Who’s king around here anyway?

I was sitting at the dining room table when Big Man came up and stood beside me. “How long before I grow up and get to be a daddy?” he asked.

“That won’t be for a long, long time,” I told him. “Do you want to be a daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Well, parents get to tell people what to do.”

This is our relationship through four-year-old eyes. He’d like to get a little taste of the power he imagines I, and Mommy, have. The only problem is he got it a smidge wrong. If he would replace the word get with the appropriate word, have, he’d be much more accurate.

Parents have to tell people what to do. This little change drops parents down from perceived household aristocracy to their true place as household public servants.

If the children did the things they were taught to do, we wouldn’t have to tell them to do much. In reality, we have to tell them to do lots of things:

“Do your homework.” (12 times a day)

“Put your dirty clothes in the hamper.” (16 times a day)

“Take your dishes to the kitchen.” (34 times a day)

“Get in bed.” (>100 time a night)

We even have to tell them what not to do.

“Don’t wrestle at the top of the stairs.”

We don’t like having to say these things. It’s not a perk. I long for the day when Big Man is empowered to chase resistant children to bed.

“How many times do I have to tell you kids to put out your cigars and go to bed?”

In reality, it is children who get to tell people what to do. If you’ve ever heard your little kid yell, “I’m done!” from the bathroom, you know your duty. And you’d better hop to it before the little ruler gets tired of sitting on the throne.

“I need some juice.”

“I don’t like this dinner.”

“MacDonald’s!”

Children are masters at implied demands, and if their desires are necessary, or even reasonable, they usually get us to do what they want. They don’t realize this because their demands are so many, and so often unreasonable, that it seems we acquiesce to a miniscule percentage of them.

“You only bought me chicken nuggets one time when I asked for them about a million times.”

That’s a low percentage of satisfaction.

Having to tell a child to put on his coat 11 times in a row is no fun. On the other hand, children do not feel the fleeting moments of life left to them slipping away with each repetition, which is why they have no problem demanding chicken nuggets with every breath.

At the end of our discussion, I asked Big Man if he were ready to change baby diapers like daddies have to.

“Nobody showed me how to do it,” he answered.

Well, that’s another shock in store for you, kid. No matter how many times somebody tries to show you, you won’t be ready.

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It’s Snowdaypalooza!

In the past couple weeks our schools have had at least seven snow days. It might have been more, but I lost count in the delirium of the cabin fever. Being housebound with three boys, preschool through 5th grade, felt like a bad episode of Big Brother at first. Then it began to feel like Lord of the Flies.

Our first two snow days were the result of an actual snow storm. When that got cleaned up, the Polar Vortex saw its chance to swoop down on us, giving us high temperatures in the neighborhood of -3° F (-19°C). I’m glad there’s now an official name for a good old-fashioned cold snap. Things are more dramatic when they have names that are capitalized. People might not understand closing school for an arctic blast, but having the Polar Vortex descend upon you is serious business.

That moment you realize the cold spell you see coming is actually the Polar Vortex.

After two days of keeping kids at home, the Vortex got bored and moved on. The temperatures rose to near freezing. Yay!

Ice storms. Boo!

The ice storms had names too, because that’s how storms roll these days. I don’t think it’s a good idea to name storms. It makes the storms competitive. Every storm wants to be remembered by name, so instead of just enjoying themselves and scooting through on the trade winds, they get as nasty as possible to leave their marks: “Winter Storm Gretchen was here! Boom! Two inches of ice! Power outages! Downed trees! Plus, I made you fall and bruise your ass! Won’t forget old Gretchen now will ya?”

I didn’t learn the names of the storms. I won’t play their games. My ass bruise will always be a nameless tragedy.

Anyway, our house shrunk to the size of chicken coop over the course of the innumerable snow days. At first, the boys were excited at having no school. They expressed their pleasure by running headlong into each other and executing other WWE maneuvers. They screeched for the sake of the noise and balked at any and all activities carrying the least stench of learning on them.

As time passed, they began to expect each coming day to be one with no school. Too often their expectations proved correct. The thrill of the surprise vacation waned. In their ennui they ran headlong into each other and executed other WWE maneuvers. Bored, they screeched for the sake of the noise. In their desperation to live free within their homebound world, they balked at any and all activities carrying the least stench of learning on them.

It got a little tiring, especially since I made them start each day with horrible school stuff like reading, spelling, and practicing the violin. The protests were loud and grating. But at noon we had a lunch fit for three kings to complain about, followed by an afternoon of parental surrender, tablet screens, and PlayStation.

Today we have school again. I deserve a vacation. Maybe going to work will seem like one.

 

Our glue guy

I watch a fair amount of college basketball. Over the past few years, I’ve heard the TV commentators using the term “glue guy” when referring to certain players. The “glue guy” is a player who exerts leadership and keeps the team playing together through difficult moments. He keeps the team from falling to pieces; he is the glue that holds them together.

Big Man is our family’s glue guy. It’s not because he holds us together when the going gets tough. That would be a tall order for a four-year-old. Big Man is our glue guy because if we find any two random things in our house affixed to each other, it’s a sure bet he’s the one who bound them.

Glue Guy isn’t really even the best description for Big Man, since we don’t let him loose with actual glue, outside of an occasional Elmer’s glue stick. He’s more of a tape guy, or random adhesive strip guy. Sometimes he’s a long piece of ribbon strung between chairs guy.

Of the tape consumed in our household, 12% is used wrapping presents. The other 88% is used by Big Man to stick stuff to other stuff. As one of three boys, Big Man lives in a house of many broken things. When he discovers one of these items, he brings it to me for fixing. If I tell him it is beyond repair, he scoffs. “We can tape it,” he replies as he hurries off toward the utility drawer.

Big Man fixes things with a will. No amount of tape is too much. Sometimes the fixed item resembles a ball of tape more than whatever it used to be, but that’s the price you pay for repairs when you keep the Krazy Glue on the high shelf.

Big Man’s fascination with adhesion is not limited to broken things. Sometimes it’s part of research and development. It’s about making our daily lives easier, like when he ties bathrobe belts across the bottom of the stairs. Aesthetics plays a part too, illustrated by the many decorative things he’s affixed to our living room walls.

When I decide to freshen up the walls, I know where all the painter’s tape is.

As far as I know, nobody ever taught Big Man to tie knots, yet every cord or string that can pass for a rope in a boy’s imagination is tied in hearty knots to two separate things in our house. We’re good to go if we should ever find our house battling rough seas. Everything is lashed down tight.

Old phone cords are the new rope.

You never know what you will find tied or taped together in our home. We can only hope Big Man incorporates more subtlety in his engineering before he grows to reach the top shelf and truly becomes the “glue guy.”

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.