Ok, let's tell a story.
I want to eat my dinner. Such a simple thing, such a small request. There is food. It is on my plate. I would like to eat it. That would be great. It would be the greatest. It would be a monkey riding a baboon great.
I can't eat dinner however and my food grows cold. To my right, standing in at a grand total of a foot and a half tall, is the Interrupter. A vicious fiend that has broken off the shackles of his high chair and now brays at my feet.
He utters no words, nothing intelligible. He screams, he grunts, he shakes the table of the heavens with his tantrum. Tiny hands flail in the air, passing through his hair as his frustration becomes my frustration. I just want to eat.
His own kind, other 2 year old boys of fury, cannot understand his speech. However, his intention is clear. I. Want. Up. Motherfucker.
But no, I can not give into his demands. That would be folly, a fools decision that would perhaps silence the pain of my ears but would never quell the rumble of my stomach. It's baked chicken. I would not see it eaten for the sacrifice of the rest the baked chickens of my future.
Bacon Hoss sees that I am ignoring him. He does not like to be ignored. In his anger, his ferocity, he grabs the shirt sleeve of my right arm, my dominate hand. A shrewd calculation of one so little and young. I cannot fill my mouth if my fork can never reach it. And If he can't sit in my lap to enjoy throwing my dinner, then he will be damned if anyone else can either.
I continue to ignore him. It's my only defense, the only one that will work. Give in to a tantrum now and you will set the precedent for the future. Never again will a quiet dinner be had. Only the promise of more little, but surprisingly strong, tiny hands.
I switch my fork to my left hand. It is awkward, untrained into filling my pie hole with glorious baked chicken. A piece falls from it, lands perspicaciously on the edge of the table and with last hopes, falls to the floor. I hear a grumble and slobber as I know that that piece of chicken has been swept from present, never to again adorn my plate. The dog ate it.
Bacon Hoss does not want the chicken nor does he want the rice that goes with it. He certainly doesn't want the salad or the broccoli. He only wants to sit on my lap. Such a simple request and one must think me a beast for not allowing it. A father and son sitting in an embrace as we break bread together. That's how it looks from the outside, to the ones that see nothing but the light of the situation.
The truth is that he wants in my lap so that he may lord over everyone at the table. You there! The one with the milk! I require that! Woman! Fetch me my sippy cup! Fat man, try and drink your water and see it slapped from your hand in futility. I bet I can break this plate if I throw it to the ground. Watch!
And he will laugh. He will laugh.
I don't ask much. I consider myself a simple father and a good husband. I attend to my families needs, I engage with them. 99% of the time I am the floor mountain that they must all climb and conquer. I read books with one hand, I tie shoes with my teeth. I vacuum with someone hanging on to my leg and another one on my shoulder because someone is afraid of the vacuum cleaner. I embrace this role, the walking interactive jungle gym.
Just not at dinner. At dinner, don't touch me. Don't hang on me. Don't scream near me. Don't throw food at me. I just want to eat dinner. It's not to much to ask. Although as he finally utters the word "Daddy!!!!!", it may be.
"Do you want a time out?" I ask him. My final card, the ultimate judgement for a 2 year old boy. He stops screaming. He cannot speak much yet but he understands what I have said. He hasn't let go of my shirt. He is deciding. Does he want a time out or does he want me to not eat. Those are his choices.
I want a time out. I want to sit in the corner and eat baked chicken.
At no other point in your life do you get a chance to let control go over yourself that completely to anyone or anything else. And the greatest part of it all is that you give that very control up to the person you trust the most: you.
Alright, maybe the crazy you is the one that gets the control. The you that is convinced, although not talked about, that you are still eligible for the draft because you never gave up your amateur status. Sure, you are closer to 40 than you are to 30, way closer. But yet, in the eyes of the MLB, still having that amateur status. Crazy you never gives up on your dreams. Nope because he's actually the guy in charge of them.
