Father of the Year Award goes to really fungi

At heart, I’m a night owl. Society has forced me to modify my natural disposition to conform to our morning culture, just as it has forced me to become more outgoing than my old, introverted bones would like. This cruel world can make me wake up early and talk more than I want to, but it will never make me drink coffee, so I’ve got that tea cup’s worth of identity to hold onto.

As a night owl, I like to stay up a little later on weekends. My wife, poster child of morning people, does not. She goes to bed without me, and that is where the trouble starts. Little boys see an empty spot in the parents’ bed as an invitation. There is hardly a little creature in all of nature who doesn’t love to snuggle up to Mommy for a nap.

The mommies of the animal world seem to love having their “babies” cuddled up around them. The daddies don’t. Just ask Mr. Lion if he likes to find a pride of cubs sprawled out on his patch of grass when he’s ready for a snooze.

I adore my children, but it’s hard to see them as anything more than annoying lumps when I find a bunch of annoying lumps on my side of the bed as I pull back the covers in the dark. Now I must extract and schlep a couple of 40-pound bags of potatoes to their own beds without waking them. This wouldn’t be so difficult except these sacks of potatoes have limbs that will be reliably tangled around each other, the blankets, and Mommy.

Getting them into their own beds is the fun part. The horror is yet to come. Little boys turn into blast furnaces when their minds wrestle with dreams. I could heat my house off one sleeping four-year-old if I could get him to lie still while I hooked up the ductwork. Children tend to be deep sleepers, so the heat they produce doesn’t wake them or inspire them to kick off the covers.

A fun shot of the other fellas I took at our last dads’ group meeting.

I am a light sleeper, and I am disturbed by those rare instances when I wake up in a sweat. Imagine my horror as I lie down on sheets already damp with sweat. There is disgust, and sometimes swearing. If there is a system of reincarnation wherein entities return as what they most deserve, I will live my next life as a fungus spore. I’ve found the perfect environment for that.

I usually end these nights by wrapping myself in towels and sleeping as close to the edge as possible.

I’ve discovered a new respect for WWI trench soldiers, made to always sleep on soggy ground. I’ve learned a greater regard for Mr. Lion. Fungi, on the other hand, probably have it pretty easy. The one thing I can say for fungi is they’re probably awesome dads who don’t complain at all about the “babies” funking up their beds.

 

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Saturday morning porcupines

It’s early Saturday morning. I don’t know what time it is. The clock is on my wife’s side of the bed and I’m not awake enough to raise my head to look. Even if I could see the clock, I still wouldn’t know what time it is because my wife keeps it set at a secret number of minutes in advance of the actual time. She feels this helps her get up earlier. The exact discrepancy is known only to her, or perhaps to no one at all.

I’m thinking how nice it will be to scoot over and cuddle up to my soft, warm wife. That’s so much better than getting up for work. Saturday mornings are awesome. I will scoot over in a minute, as soon as I am awake enough to control my body.

I feel a jostle at the foot of the mattress. Something climbs up onto the bed and crawls up the middle. It lets a draft in as it lifts up the blankets to climb under. A sharp elbow pokes me in the back. Icy little hands and feet sting me as they steal the warmth I’ve labored all night to accumulate. You’d think he slept outside without a blanket. Another sharp edge cuts me. I’m fully awake now.

The bed is jostled again. Another sharp, cold creature climbs up the middle and burrows himself under the covers. This one attacks my wife and I hear her react to the icy sting.

Saturday morning just got real.

Going to need a bigger bed

Everyone is all smiles when the children pile into the parents’ bed.

Somewhere, way over on the other side of the bed, I have a soft, warm wife. She is a forlorn dream now. With two active porcupines tearing it up between us, we might as well be on different planets.

The porcupines start talking to one another. One tells the other to roll over, or move his leg, or redirect his sharp quills toward the proper target: a parent. They begin fighting over their respective positions. “Stay on your side!” the six-year-old tells the four-year-old, as if either one of them has any claim to a side of this bed. It’s half serious kick fight, half gigglefest. I take most of the kicks; they keep the giggles to share between themselves.

Mommy demands they leave the bed.

They protest. They don’t want to leave. There’s no place they’d rather be.

Then lay down and be quiet, Mommy commands.

They obey, for up to 10 seconds. Then the jostling begins anew.

Mommy and Daddy decide to get up. A pair of skinny arms enfold us both. Don’t leave, the porcupines beg. Mommy’s and Daddy’s bed is nothing more than the biggest trampoline in the house when Mommy and Daddy aren’t in it. Of course porcupines love jumping on trampolines, but that doesn’t compare to rolling around together in the warm, safe fort between the two bookends of security.

Saturday mornings are awesome.

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Your virtual pal,

Scott (a.k.a. Snoozing)

 

 

The great bovine penis debate

A couple of weeks ago, my wife took the boys to a free dairy farm event. I didn’t go, because I had to work, and also because when I was a child I got to go to a free dairy farm event every day. It was called chores.

