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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Homeless caveman squats in area sunroom

You can’t really call a room with coordinated throw pillows a man cave. It’s the closest thing I’ve got though.

My house is too small and my family is too big. I have only three children, but my boys have a way of building themselves in to a horde. They are everywhere, and even when you can’t see them, you can still hear them.

I lived many years in our home without feeling the need for my own special space. In the past year, things have changed. First, the living room TV has been taken over by video games. I have two kids addicted to PlayStation and one kid who is happiest when his brothers are playing it. Intently preoccupied boys have not one second to waste vexing a younger brother.

Second, I recently discovered I can read again, after a 10 year hiatus, if I hide myself well enough. Being better equipped to distract themselves now, these bloodhounds don’t hunt me down as constantly as they used to. I might be able to slip away for 20 minutes of solitude.

I need a sanctuary.

The bedroom doesn’t make for a good man cave, and it’s the first place they look. The basement is too cool and humid, and occasionally it floods. I’m not trying to spelunk in my cave. I just want to watch sports and read.

Over the summer, I discovered I could slip away to the Three Seasons Room to catch moments of peace. I even read an entire book out there, over three seasons. These stolen moments were a delight, but I can’t say I established a man cave.

Color coordinated pillows. Humbug! I can hardly bring myself to nap on them.

There are many flaws.

  • The name, Three Seasons Room, is pretty generous. It’s more of a Two Seasons and Spare Change Room. Maybe round it up to 2.5 seasons. November through March are cold, barring a very mild day with hours of sunshine.
  • The room is right off the kitchen, so if any kid needs help getting an emergency cup of juice, I’m the first responder.
  • It was furnished by the lady of the house, which means it’s tasteful, and worst of all, inviting. It has matching stuff, no neon, nor any of the other assorted, tacky paraphernalia that tells people to zip it when the game is on.

    Breakfast nook with table centerpiece. I expect this to become a man cave essential any day now.

  • I made the mistake of putting a Roku TV in there. It’s kind of a poor man’s smart TV. It’s a TV with an average IQ that seems genius compared to the dim-witted TVs I’ve always had. Now, anybody can watch Netflix movies at the push of a button. Maybe I don’t know enough about man caves, but I don’t think they’re meant for men to watch Smurfs with their families on football Sundays.

My 2.5 Seasons Room is not much of a man cave, but it’s a baby step forward. I’m not greedy; I don’t need a whole cave. I can live in a man cubby for a while.

The fraud in the frozen foods aisle

One Saturday I got a sudden and mysterious knot on my knee. It was swollen, but X-rays showed no damage, and the doctor concluded it would probably heal itself. As a precaution, she advised me to pick up some extra-strength pain reliever.

We all went to the store together on the way home from the doctor. I was feeling pretty good, so I suggested we pick up our groceries while we were there. My wife thought that was a fine idea and immediately steered me toward the bay of motorized carts for disabled shoppers.

I attempted to persuade her this mode of transportation was unnecessary, but you know how a wife always thinks her husband is just trying to be manly in public, because a wife thinks her husband perceives himself always with a large S on his chest and a blue cape on his back? It was like that.

She’s awfully insistent when she is trying to save me from myself. She says stuff like: “Oh, you’re embarrassed to ride that? How will you feel when everybody sees you fall over in the middle of the store?”

She won – not because her position was strong, but because she can tolerate a louder argument in public.

Somehow, my wife failed to take pictures of my embarrassment. She must be slipping.

Walking toward the go-cart I limped more than medically necessary, in case any passersby wondered at my justification for commandeering Granny’s ride.

Once mounted, I experimented with positions to make my leg appear more busted. I even considered riding side-saddle to insinuate an inability to lift my leg over the front of the seat. I discarded this idea from fear my wife would loudly offer to bring me my corset and parasol.

I settled on keeping my leg rigidly straight, inviting onlookers to imagine a poor man who could not bend his knee. I also decided to ride out on my own, putting as much store between myself and my always-conspicuous family.

Riding my lonesome trail, I imaged all eyes on me, casting suspicion on my need for special accommodation. I passed a fellow traveler, a young lady, robust and healthy, in no way manifesting a requirement to ride the aisles, except for the crutch proudly displayed behind her handlebars.

Damn! If I only had a crutch, all these haters would be silenced!

The self-conscious grocery rider learns these carts make the beeping noise of a construction vehicle when backing. In a Saturday superstore, there are an alarming number of obstructions that force reversing.

I had almost become resigned to my trike when I saw him: a man older than me, with one less leg, striding toward me on one crutch. There is no condemnation quite like riding past an upstanding amputee.

My impulse was to get up from my bicycle basketful of groceries, and march out of the store. But this would prove how little I needed my mechanical advantage, so I bowed my head until the man passed.

I found my family; we bought our groceries; then I parked my vehicle and walked out of the store like the fraud I am.

Focus on the good guys

After I get all my hugs and kisses, I go to the garage and get into my car, ready to drive to work. This morning Big Man came to the door as I was about to leave. “Wait! I have to tell you something!” he yelled from the threshold.

I rolled down the window. “What is it?”

“If you see somebody, and it’s a bad guy, tell us. Call us!”

“Okay, I will,” I answered.

There was no particular impetus for this request that I know about. It’s not as if Big Man lives his life in fear of bad guys, but he doesn’t like to let his guard down either.

Big Man and Buster like to keep the family protected from bad guys. They don’t always have a sharp picture in their minds about who these bad guys are, but they have little doubt they’ll know ‘em when they see ‘em.

Whenever they build forts, they make sure the entrances are well-protected so the bad guys can’t get in. They keep plenty of Nerf ammunition behind the ramparts in case the bad guys are foolish enough to try them.

Big Brother is not as interested in erecting fortifications throughout the house anymore. He fights his bad guys in Fortnite. He does his best work for the forces of light from the couch, a game controller his only weapon.

One evening, Big Man barricaded the two of us in the back room so we could watch TV together without being bothered by any bad guys. In that instance bad guys might a have been a euphemism for big brothers. I’m not sure. All I know is I had to dig myself out of the room when I wanted a snack. Next time, put the barricades on the far side of the fridge, General.

Looking out for bad guys

Build your fort, look out for bad guys, and most importantly, don’t barricade the path to the ice cream sammiches.

Clearly, these boys don’t have a consistent picture of who the bad guys are. That’s understandable. Lots of people have trouble identifying bad guys. The world changes its mind about who the bad guys are all the time. I’m not worried about that.

What’s more important to me is these boys know what good guys look like. I’d like them to know who they see in the mirror.

I have many aspirations for our boys. I want them to be happy and successful. I want them to find their talents. I want them to form healthy relationships. High on the list of things I want is this: I want them to be, in the big things and in the little things, good guys.