.

It was just me in the chair, illuminated by the light of a 60-watt bulb, learning about faith.

I can’t tell the last time I read a real book. Probably more than a year since it happened. There always something to watch, brainless websites to scan, Netflix shows to watch.

I can’t say for sure if I would have started to read again without the chair. But I know it felt good sitting there, turning real pages like the old days. I forgot what an escape it was to read with no TV or any other sound.

If you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

In the chair. Depending on the book, I bet it might even be magical.

Will the real Mike please stand up?

Before I left home for this new job, my wife gave me some advice.

“This will be a great chance to recreate yourself,” she said.

Fun-loving Mike? Good.

Goof-off Mike? Not-so-good.

Be gone with you, demon spirits of the orange Tic Tacs. Be healed of the old Mike and bring on Mike 2.0. Make him Peter Brady with his new-and-improved persona.

Now that I am separated temporarily in another timezone, I’m going to do something very daring. I’m going to respectively disagree with her, to a point.

I don’t want to be new with extra cleaning power, I want to be the best person I was designed to be on this Earth. This came from a quote while watching a broadcast on Dell Parsons. It came from a BYU professor and has stuck with me ever since. More or less, it says this:

Be the person you were designed to be.

That means I am a person of divine potential, capable of greatness here on this Earth.

Maybe I won’t change the world as much as visionary Steve Jobs. I won’t be known for any inventions or the right sequence for removing all the tags on new shirts.

But maybe I can make somebody smile. I can be happy, positive and enthusiastic.

And if that’s enough to brighten the day of somebody around me, especially my family, then that’s the right Mike for me.

In a strange land

It didn’t take long for the homesickness to hit, the kind that twists your stomach into 400 knots.

It was in the Wal-Mart parking lot, late at night with a hint of a warm Montana breeze. To my right, a small group of teens were huddled around a truck.

While my wife was talking, I thought back a few minutes earlier driving down Grand Avenue, one of the main streets here. The road was packed with students, packed in numerous vehicles following a football game that just finished.

I drove slower than I should down Grand Avenue, searching for a particular road I needed. One car filled with students ripped around me on my left. Evidently I wasn’t going fast enough, because one of them leaned out the window and shouted something that appeared kinda rude.

Back in the parking lot, my wife was talking. After 30 seconds or so, she paused.

“Are you there?” she asked. “Why aren’t you talking?”

A short pause before I could keep my voice steady enough.

“I was afraid if I spoke I might start crying.”

Even now, I’m disgusted with myself that I allowed myself to mope. The people are so nice here. Employees at work were kind enough to send my wife a bouquet of flowers and stole into my apartment with some groceries and supplies I needed.

I don’t think it was by accident, but a thought flashed into my mind. It was my young college-age friend back home. He just found out he has a brain tumor.

When I talked to him on Facebook later that night, he was surprisingly upbeat. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “You play the cards you were dealt.”

Hmmm. I’ll wondered if I would be so faithful facing that trial. If I couldn’t even handle this trivial change, how would I ever cope with something that grand.

This is where I need to be. No question in my mind. Doesn’t mean there won’t be a breaking-in period though. It’s happened with other moves before and will probably happen again.

Finally I hung up and walked into Wal-Mart. Before I went home, I set my GPS for another building. Surprisingly I found it in less than five minutes, with no additional insults hurled from students.

I pulled into the parking lot and stopped next to the familiar tan building. Lights lit up the parking lot and most of the facade of the building.

My eyes settled on a sign on the outside of the building. Some of the words on the sign jumped out more than others:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

I paused and smiled. I was home.

Chasing the perfect ending

I wanted my last Saturday as the Sunday editor for the Democrat-Herald to be picture perfect, something that would make filmmaker Ken Burns beg me to tell my story.

It certainly started out that way, before the night imploded. Two co-workers brought pie, I finished my final column for the Sunday paper and we got word of a great story involving a 60-year-old surfer dude saving the day near a Newport jetty.

Tracking him down for an interview usually takes an old priest and a young priest, a rabid guinea pig and 20 phone calls to friends on Facebook.