In real life, you would you never put on a viking horned helmet, jump on to some monstrous enlarged my little pony and charge off to fight the evil dark underlords of the underpants? Of course you would not. The underlords are some scary mother fuckers you want no part of their underpants kingdom. But in sleep, crazy you cannot wait to saddle up Rainbow Dash and start giving out wedgies of justice. Crazy you, the one in charge of your dreams, is the Samuel L Jackson from pulp fiction. Your wallet says bad mother fucker on it in your dreams. And in those dreams you would use that wallet to keep your black Amex card that you will surely need as you buy your very own island. Why an island? Because you are never going to recreate Jurassic Park in the middle of freaking Manhattan. I think we all know how that turned out, thank you very much bad sequels. But don't worry, on your island, crazy you will do it right. You will start by not cloning any valociraptors or T-rexes. That was mistake number 1. Perhaps crazy you is also sensible. How nice.
However, sex. Sex is awesome.
Sex is the primal driving force of our entire evolutionary chain. It is the very basic instinct that must be met. It is the dynamic that very much preserves the species. It is how you leave your legacy, it's how you build something greater than yourself. And it feels really, really, really super nice.
That's just one of the great benefits of sex. But there are many more. You can have drunk sex where you get a freebie in the regrets department, an automatic pass on a bad decision. You can have angry sex, where you get to work out your deep emotional scars of your unfulfilled self. Thus you are saving thousands of dollars in therapy bills just by releasing what nature wants you to release anyway. You can have break up sex, you can have make up sex, you can have sex for any occasion. Sex is basically a pinata of pent up emotion. And boom, you're resolved in 5 to 15 minutes and in an emotionally blank space. At least for a good 30 seconds anyway.
Sex counts as exercise. It gets your heart rate up. You work muscles, it flattens tummys. It's a cardio vascular workout for both your physical and emotional self. It builds intimacy, creates a bond and if you are doing it right, a couple of funny stories to tell the buddies over beers. Sex is indeed awesome.
Which is why, as parents, choosing between the two (sex vs. sleep), can be soul crushing. You're busy, the kids and the house and the wife and the responsibilities. You don't get enough time for either. Each day you have to make one a priority. Sleep is awesome, we've covered that. Sex is also awesome, been over that as well. But the nature of our lives as parents don't leave enough room really for both on a Saturday night. Have some wild sex, you are giving up precious minutes of sleep. Have some wild dreams and nope, sex isn't on the table. Sure, you can have sex dreams but crazy you (he's in charge!) always fucks that up. Right at the good parts and bam, crazy you decides that it's time to throw a picture of cute kitty cat in the mix getting it's head lopped off by a chainsaw. Crazy you has some serious issues he needs to work out.
So what do you choose?
Well as parents, luckily, that decision actually isn't ours. Nope, we all gave that up. I gave up that decision 8 years ago. Yup, I no longer get to choose whether it's sex of sleep. I don't get to choose because as I'm laying there, making the pros and cons checklist of both, a sick 6 year old boy walks into the room. He wants snuggles because he has a temperature. And that means of course that he wants good old dad to put his hand on his back and tell him stories. And right when you get that done and you think ok, I'll take sleep tonight. The baby wakes up. He has decided he can't sleep without making sure dad hasn't been abducted by the Knight of the Underpants so he screams. Dad gets up and heads into his room to assure him that no Knight of the Underpants can contain him. Go to sleep while you still have the choice. Then you go to the bathroom and your oldest daughter wants to know why everyone is up at 3 am. It's a good question that you don't have an answer to.
And that's the beauty of parenthood that no one realizes until it's already done. You don't make the choice between sex and sleep anymore once you have kids. The choice is made for you! You are free of all responsibility! The burden is no longer yours to bare, you've given it off! Others now choose for you.
And what's the choice that is made, the one that you no longer have any input into anymore? The choice that you gave up without realizing it? Whats the final decision! Sex or sleep!
It's secret answer number 3. It's neither. You get no sex. You get no sleep. You instead get a cat that pukes in your slippers and a dog that farts in her sleep so loud that the other dog barks.
