Destroying My Son

"Do you want to learn or do you want to continue to get your butt kicked," My 10-year-old son says.  Those words are just full of a condescending attitude, that bullshit dripping from each and every syllable.

"I want to learn," I say as he tries to grab the game controller away from me.  I jerk my hand away, taking advantage of my two extra feet of height to thwart him.  It's my only attempt to keep the power shift from happening even though I'm pretty sure that has already occurred.

"Behind you, Dad!  Behind you!"  He says.  It still sounds condescending.  Like he is stating the most obvious answer in the world.   He's acting like I'm a flat-earther and he's Bill Nye.  Jesus Christ, I can feel his eyes roll when I get light sabered in the back.

"Dad.  You have to check behind you."
"I was checking behind me," I say.
"No you weren't, that's why your character got chopped in half."
"Yoda didn't get chopped in half.  He's just resting his eyes a bit."

My boy slugs me in the shoulder as I hit the respawn button on the Xbox.  We are playing his new game in the living room.  My daughter sits on the couch, checked out to the world with her headphones in.  She treats her phone like a personal assistant but I'm pretty sure she isn't as crass with it as my frustrated son is with me.

The toddler is banging on stuff and chunking it off the top of the stairs.  Yeah, that's where we are at with him at the moment.  Every stuffed animal gets a free flying lesson from the top of the stairs.  He has the dog with him.  I should talk to the boy pretty soon just to make sure we know that living things don't get the death push from up there.

This leaves me and my middle son playing Star Wars Battlefront II.  I'll admit, the game is pretty cool.  The graphics awaken my own ten-year-old self, gets me excited.  Yoda, Vadar, Luke:  all the characters that you can play.  Do or Do Not is no longer a movie tagline, it's real life and I'm getting my ass handed to me by someone that thinks that fart contests are cool.

Well, they are cool but that's another story.

"Here, let me show you," Bubba Hoss says again.  This time I just push him away.  I'm going to destroy him this time.  I'm going to Yoda these nuts all over his character, make him truly question his existence.  I'll get Han to make out with Leia and make kissy noises until he can't take it anymore.  My goal here is to put him into therapy for the rest of his life, the best kind of fatherly vengeance.

The next match lasts less than a minute.  He force choked me.  He did it while laughing.

"I told you, look behind you," he says.

I'm going to smack him.

I go to the garage and grab one of the folding lawn chairs and put it in front of the T.V., the universal sign that Dad is getting serious.  I was playing games before he was even thought about.  First person shooters?  I was there at their beginning.  Standing is wearing me out, my knees start to hurt and I was too far away from the screen to see properly.  I do some thumb stretching exercises and crack my knuckles just to get into his head.  You hear that, boy?  Knuckles are cracking, I'm going to destroy you.

"Again," I say.
"Are you sure?" he asks.
"Start it, smart ass."

He does but it seems he is reluctant to hit the button.  He doesn't want to be seen as picking on me, pilling on the garbage he's throwing my way.

The game starts.  He's the Galactic Empire, Vader.  He always wants to be Vader.  It's happened so much that I've had a sit-down talk with him.  Don't be evil, it's really a simple lesson but one that I feel doesn't get talked about enough.  He ignored me.  The Dark Side has claimed my boy.  My duty is clear now, I must destroy him.

"Bacon Hoss, get down here," I yell at my four-year-old who has stopped throwing things over the stairs.  His little feet come pounding down, jumping off the last two steps instead of walking down them.  We don't do normal in this family.  He skips to my side.

"Yeah, Dad?" Bacon asks.
"Sit tight."

I can see Bubba Hoss stalking me.  He's trying to outflank me, get behind me yet again.  I can pretty much hear him salivating at his next force choke.  Or maybe he'll try to throw me off a ledge this time.  He is totally focused on my destruction.

But here's the thing.  He's 10.  That's it.  Still a kid.  He hasn't learned to think tactically yet.  It's all button smashing and charging ahead without a plan.  Bubba Hoss is counting on his superior eyesight and faster reflexes.  However, he has not yet read Sun Tzu's Art of War.  He has failed and doesn't know it yet.   Know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  In short, Bubba Hoss has forgotten the face of his father.   He has forgotten who I am.

