The Forest and the Tree

It was the kind of Monday that gives Mondays a bad name.

I work hard. I’ve found I must work harder in order to carve out time for myself to do things I enjoy, namely writing. To spare the details but give you the gist, it was the sort of day where that sacred time when I can be alone with my thoughts was postponed in increments. Like taps of the snooze button, more delays kept coming my way. More requests, more reminders, more questions.

My last opportunity was a nice chunk of time between 3 and 4 in the afternoon.

The phone rang at 3:05. My son has hives. I’m needed at home.

After an hour’s worth of failed attempts to give him medicine, I had to hold his arms and force the medicine down his throat.

Family dinner. More of the same. He cried about everything, even the bag of chips he eats won’t “stand up” on the table like he wants. At one point he bit his lip.

“Wash it down with some milk bud.”

In a hysterical convulsion, he poured the milk all over himself, at which point I notice my daughter successfully finger painted her side of the table with fruit-mash.

“Let’s give up,” said my wife.

I agreed.

“Just finish your milk and you can have some marshmallows,” she said.

“I caaaaan’t.” More hysterics.

“Why’s that?”

“The milk won’t let me drink it.”

Of course it won’t.


It’s hard to see the forest from the trees.

Just yesterday, we were picnicking on the beach. We could have posed for a Norman Rockwell painting. Life seemed this wide-open and joyful expanse. Today, the blinders were on. I couldn’t see but the few feet in front I needed to trudge through the day.

My sponsor would say “thank you God” to summarize the same point he drives home every time I complain to him. And he would be right.

What I need is acceptance. If I only accept that today went exactly as it was supposed to, I can breathe, even laugh a little. I can realize that the only reason this day feels shitty is because I had expectations for it to feel otherwise.

I worked the job I love (when I’m not hating it), and I was able to be there for my family. There’s the forest. And the forest is only beautiful through the trees which make it up, something a friend reminded me today.


The trees are the mundane; the forest is the miracle.

The Benadryl really kicked in after dinner. While still hysterical, my son’s eyes began to roll back in his head. I took him up early for bed.

Monday had one more punch.

I asked him to choose his book for the night. He sorted through dozens of short children’s stories to find The Nutcracker—a freakin’ novela.

“We can read one chapter, that’s all.”

“Daddy—alllllll of it,” his speech slurred.

Something came over me. I realized my boy skipped nap because the hives made him itchy. His dad had to hold his arms and shoot a syringe of Benadryl down his throat. Shit, even his bag of chips wouldn’t stand up right.


“Ok, bud.”

I read the whole damn thing. He fell asleep when all the tiny dancers came out of the woman’s dress in the land of the ferries. The boy whose arms I restrained 3 hours ago, now slept peacefully in mine.

One tree can never make up a forest; a forest can’t be made up of anything else.

15 Responses to “The Forest and the Tree

  • Lovely reflection, Mark. Really. So glad I follow your writing. Thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom! – DDM

  • Lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  • Oh man, does this resonate! Just imagine how much more challenging it would have been if you were still drinking. My patience with my son when I was drinking was nonexistent, whether he was sick or not. Of course, the problem was him, not me…

    Two more thoughts: Benadryl is sometimes magical. Children have a knack for picking books that are “too long” at bedtime when you’re at the very end of your rope – I’m learning to just go with it.

    • Doesn’t it always get easier when we just go with it? That one is taking me some time. But it’s so true. Had to get this one out tonight Damien, thanks for reading.

  • This was so beautiful. You are doing it Mark….Parenting in love and gentleness and acceptance. For today at least. My bet is that tomorrow it will happen again. And again and again…..

    As I read this, I thought, “Oh Gosh, I forgot about all of that stuff going on when the kids were littles.” My old age (my early 50’s old age, just to clarify) brain softens the edges of those memories…thank all that is holy.

    • Holy indeed! Embrace that. Although, you know better than anyone that teengagers bring a new set of challenges. Well, it did. My wife is home with him today. More hives. But now we know the benedryl works so it should make for a better day? I still had to restrain him and inject it…

  • I feel like my youngest may have registered the same complaint re: bag of chips not standing right. Or maybe that was me. Our kids may feel tiny and powerless but rule like tiny gods. I hope your boy feels better today. The beach day sounds nice. Trees making up a forest, love that.

    • There is no point in fighting them on those silly battles. You’re right. That parent cliche ‘pick your battles’ should be rebranded. ‘you will not win any battles.’

  • Great stuff, Mark. My first experience in child-rearing (sober, thank GOD) involved tons of life-saving meds, breathing treatments, and weeks and weeks in the children’s hospital.
    You’re completely right about Benadryl being a magical elixer. It literally saved my child & my life when nothing else would get him to sleep…sigh. The good ol days. 😉

    • So much to catch up on Abbie! In due time, thanks to the interwebs.

      • Yes, indeed. The online communities are a Godsend for those unable to make regular meetings for whatever reason. I’m not sure how I would have done, early on, without the online (chat rooms) meetings. 🙂

  • Julie Milsom
    2 years ago

    Bravo Mark! Poignant to me today for various reasons. Thank you.

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