Or perhaps this is all just another dream and crazy you is actually just a dick.
These are the words that I told Hossmom on a Thursday during our beach vacation. I never expected her to come with us. This was supposed to be my gift to her. I was going to give her the entire day at the beach by herself. She could drink pina coladas in her brand new beach chair. All day. She could catch some rays without any baby vomit on her. She could swim in the waves without worrying if anyone is about to play shark on the back of her head. She was going to get the chance to relax. No one was going to throw sand at her, cry if they didn't get the last poptart or attempt to pull her bathing suit top off because they wanted to climb to the top of mount Hossmom.
"No, I want to go."
She said these words and I knew that this was a mistake but I didn't say anything. How could I?
I took me time and this Thursday was supposed to be Hossmom's time but it appears that she didn't want it. She wanted to adventure with us. Sometimes, I don't think she understands what that means, or had at least forgotten about how the kids and I adventure. You have to go hard with the kids, you have to be all in. You have to keep your energy level up, to match their excitement. And when the excitement is missing, you have to provide it for them. You have to motivate them. Otherwise they would want to stay inside watching TV all day and we just can't have that. No! We are out in the world, we are in a part of the country we have never been to before! There are things to be seen, quests to pursue! Thursday is adventure day! I asked her if she was sure if she wanted to go.
"Yes, I'm sure!"
It's like watching someone taking the wrong exit into the bad part of town. You think: yup, this isn't going to end well. We should watch the news tonight to see if they were car jacked.
When the kids and I go adventuring, it can be an endurance race. If I do it right, at the end of the adventure, we are usually exhausted and that's what I had planned for this day. There is no relaxing. It is constant motion, never ending wonder and conquering. When there is a problem we deal with it and make it part of the story. We build the memory whether or not the memory wants to cooperate with us or not. Did she understand this?
I asked her one more time. Just to be sure she knew what she was getting into. You are going adventuring with dad. Are you sure? I do this everyday. I have molded my entire experience of being an at home dad on this type of stuff. I have trained for 6 years for this kind of thing. This is not an office job. There is no lunch break where you talk about adult things. There is no afternoon meeting in an air conditioned conference room where you discuss marketing strategy's. Ten to one there will a Porta Potty involved somewhere along the way. Are you sure you want to go? Her answer was yes. There is only so much one can do but dammit if I wasn't proud of my little office trooper.
Later that day, after our third stop. I asked her if she wanted to go inside the air museum with us. I thought she was about to cut me.
Pina Coladas on the beach. I'm just saying that was a possibility on this wonderful Thursday.
That is what was going through my head as I entered the studios for our local NPR station to do an interview about at home dads and the book Dads Behaving Dadly. I was also plugging our local dads group, KCDADS because why the hell not. If I'm going to be a shill, I'm going to shill for them all.
However, according to my wife, my friends, my family and people that I've never met except for one time at a funereal, I say fuck alot. I tend to cuss at inappropriate times and around inappropriate people. Like kids. Apparently I cuss around children. I'm fucking horrible.
This was going to be fun though. I am riding the initial high of the book. I am soaking up the experience, gathering the most of the memories that I could so that one day in the nursing home I could tell Jim, my roommate that inappropriately grabs the nurses, that once I published a story and someone not related to me thought I was funny. But I can't say fuck on the radio. That would be bad.
I like NPR. I hope they do well. I like the idea of NPR, the people's radio. I do not wish to cause them to have a scandal, much on the scale of the Janet Jackson superbowl, and thus shut down their station, fire staff and basically make it impossible to do a Pete's Schweddy Balls sketch ever again. So I can't cuss and that could be a problem. I, apparently, cuss alot. My wife reminded me before I left for the interview. This could be a problem as they asked me to also read one of my stories on the air.
I say "God Damnit" in the story. Going to have to censor that one. Look at that, only one story published for 10 dollars and I'm already a sell out. I have thrown artistic integrity to the wind for a grand total of 10 bucks. Awesome. I have reached the big time.