I know that he is trying to get around me, to come at me from behind because I'm watching his screen.  I let him come in closer.  He's actually snickering.  He's trying to be quiet about it and failing.  I let him come.

So close.  He's so close.  One little force choke button away from defeating dear old dad once again.

I grab his controller, my reflexes still fast enough for the occasional surprise.  Tactics.  Games are all about tactics and strategy.  Bubba Hoss has forgotten this.  He thinks the game is contained, only what happens on the screen determines the outcome.

"Hey!" He starts to scream but I don't listen.  This was my plan.  I give the controller to the toddler.
"Go!" I tell him.  "Go!"
The toddler takes off while I use my free hand to hold Bubba Hoss back.
"Top of the stairs, boy!  Top of the stairs!"

Bubba Hoss tries to break free of my grip.  He cannot.  I've got him.  I use my legs to lock him in front of me.

"Uh-oh.  Looks like Vader is having some troubles," I say.  The character on the screen is turning in circles so fast that it's just a blur.  My four-year-old is doing some button smashing of his own.  But not on my half of the screen.  On my half, Yoda very calmly walks towards Vader.

"You might want to turn away, boy.  This isn't going to be pretty," I tell him.
"You cheated!"
"There isn't cheating in war, son.  It's just the way it is."
"It's still cheating!"
"I'm teaching.  Do you want to learn or get your butt kicked?"

I have never said something so satisfying in all my life.
My vengeance is not quick.


Should I Allow My Wife To Work...

Today, I let Dear Wifey go to work!  I know, it's a big thing letting Dear Wifey go into the big downtown without me.  But she was just so cute getting ready this morning, how could I not just sit and smile?

Dear Wifey got dressed and then even managed to start the car, all by herself!  I was so proud of her when she rolled down her window and told me that she would need to put air in her tires.  I asked her if she knew where the gas station was but she left without hearing me.  I hope that Dear Wifey knows what to do:)

Dear Wifey got there safely, but not without some trouble on the way.  She ran into traffic!  Oh, Dear Wifey, don't I know how bad that sucks.  Traffic is so hard, right?  As a man, I totally relate to driving in traffic while going to work.  It's such a big change for her, leaving the house without the kids to actually enter the world without me by her side.  How will she manage without me there???

Dear Wifey texted me throughout the day.  She said that she had lots of meetings.  Meetings!  With MEN!  MEN!  Oh, she's in trouble now, isn't she?  I told her to just keep her head down and to remember to add numbers or get someone coffee.  Numbers are hard because they aren't cleaning or cooking.  She was just so precious when she tried to explain to me about ad campaigns.

She had to go get lunch and do some networking.  Wow, networking for Dear Wifey.  She's a fish out of water, isn't she?  It is so hard talking to other people about work stuff that I was really worried about her.  She even sent me a picture of her with other people eating at a fancy restaurant.  I had to remind her not to talk about menstruation in front of work colleagues.  But you know wives, she probably did it anyway.  LOL.

Dear Wifey called me, all upset in the afternoon.  She said that she was trying to read a spreadsheet and that it was really big.  I asked her what was wrong with that.  She said it was just so many numbers and fancy business words. "Don't worry," I told Dear Wifey, "When you get home I will explain monies to you."  That seemed to make her feel better.

At the end of the day, Dear Wifey had to come back home.  But before she could make it here, she had to talk to a mechanic about the air in her tires.  I guess she couldn't figure out how to fix that after all.  Ha Ha.

I let her back into the house and asked her how her day was.  Dear Wifey said it was hard and that there were a lot of people doing business things.  I patted her on the back and then allowed her to go back to her kitchen.  Dear Wifey survived and didn't kill anyone!  Lulz and whatever the fuck else.


We should all be good and pissed off about that condescending garbage written up top.  If you are not, then you are part of the fucking problem.

I see articles like this all the time except from the other side.  Dear Husband is left alone with the kids, to say, make breakfast.  And holy shit, he makes a disaster of it.  But it's ok, he's ONLY A DAD.  What the actual Jesus Fuck?  That's the message:  Dad doesn't know what he is doing so let's all celebrate it.  Go to any big parenting site and I guarantee you will find at least one story like this. 

The last one of these I read was a dad who only had to get his kids ready for school.  They weren't even toddlers.  They were goddamn teenagers.  How fucking hard is that?  And what was the last line of the article?  "He survived.  LOL." 