After the event, my wife called me to tell me about it. Big Brother and Big Man had each taken a turn at milking a cow. Buster refused. “Do you know why he wouldn’t milk the cow?” she asked.

I can think of lots of reasons a boy wouldn’t want to milk a cow. When I was Buster’s age, I didn’t want to milk cows either. Unlike me, Buster had a choice.

I started through my litany of reasons: It’s not really that fun; you can get kicked; fresh, warm milk isn’t very enticing, unless you’re a barn cat . . .

Sensing I was going off on the wrong track, my wife stopped me. “He wouldn’t milk the cow because he said the milk was coming out of its penis.”

She tried to explain to him that cows don’t have penises and that the milk came from the teats, but he wouldn’t be persuaded. I’m not sure I blame him. For a six-year-old boy, penis talk is old news, but having your mom discuss teats with you can shut your mind right down.

If he truly believed it was the cow’s penis, I applaud his decision not to tug on it.

Nothing for me, thanks.

“I don’t care what your brother told you, you’re not leaving this pen until you eat your breakfast!”

One morning, about a week later, I’d given the boys some cereal and gone to put some clothes in the washer. I was summoned from the laundry room by a loud argument. In the dining room, Big Man and Buster were hotly debating the origin of milk. Buster was trying to convince his little brother that milk comes from a cow’s penis.

This did not bode well for the continued consumption of their cereal, so I intervened.

“Cows are girls, so they don’t have penises,” I explained. I believe this generalization is still valid in regard to the four-legged world. “And besides that, have you ever known of any animal that had four penises?”

“Yeah,” Buster replied. “A cow.”

“They’re not penises,” I reiterated. “They’re teats. That’s why milk comes out instead of pee.”

“Yeah, they’re teats!” Big Man, the younger but more reasonable brother, backed me up. “Cows have teats!”

I didn’t know if we convinced Buster, but at least I was confident he wouldn’t scare Big Man away from his Cap’n Crunch. I went back to the laundry before the neighbors overheard me shouting anatomical terms at my children.

I heard the patter of little feet follow me. Big Man entered the laundry room. My little font of scientific reasoning gazed up at me, his face bright with sacred knowledge. “And you know what else? Girls don’t poop!”

So there’s that.

Belief

“It’s hard to know what to believe anymore.”

*Photos: Ben Shahn/US Farm Security Administration

Summer vacation is where the heart is

With two weeks of school left, the boys’ minds are in summer vacation mode already. Nobody wants to go to bed at night, nobody wants to get up in the morning, nobody wants to get dressed, and certainly nobody wants to go to school. The boys learned a lot at school this year. I don’t know where they learned how to phone it in, but that’s one life skill they seem to have down.

“Hello. Nursery School? I’ll be working from home today. Just pile the macaroni on my paper plate next to the glue and I’ll get to it first chance I get.”

Big Brother has a project due in a week. He hasn’t started it because maybe school will get over for the year without anybody noticing his wasn’t done. And once he moves on to middle school, they can’t touch him. The statute of limitations for fourth grade ends at the elementary school door.

Now that the weather has turned nice, it’s hard enough to corral all these open range rustlers into the house at bedtime, let alone get them into their beds. When you do get them all herded inside, they’re sweaty and grimy. Baths are nobody’s favorite, but a bath is five minutes that can be stretched into 20 when a boy needs to stall bedtime. Being clean is a small price to pay for that.

These boys have never owned a sense of urgency about getting ready for school in the morning, and the waning school year has lifted them to new heights of lethargy. Nobody’s in a hurry to get out of their pajamas, and when they do, Buster and Big Man would rather run around throwing underwear at each other than put on clothes.

Do they care that helping Mommy overcome all their morning tomfoolery puts extra pressure on me to get to work on time? Short answer: no. Long answer: not in the least. This morning I told them they were going to make me late.

“And then you’ll get fired,” Buster replied.* “And that will be good for you ‘cause then you’ll get to stay home all day with us.”

I could ride bikes all summer long with the kids.

I don’t know what Buster thinks he’s going to be doing at home all day when school’s still in session, but I think he’d learn quick enough he doesn’t want to spend his summer in the company of a ne’er-do-well who can’t hold a job. Clearly, he hasn’t thought about where he’s going to get a summer’s worth of popsicles when the gravy train stops rolling.

If I keep working, I will definitely miss out on lots of fun this summer. There will be the incessant fighting over bikes, scooters, and video game controllers. Being there for all those precious moments would put the cherry on top of unemployment. We could probably even afford metaphor cherries. They’re a dime a dozen with my blogger discount.

I’m going to try to make it through these last days of school without fulfilling Buster’s prophesy about getting fired, but this is only because I don’t know what’s good for me.

*You just earned yourself a summer reading program, my friend.