The whole experience was surreal though, could it be anything else? Who reads what I write and why would they? My daughter breaks stuff, my son is a pot head waiting to find his weed and my last son may grow up to knee cap people that owe him money. That's what I write about. But apparently it was good enough to get into a book and for a radio personality to want to include it as part of their show.
So when we went into the sound room, I am guessing that is what they called it, the top thing on my mind was not to say fuck. Because that would be bad and my wife would leave me for someone that has had 2 stories published. Then I could say fuck.
On a side note, when I met the "talent", Gina, she looks exactly like my sister in law. No kidding. Glasses, reddish hair, sweater and a big cup of coffee, slight of frame. It freaked me out for a sec, does my sister in law live a secret life of an NPR personality in the Midwest? Interesting, I've never trusted her. She is going to do some gotcha journalism.
But that didn't happen. It was a great interview, thoughtful questions and a good command of the room. I was pleased. I was even more pleased that I didn't cuss, not once. I didn't even say hell. Although I did almost slip up. She asked me how I deal with other's expectations as a stay at home dad. What I said was that my wife's expectations and my children's expectations are what matters. What I wanted to say "Oh, they can fuck off and suck it." But I didn't, I was diplomatic and was able to say basically the same thing without causing the FCC to come down like gang busters.
The interview went well and the hour flew by without me even noticing. I thought I did pretty good and didn't embarrass my group or at home dads nationwide. The producer came in after the show to take us back to the room where my children were waiting. They were waiting with some other KCDADS who came with me to watch them and then do a radio station tour.
They were in there for an hour.
My kids. For an hour. Without me.
The young chap, classy beard and an NPR aura around him told me "That was great. Let's go back. The room is kind of destroyed, you may have to clean up a bit."
And because I'll get asked, here is the link to the interview.
And Dads Behaving Dadly is now for sale on Amazon!
Click here to be taken directly to the link.
Get it for that special guy in your life. Or you mom, yes, get it for your mom because your mom loves me. Then someone should leave a review of the book on Amazon because it's got no reviews and that's very sad. But it's out, it's official, I'm published! I'm also going to turn comments back on on my own blog.
That's it. That's all I've got today.
Wait, I do got more. I've got the best joke ever told, ever ever.
This joke was told to me by one of the kids I coach for baseball. During practice I was handling first base during batting practice. For 6 year old ball, first base is really close to right field. So I always ask my right fielder to tell me a joke. It keeps them from running after a butterfly. I asked one of my boys for a joke. It turned out to be the best joke ever spoken.
Knock knock. (6 year olds only tell knock knock jokes)
Pigs on yo face.
Then he walks off like he just dropped a hot mic and strolled away.
Maybe it was the delivery of the joke that made it so funny. Maybe it was his utter confidence when he told the joke. Maybe it was his strut as he walked away as if he knew he just rocked my world. Maybe it was because I was totally unprepared for the punch line. I'm not really sure but I can't stop laughing. It probably has some deep 6 year old meaning, some double pun insult joke. I'm don't know. All I know is that when you tell it, and you will, you must walk away like you just owned that motherfucker.
The handle of my pot will get to hot because almost the entire length of it is over the burner. I have accepted this, it is a causality of war. I've already got a pound of butter out to sooth my skin. I know that you are not supposed to use butter on burns either but I am planning to. I have to. At this point, there is no choice.
Let me explain marriage to some of you. Now, I don't hold out myself as any kind of expert on many subjects. I have been with my wife for about 20 years, married for almost 15 now I suppose. I have had kids for 8. I feel that I have no real expertise to pass on to you. But that hasn't stopped lesser men than me so come closer to the screen and I'll pass on my knowledge.
Many people will say that marriage is an equal partnership. Some may say that it is unconditional love. It's support in tough times and it enhances the good times. Those people have never been married. Go away you single people.