There's a name for this.  It's called the buffoon dad.  It's the Homer Simpson syndrome.  An inept father who can't be bothered to actually parent his kids.  And we fucking celebrate this.  But you know, buffoons aren't funny if there isn't any redemption.  It's just sad. I read these and pity everyone involved. 

Stop giving us father's credit for stupid shit.  None of us deserves any special recognition for making breakfast, taking the kids anywhere, or buying a gallon of milk.  I mean for fuck's sake, is our bar for success so god damn low?  And when these articles are written, when that message gets out there, it demeans us all.  So fucking stop it.  Does everyone see now, when the story is flipped, how pathetic that shit is? 

Where are the awesome fatherhood stories?  The ones that show dad's doing something truly remarkable?  I mean, Christ people, these dads are everywhere and should be celebrated.  I know a guy that runs two boy scout troops, the pack, two soccer teams, works full time and countless other activities.  Including making fucking breakfast for his kids without a fucking word.  He does it because he's Dad.  Let's celebrate that guy.  That's right, Micah, let's celebrate you.  That's the guy that we should all recognize as an awesome father. 

But those stories don't really exist.  They are hidden behind every post where a father can't even manage to get to the kids to school by 9 am.  Let's continue to go down this rabbit hole.  Why aren't we celebrating the moms that bust their ass to bring in the income?  Those women are the role models and we should sing their praises.  My own wife has provided for us for nine god damn years.  That's who we should be tipping our hats to.  The parents that bust ass 24/7.

Look, I know what I write and I know the comedic value of a character being placed in a situation that he isn't familiar with.  Fine, go with it.  But as a father if you aren't familiar with cleaning the house or changing a diaper, there is something wrong with you.  And we shouldn't cheer it on.  We should give some real god damn stories that at least show you what it looks like to actually fucking try.  Yes, show the failures, but also show that Hulk Hogan moment.  The whole world is going to shit, your back is up against a wall and the audiecne thinks you aren't going to make it.  Then bam, you figure it out, do things your way and save the day.  That's a redemption story and it's the one that we should all be writing.  Not the sad sack of shit that thinks he deserves credit for learning how to carpool. 

Because here is the truth, and it's been said a million times now but let's say it again:  Dads Don't Babysit.  We parent.  Even when we fail, we fail as a parent.  Celebrate the comeback story, not the clueless turd that never bothers to learn from his mistakes.  At the very least, our measure of success shouldn't be if all the kids are all alive at the end of the story.  We are better than that, let's show it. 


How To Watch Movies As A Dad

Princess Belle needs to lay down some weed and feed.  A whole crap ton, actually.  She would probably be better suited to just going down to the local gardening store and getting a sprayer and a truck delivery.  Seriously, she needs to buy it in bulk.

At the start of Beauty and the Beast, maybe 15 minutes in, Princess Belle is dancing in a meadow. She breaks out into song, like you do.  What I see, as a father, is not the story of a woman who falls in love with an abuser.  Well, I do see that.  But what I see as a suburban father (and homeowner) is a field full of weeds.  Oh, I'm sure others may call them "wildflowers" or "set design."  However, to the highly trained suburban dad, I call them "shit that ruins my yard."  And I'm a little miffed at the Beauty and Beast village that no father figure has stepped up with his weed spreader to take care of the problem.  If you don't nip it in the bud now, at the source, it's only going to spread.  Then you are going to have the HOA coming down on your ass.  Who needs that?

This is what fatherhood has done to my movie watching.  I constantly get pulled out of the story because I can no longer ignore some things that I see.  I want to.  I try to.  I can't.  The movie will be going along fine until I see something, that as a dad, makes me cringe.

Bladerunner, both the old and the new movie.  They are both very dark movies and I don't just mean the subject manner.  Hey, I'm all down for the robot love of the future.  Apparently, all this robot love takes place in the night.  Which means a lot of lights.  But here's the thing, even with all those lights--neon and colorful--it's still very dark.  The Dad in me wonders how much electricity they are wasting.  I know that shit isn't free in the future.  Is there some Blade Runner dad going around turning off all those lights when no one needs them?  And if he is, he's probably dying inside because it's obvious they are using the wrong wattage.  That light isn't bright enough.  Which means they probably aren't using the good LED energy saving brands.  With so many lights to change, it's probably the cheap knockoff shit which means they burn out a lot.  How often do they have to replace those bulbs?  Whoever runs that city is just making more work for dad.  I would totally watch a movie where utility bills don't exist.  It would be some post-apocalyptic thriller where a dad has to scrounge around for the proper wattage light bulb and eat people on occasion.