Not this time. He actually called me back in less than 10 minutes. It was so easy, Publisher Mike McInally advised me to embellish how I reached him. So as far as you know, I called in a favor to my soothsayer bookie in Tibet.

Not only did we land a very good story with a great photo by Jesse Skoubo, I would still had pie left to eat out of the carton after everybody else left for the night.

Maybe they would make a statue of me for the front of the paper. Future tours would include stops at Mike Henneke’s desk and bow down in reverence where they tiny toilet used to sit. This means I better make time for Matt Lauer.

What’s this? Have to remake a page before deadline because a story was three days old. There’s two more blunders in the Lifestyles section that needs to be fixed. And there’s a glaring error by me on the top of A1.

Suddenly my picturesque little woodland scenario has turned into the beach scene from “Saving Private Ryan.”

My Walt Disney ending turned into something like this.

What a way to go. Suddenly I can picture myself getting escorted from the building and the company tearing up my last paycheck.

Today I came home I came home to find my wife and youngest son reading my column at the kitchen table. I walked back into the bedroom, in preparation for my traditional Sunday nap.

Before I went to sleep, Spencer walked into the room, carrying the section with my column on the front. He had it folded over where I could see my picture on the front.

“Could I keep this?” he asked. “I want to show it to my teacher.”

I looked at him and smiled big. Maybe I found my perfect ending after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents on puppet strings

One day I woke up and the kids were in charge. It’s the weirdest thing. At one point, it was pretty obvious in America that the parents were the bosses, the grand kahunas, the big cheeses.

The kids were under our responsibility, obeyed our rules or faced consequences. There was no negotiating or collective bargaining with parents. We didn’t owe them any gifts, favors or inheritance.

Now kids run the place. We seek their permission, ask forgiveness for not writing the check fast enough. Let’s just hope we don’t have to speak to their lawyers.

We wonder if we were too hard on them, demanding that they do their homework on time. To make it up to them, we sign over our stocks with hopes that it will make them happy.

In the store tonight, my wife was standing next to a mother and her child sitting in a shopping cart. He was probably less than 5 years old.

The discussion continued to escalate until he uttered these words: “I’ll cry if you don’t give me what I want.”

Sometimes it happens when they get older. On a regular basis, I will ask my 17 year old to perform a household task.

“If I do “X”, can we go to the store?” he’ll ask.

No, I reply. You’ll do it because that’s part of your responsibilities as a member of this house.

And if you don’t like it, have your lawyer call me in the morning.

 

 

 

 

The reason why we take boys camping

Even at their best, boys can be at their worst. It’s not that they’re that bad. It’s just at times that they are prone to complain, whine, fight, belch, talk back, stink, bully, kick, rationalize and make you dizzy from the roller coaster that is puberty.

And that’s on a good day.

One day, somebody had an idea how to fix that. Let’s take them camping, they said. Let’s remove them from their Life of Sludge, take away their electronic devices, their Facebooks and umbilical cord to the refrigerator, and ship them into the wilderness with other Scouts.

At first they’re numb when they file into your vehicle in the middle of the night, clutching their sleeping bags and tear-stained pillows. They have no idea for sure. For all the boys know, it could be a field trip to the 7-Eleven.

Then after four hours of traveling, it hits them as they look out the window. Nothing but trees, dirt and rocks. Not an air conditioner or Burger King to be found.

It’s a pretty abrupt change for these young men with the initiative of butter, and it sends most into the different stages of grief.

After denial comes anger.

“You did this to me,” they’ll say.

“I’ll get you and your Scout motto, too,” they threaten.

But something interesting happens after the first 24 hours. Some people would call it a miracle. You see two friends barely tall enough to be in the Wizard of Oz pool their money for fishing gear to be used later. Others succeed in overcoming their biggest fears.

Connections are made and bonds are formed here, something that rarely happens during merit badge classes or flag ceremonies.  It’s usually during those unscripted moments, when you least expect it.

It’s still not easy at times, because these are boys. They are the bottom-dwellers that eat our food and complain about our satellite television package.

But for one week, in a place where clean showers are a sign of weakness, boys give you a chance to peek into the future. And for the most part, you like very much like what you see.