No, marriage is about not doing things that your wife will remember 10 years from now. Marriage is about limiting that ammo for when she needs it. Say you get into an argument with your wife. It happens, even to funny people like me. Side note: Hossmom does not like my jokes when we argue and it just makes her more mad. I know this and yet I continue to do it. You'll understand why later.
Marriage is about not giving her and her elephant memory a chance to store up so much about past personal screw ups that she will use them against you when you are discussing American foreign policy. You'll make the point that perhaps she is wrong, so wrong in fact that Teddy Roosevelt just dug himself out of his grave and is at the front door to chastise her. And then boom, from left field, she brings up the time you told jokes during an argument when you guys were dating and it made her cry because she didn't think you cared enough about her. Then all of a sudden you are no longer talking about American foreign policy and the excellent points you made. You are apologizing for something you did when you were 24. Argument over because you'll feel so bad that you just can't continue because she's getting the sniffles even thinking about it. She's right by virtue of past guilt and your idiot 24 year old self.
This is why I don't argue much with my wife. I have no desire to be reminded of the mistakes that I have made over the last 20 years. And yet, she knows this and does not change the tactic. It remains.
Feminism, it can be to extreme. What, I used a small pot 5 years ago and burnt my hand and you thought I was going to drop the pot and boil the baby with it. Yes, you are right, feminism extremo is fantasitco.
Should the kids go to your old summer camp somewhere up in the northeast. That's dumb, why would we pay all that for a place you barely remember. But yes, I did once leave the oven on and therefore I was intentionally trying to burn down the house and I must hate my family. That means the kids will go to summer camp.
You shouldn't buy 12 shoes to see how they look at home and then just keep one pair. Wait a minute, I forgot the fact, and thank you for reminding me, that for a short period in high school I wore shoes that were made out of plastic. You should buy 20 shoes.
This is known to all long time married men. This is relationship fact. The result is though that your carefree days are over. Every thing you do you second guess yourself on. Normal every day tasks beg the question: is this going to haunt me when I'm 62 and talking about retirement? What, I once spent 20 dollars on a beer in Mexico because the guy just walked off and I thought he was getting me change but didn't? Why of course we should invest in the high risk start up at our age, what have we got to lose!
So what happens though is that all this gets pent up inside you, that ain't good. The only pain you should be carrying around inside is when your team didn't make the playoffs because of a missed field goal that they have hit 500 freaking times inside the 10. Stupid Philly. That's the kind of pain that a man carries around with him forever.
You have to find a way to do the stupid, to let it out without her knowing so that one day you can actually win an argument with her.
So when she's not home you put the very small pot on the very large burner and get the butter out. You know exactly what you are doing, you have it all planned out. You'll explain the bandage on your hand as a soldering accident. She won't know the difference because she doesn't know that a soldering iron can't grill your entire palm and that the scar will be in an odd handle shape. This is also why you keep her out of the garage. Take notes fellas, I'm laying down gold.
You have to take the small pains so that one day she will say "Hossman, that's an excellent point. I have never thought of it that way. I am very turned on by the size of your brain power. Make love to me."
Would honesty work better? Probably but you'll never get that far before she reminds you that one time in college you paid a guy to electrocute you using a car battery.
Bubba Hoss is going to a professional soccer game. I wasn't invited. That's fine by me. Any game that is called futbal but is not football bothers me. I know, very American. I can't help it. I hope the world enjoys the game, I can appreciate the fandom of it. I just can't get into it and I have no desire to go and watch a game. This is weird for me because usually I'm up for anything. I once drove 4 hours to see a big ball of twine. I can't watch soccer. I don't trust it. It's sending communist signals, I know it. I watch it and I keep wanting it to turn into Rugby. Just pick it up, stop kicking the ball, it isn't natural.
But my kids play soccer and I actually do a spot of coaching. My coaching consists of trying to tell the kids not to look at the airplane and to focus on the ball. They ask me "what ball?" I then remind them that we are playing soccer. I am teaching very important life lessons.