Marvel superhero movies send my inner rage out of control.  When Hulk smashes into a building, what I see is property taxes going up.  Oh, sure, the buildings probably have insurance.  But that means that they are going to have to make a claim, which means rents are going up.  Don't Millenials have enough to worry about?  Rents are already out of control.  And we all know that debris is going to ruin sidewalks and that's the real rub, where the real consumer is going to get hit.  Sales tax will have to go up to repair those streets.  I don't see Captain America out there with a hard hat laying asphalt.  And let's be clear, I can't welcome all those Millenials into the suburbs.  That will make my taxes go up, with all their demand for affordable housing. Then the Avengers will follow and bam, my sidewalks get jacked up.  What happens if they break a water line?  Who's going to pay for that shit?  If it's on my property, me, that's who.  I'm going to have to sit out in the front of my hose, with my water house, spraying down aliens and Iron Man while screaming "Get Off My Lawn!"  And, I'll mean it.  Surubarn dads have lawyers, I'm going to sue.

Every Lego movie makes me cringe.  Sure, they are clever and action packed.  However, when there's an explosion in a Lego movie, I see a thousand tiny parts going every where.  Those tiny little Lego bricks that hurt like a son of a bitch when you step on them in the middle of the night.  It's like I have PTSD from Lego injuries.  The center of my foot gets sore just thinking about it.  And they jack up the vacuum cleaner, especially those clear ones that I can't see.  That's a 1/2 hour just to fix the vacuum cleaner.  Then you've got a busted scene and someone has got to put it back together.  Yeah, that's going to be dad.  Three hours of work just so that I can do it all over again when Batman comes screeching through.

Seriously, watching movies is exhausting with dad brain.

Aliens came on recently, the second one that is really good.  Ripley was getting ready to beat some mother queen ass.

"Little Hoss!" I screamed.  "Get in here!"

"What?" She asked.

"Come here and watch this movie."

She sat and together we enjoyed Ripley running around trying to save Newt.  The little girl gets taken, the mother queen lays some gross looking eggs, Ripley saves the day and they escape.

Little Hoss buried her head into my shoulder, right at the good part where Ripley doesn't know that the Queen smuggled herself on board.  Little Hoss knows that something is coming, she can feel the tension of the scene.

"Look, baby, you need to watch this," I said.

"Is it scary?" She asked.

"Yeah, totally.  Watch."

Sometimes being a father means facing those fears together.

The Queen rips Bishop in half, Little Hoss screams.  Ripley runs away, leaving the little girl.

"She can't leave!  She can't leave Newt!" Little Hoss yells at the screen.  "Be brave, Rip!"

And then Ripley shows up in a front loader robot to kick some alien ass.  Little Hoss cheers, I cheer even though I have seen this movie a hundred times.  The fight is on.

"Get her!  Get the Queen!" Little Hoss says.  She's jumping up and down.

"See that honey!" I said to my daughter.  "That, that is what I wanted you to see.  When you grow up, be Ripley.  That's who you have to be!"

A dad's brain never turns off, I don't think it can.  That doens't mean that it always sees the bad things though.  Sometimes it sees the awesome and takes the opportunity to show his daughter how to jump in some heavy equipment to throw monsters out of the airlocks.

But yeah, when I see an airlock, what I think is "Close that thing, you are letting all the cool air out.  Do you have any idea how high our electric bill is?  Where you raised in a barn?"


The Nut Ninja

Photo by Frida Aguilar Estrada on Unsplash

The fight moves from the stairs to the living room floor.  Little fists of fury swing wildly, hitting air, occasionally connecting with a pillow that Bubba Hoss holds up to defend himself.  The toddler, Bacon, tries to push it aside so that he can get a clean shot.  He is small and the pillow is large, his target just out of his reach.  He's a four-year-old that just wants to hit his older brother in the balls.

Bubba dodges left, feints right, tucks and rolls like Captain Kirk escaping a green alien.  He slides past the dog and near the couch.  The toddler follows, stalking with heavy footfalls and the sour-stink breath of too many juice boxes but somehow not enough sugar.

There is a laugh, it is maniacal.  A high-pitched cackle that would give Wicked Witch of the West goosebumps.  Whose laugh is it?  The toddler determined to destroy nuts or the older brother that is clearly toying with this little welp?  I do not know because I'm sitting in my chair placing bets on who will win first.

The dog jumps on my lap, tail wagging enough so that it smacks the fake leather.  We can't afford real leather, we have children.  The fake leather makes a sharp pitch when his tail hits it.  It sounds like the dogs own version of maniacal laughter.  The dog licks my face once, turns and presents his butthole inches from my face.  He is showing dominance.  He jumps, one of his feet pushing squarely off one of my own balls and somehow I have become a casualty of the nut hitting game I currently watch

The dog crashes against Hossmom, she holds her wine glass up high to prevent any spills onto our wine stained couch.  She grumbles, mumbles under her breath at the dog or the children.  It's tough to determine which because I have re-entered spectator mode.  My two boys continue to go at it with Bubba Hoss using his superior 10-year-old reach to keep the toddler at bay.

The fight has been going on for at least 15 minutes.  The opening bell was my announcement "go upstairs, your mom and I would like to sit in peace."  What they heard was "Go to your corners and then come out fighting."

This is our quiet time routine in the middle of the evening, that twilight time of "after dinner" and "just before bedtime."  In this strange dimension, quiet time means something completely opposite than what one would think.

The boys are locked in combat now, arms intertwined in the struggle.  They leap to the couch, stand on it.  Together, they bounce on the cushions, leap off the arms and dig their dirty little nails into the fabric.  Hossmom again holds up her wine on instinct.  The dog joins the fray.  I should make a sign that says "our furniture is not playground equipment" but I find that the statement has the same effect as asking for quiet time.

Can the toddler get the nut shot in?  I give him 4 to 1 odds.  He is outgunned and lacks the tactical knowledge of his older brother.  However, he charges forward with the confidence of the fanatic.  Swinging, swinging, missing the balls of his older brother.  The dog barks his encouragement.

Bubba Hoss goes down.  His foot got stuck in between the cushions and he tumbles.  His head hits the soft padding of the wine-soaked couch.  The toddler sees his opportunity, leaps forward, a battle cry erupts from his lips.  His fist goes back, the tension of a taut bow ready to be released.

Bubba puts out his foot, his hands fly to his crotch in the universal protection gesture.  He lashes out, catches the toddler in the chest.  The blow is deflecting, not solid, but good enough that it catches Bacon Hoss unaware.  He slips, goes to a knee and then starts to slide off the couch backward towards the floor.  Before he makes contact, in that moment that lasts for an eternity, he yells his final words before he will start crying.

"God Damnit!"  From the mouth of babes.

Hossmom's eyes snap up, away from her phone and whatever article of pop culture she is reading.  The wine glass, still held in the air, tips a bit.  We have a new stain on the couch.  Those eyes don't look to the toddler, who lands with a thud, but to me.  Lazer focused right to the middle of my soul.

Bubba Hoss goes quiet and his gaze also goes to me.  He knows the phrase just uttered, the final desperate cry of the nut ninja.  I hear my daughter start to thunder down the stairs as the swear was yelled loud enough, and in that toddler way--all lispy and cute, that it has taken her away from the four million texts that she sends each night.

The toddler whimpers and sits up.  Everyone is looking at dad.  The dog jumps up on my chair, once again presenting his butthole to my face.

God Damnit.  The boy said God Damnit as he was pushed off the couch.  The room finally gets quiet, which it only does when someone does something that they know to be wrong.

I throw my hands up into the air.  This is it, the pinnacle of fatherhood achievement.  Nine years as an at-home-dad, countless misadventures, enough cusswords uttered to complete a New York Times crossword puzzle.

All my children have used an appropriate cussword, at the appropriate time, before the age of five.  Little Hoss once told the cat to "fucking move" when I was attempting to put together a random toy and had just said it to the cat five minutes before.  At age three, Bubba Hoss said "shit" when he dropped a toy behind the couch.  And now Bacon Hoss, four years old, let's loose with a God Damnit.