So when the opportunity came up for my son to go to a pro game with his friends, without me, I was more than happy to make that happen.
For some reason Hossmom wanted him to wear his sandals rather than his tennis shoes. I'm not really sure why or what difference it makes. Is it to hot for tennis shoes? I don't know. Is she fostering the hope that he'll be called in to play in the big leagues and go like a Brazilian kid and play with just bare feet? Then he will buy her a house and a maid while introducing her to Beckham? To complicated for Hossmom. She keeps her plans simple and shrouded in mystery. By mystery I mean she never tells me the reasons for the fashion choices for the kids.
I have made it my business to no longer question it. It's not worth the argument. She'll roll her eyes while trying to explain the fashion mistakes I am currently making that will result in the opening of a portal to hell and the destruction of Earth because the boy needs to wear sandals. I will be better off understanding the rules of soccer rather than to get into this with her. So I don't ask anymore, I just nod and agree. Yup, it's the middle of May and that means that it's time for sandals because the fashion magazines have made it very clear that sandals are only to be worn for the next 2 hours in this month. Anything else and you are an affront to the lord, so sayeth Kate Moss.
I have tried to tell my daughter how to handle this. She is 8 now and she is starting to assert her own fashion sense even more. I would say twice a week my wife and daughter argue about what to wear and not to wear. Little Hoss wants to wear a shirt. Hossmom says it has to be long sleeve. Little Hoss says she doesn't want to wear a long sleeve shirt. Somehow this will go to each article of clothing. It continues until I step in and tell them to stop arguing and for Little Hoss to wear what her mother says. I figure I can do this for another 3 or 4 years before it's full on world war 3 with those two. Pre-teen/teen is not going to be pretty. I just want family harmony. That happens when every one shuts up. That's my motto. Be quiet. I like it. As long as she isn't wearing a thong and a tube top, I'm pretty good to go. Apparently, I'm the devil.
Bubba Hoss now has to wear his sandals. He gets up to go find them. He brings them back to the living room. He does a little twirl and sits down.
Then he puts his tennis shoes right back on, leaving his sandals right on the floor. I watch this whole thing happen. I'm speechless. I don't know what to say. He went and got his sandals like his mother asked him. He sat down with them. He put them on the floor next to his feet. Then somewhere in his little brain he forgot about them. I don't know why.
It is possible that he was working some mathematical problem in his head, some unproven theorem. He must have stumbled upon the answer but it was so mind blowing that he forgot what he was doing. All he knew was that he needed something on his feet. If I put a loaf of bread next to him, 10 bucks says he would be wearing toast to the soccer game.
I see Hossmom about to lose it. She can't explain this and I know that her eye doesn't twitch because she's in a good mood. But at the same time, how can this not be funny? How can this not be exactly my boy? He's been doing stuff like this his whole life. I no longer want to explain it, I just want to be a part of it. You realize that he will be the death of us all, right?
He'll be near a red button one day and someone will say "never push this red button." 10 seconds later he will push it and all of a sudden we will be living in the book "The Road." If you haven't read that book yet, you should. It's very good and very depressing and about a man and his son. His mom's not around because she couldn't take the fact that her son didn't put sandals on. But dad is still there. But he dies, very sad.
I tell everyone that there is no more time, we are going to be late. I tell Bubba Hoss to get in the van, time to go. He has no idea that I just saved his ass. Hossmom still can't speak because she's not sure what happened. I can see her trying to put the chain of events into some sort of frame work that will make sense. That won't happen with my son. I find that he doesn't have to make sense, much like the fashion choices that I don't understand.
It's better for me to just keep the family harmony, to whisk away the small troubles and just get things done. Hossmom will try to understand what just happened but won't be able to because there is a secret to it. You can't understand it, there is nothing to understand. What you can only do is accept it and hope that one day, when he's sitting next to your hospital bed and you ask him for the remote, he doesn't think you mean to turn off your ventilator. It has a red button.