I would like to thank all those that have supported me through this training.  To Hossmom for all of her evil looks, to my children that have stood by me in the toughest of times, and to my niece that gets out a swear jar every time I spend time with her.  But most importantly, I would like to thank the divorce lawyer that will be serving me papers next week.

"Ok, that's it.  Bedtime!" I bellow, ending fight night in the Hossman household.

"Did he just say..." my daughter begins.

"No questions!  Upstairs!"  I gather the children and begin to start the bedtime routine that I am sure I will be doing alone tonight. Hossmom still has some wine in her glass.   "Move!"

I grab the toddler by the shoulder and turn him toward me, letting the other two hide away upstairs from the upcoming swear lecture that we seem to give an aweful lot in this house.

"We don't say God Damnit, boy.  Got it?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"Seriously, don't say it."

"Ok," he says.

He holds his arms wide.  We are going in for the hug to seal the pact we have just made.  Don't cuss.  I take a step towards him.

His right arm drops too quickly for me to understand, he takes a step forward and I notice that his thumb is on the outside of his fist.  I admire his proper technique for a quick second, distracted by it.  The punch hits me in the balls, square, catching both the left and right like a 7-10 split.  I double up and pitter-patter feet zoom upstairs to the music of that maniacal laugh.

"God Damnit."


Surviving The Wife's Office Party

Photo by Matty Adame on Unsplash
It all starts with the crusted ravioli.  Is there cheese inside or meat?  Since this is a fancy party, maybe it's something that I haven't imagined yet.  Perhaps a jelly of some type infused with gold leaf foil.  That would be fancy as fuck and this is a fancy fucking place.  I take a bite, fried goodness crunches and I contemplate the ravioli instead of paying attention the conversation that my wife is having.

There is another couple with us on the couch.  This is a party for my wife's boss and his new bride, a celebration of the nuptials.  They are around here somewhere, I met one of them.  They are mingling while we hang with the couch couple.   The couch couple seems very nice, tell pretty good jokes, and have no obvious evil intentions.  I have to be on the lookout at my wife's work social functions.  As an at-home-dad, I have been out of the office politics game for a pretty long time.  The ulterior motives that I usually run into involve scamming another cupcake or juice box.  On a side note, there are cupcakes here.  I'll get to them in a bit.

Around us are all the work people and various family members of the happy couple who just got married.   Everyone seems nice and I have absolutely no connection to any of them.  I am the +1, the rando guy that shows up just to judge you on the quality of food that is served and if there is free alcohol.  I give this party a plus 10.  There is free whiskey, pizza, and these ravioli things.

I go to these parties every year with Hossmom.  In that time, I have become the master at blending in and small talk.  I find it easy, there is no pressure here on me at all.  My wife has to say all the right things, talk to the right people and basically not make a fool of herself.  But for me, I'm different.  I have no one to impress.  No one even knows who I am and my wife can safely distance herself from me at any moment.  I'm two glasses of whiskey in as I study the ravioli.  I think it's got cheese in there.

Hossmom usually does a terrible job with me at these things.  I don't mean that she embarrasses herself.  I mean that she forgets to introduce me at all.  At the beginning of the party, she left me hanging talking to some guy about hair dryers and steak.  I love steak so it was all good.  Hair dryers, not so much.  My wife is in advertising so you would be surprised at the conversations that get linked together.  Such as the meat hair dyers--both clients that her company represents.

I have learned that it is better to roam around and just introduce myself, networking for no other reason than practice.  I've gotten pretty good at it.  Once you learn that there are no real consequences for what you say, because these people will never see you again, I can crack jokes left and right all night.  No accountability, that is how you survive these things.

Hossmom is talking to her work friends and the husband about advertising.  They are deep into shop talk, as one of the other husbands works in advertising.  I nod at the appropriate places, maybe tell a joke somewhere, then get back to my happy place--the crusted ravioli.  Now I think there is some meat in there.  I should see if anyone has a hair dryer handy so I can use it to figure this ravioli out.

That's the next thing I learned about surviving my wife's work parties.  Always appear busy.  No one wants to the be odd duck sitting next to the wall appearing to do nothing, looking longingly at people having fun.  No, that won't do at all.  So I usually find something to keep myself busy like a mysterious fried ravioli.  So many questions, so many things to discover.  As my wife and her work friends go deeper into which advertising company has lost which clients, I Indiana Jones the ravioli.

I met my wife's boss at the beginning.  Seems like a nice guy, tall as a pine tree in rural Arkansas.  A friendly smile, manly handshake and easily sized up.  This is my next trick--determining who I could take in a fight.  I'm not a violent person, not at all.  I just like the mental exercise of it.  It keeps me busy as everyone discussed whatever advertising deck they are preparing.  Tall guy probably has a pretty good reach.  So I would have to close that distance and get to his legs.  Once he is subdued, I can get to the ravioli.   Advertising people don't look very tough, throughout the years I've decided that I could take most of them.  Maybe not the meat hair dryer guy though, he looks serious.

I've eaten about eight of the ravioli things so far.  My stomach feels full but I'm going to keep eating.  I imagined a whole fake fight just to get to this point, I better keep eating.  Definalty meat and cheese in here.  Erin and her friends have started to discuss which companies are on the downswing.  They are bringing up names of people that I don't know, doing jobs that I have no idea exist.  I wonder how much they bullshit each other at these things.  Probably a lot and it's sad that they don't get a chance to truly taste the delicious ravioli.

I spy the cupcakes in the corner.  They are fancy too.  Not normal cupcakes bought from the grocery store.  These have been catered, they have only a wisp of frosting on the top.  I think I see a red velvet one in there.  I call dibs.  I eat four of them before Hossmom announces that it is time to go. I say goodbye to my ravioli and the experience that we shared. 

This is my last lesson of surviving the spouse work party.  When it's time to go, go out with a bang.  Shake the hands, smile and leave a lasting impression.

We say goodbye to our couple friends.  Hossmom says something in advertising or Klingon, I'm not sure which, and we head to the door.  The bride is there!  I haven't met the bride yet.  As usual, Hossmom doesn't introduce us.  So yeah, do my thing.

"Hi!  Great party!  Really lovely time.  Congratulations."

"Thank you!" she says.  She really does look wonderful, pure happiness on her face but she also looks a bit confused.  Who the hell is this guy with ravioli crumbs in his beard?  "I don't think we've had a chance to meet yet."

"Nope.  I'm a plus one.  We should hang out next time.  I'm very fun."

As I leave, I hear one of the other guests start laughing asking "Who was that?"

I'm basically a +1 ninja.


Stop Trying To Be Mom

I hate writing advice columns, so naturally, I've decided that it's time to do one.  So there you go, this is the moment that I have become a complete sellout.  Mark it on your calendars, boys and girls, Hossman is going to dish out advice like Dear Abby just took a shot of Redbull and vodka.

At-home-dads--stop trying to be mom.  There, fuck it, I've said it.  I can hear a whole lot of browser's closing right now and feel those eye rolls.  Who the hell is this guy?  Is he trying to piss off everyone?

Pretty much.

But here's what I mean.  Mom's are awesome.  I have one and I'm married to one.  They are good Ford people, salt of the earth women that should be put up on pedestals.  They should be celebrated and acknowledged for all the truly heroic things that they do.  If you haven't called your mother in a while, then stop reading and do that.  Mom's worry all the time.  Seriously, all the fucking time.  It comes with the pregnancy hormones in the first trimester.  They were carefree before kids, then the change happens, and worry is born nine months later.  So pick up the phone and call your mom, she's worried about you.  It's Friday, mom is always worried on Fridays.  Help the lady out, don't be a douchebag.

However, that doesn't mean that us Dad's have to be mom.  And if you are trying to be mom, fucking stop it.  You can't compete on that level, my man.  It's a losing game.   You don't have the skills for it, you are ill prepared to roll in that game.  They will be doing deep corner routes while you are trying to figure out where the first down marker is.  They are the star athletes and you are the water boy to the water boy.

Nine years, I have spent nine years doing the stay at home dad thing.  I've joined Mom's groups, I've tried to join more when the first one didn't work out.  I've done the mall playground thing, I've died a little bit inside when I get the side-eye at the outdoor playground.  I've tried to craft things out of flowers, devoured Pinterest to come up with ideas about what to buy at Micheals.  I've hot glued my fingers to paper plates.

And then I stopped trying to be mom.

It doesn't work, can't be done.  The Mom standard is so ridiculously high that it's a goal that we will never reach, nor do I want to anymore.  I would love to have the respect of moms, that's about it.  I would love to not hear "Are you babysitting, today" anymore.  It's not going to happen.  So let's be dad, let's do the kid raising thing the way we want to, the things that we are good at.

Crafting--put down the scissors and grab a fucking hammer.  Go build something majestic.  Want to know how to build a real trebuchet?  Leave a comment, I'll tell you how it's done.  Then do the ballista with flaming arrows.  Some dad around here knows how to craft a bitching robot that throws marshmallows.  Go find that guy and ask them if it's cool to light the marshmallows on fire. 

Reading time--you ever go to the library and find yourself the only man there?  Embrace that shit.  And I don't mean in a Homer Simpson bumbling way.  You know what you are doing, fucking have confidence in it.  Maybe your kid likes reading about purple dinosaurs, fine, cool.  But maybe your 6-month-old also wants to listen to you read a book about the dangers of the Galactic Empire and the importance of Do or Do Not.  Grab that book, be that guy.  That means that you are going to spend a whole lot of time alone.  It's cool, I love you, you do you.

Cleaning--a shop vac is better than a regular vacuum cleaner.  "But those belong in a garage," people will say.  Bullshit.  Those belong near the dining room table next to the entire box of cereal that your kid has just dumped over.  Get a shop vac.  Let the kids decorate it and cover it with stickers.  Give it the name Mad Max and tell your daughter it's time to rev the engine.

Playground--if you are going to the mall playground, stop it.  Sorry man, I know it's easy but we all know that you are there because something is dying inside of you.  That's not you, that's not dad.  Sure, they are good for a quick adventure on a cold morning.  But what is going to happen is that you are going to be sitting there all alone. And a guy all alone is going to freak people out at those types of places.  I wish it wasn't true, but it is.  I know a guy that was yelled at this last summer because he did this.  He was just chilling, watching his daughter.  You know where it's cool to be alone and also won't shrivel your soul up?  Civil war museum.  Your kid doesn't care where you go.  They just want to be with you.  So take them to places you actually want to go to.  And that is not the mall.  Maybe it's a tour of the local major league baseball stadium.  Grow a pair, get it done.

"Oh, he's just a dad"--I swear to all that is holy if you hear this, you better correct that shit immediately.  Your kid shows up to preschool wearing a tutu with a clashing red top.  Fuck it, the kid wanted to wear a tutu with a red top.  Own that shit.  If it's a dad thing to let your kid be them, then be a fucking Dad.  Having a bad day and things not working out very well?  "Oh, he's just a dad," you might hear.  Speak up.  No, I'm not having a bad day because I'm a dad.  I'm having a bad day because the toddler doesn't want to eat vegetables and I'm parenting the shit out of this situation.

Don't wait to be invited--Look, it's your kid and no one else's.  If they need a bottle in the middle of the night, volunteer for that shit.  Feed your kid, watch some Star Trek while you do it.  Don't wait for someone to ask you, do it.  We, other dads, expect that shit out of you.  Don't be passive.  If your kid is screaming and someone (in-laws, looking at you) tries to take them out of your arms because "You're just a dad", then you put that kid in a football hold and don't give the ball up.  You have the ability to comfort your kid.  You know this, don't be pushed aside because you have a dick.

Teach your kid how to grill a steak.  Pretty self-explanatory there.

Diaper bags--none of us carry diaper bags.  Jesus Christ, stop calling it that.  We carry backpacks of awesome.  Most times that bag does have diapers and wipes. and sometimes that bag has duct tape and pliers.  Because we all know your kid is going to break shit and it's your job as dad to fix it.  Carry the tools to do it.  And for the love of all that is holy, your bag should never be "mauve, maroon, or burgundy."  It's either green, red or a different red and the color completely doesn't matter.  What matters is if it has a cooler section for breast milk and beer.  Go to the camping section of your local store and gear up.

It is not considered special or sweet that we hug our kid or take them places.  I hear it all the time.  Look at that dad, he's such a good dad for spending time with his kid.  No, I'm not a good dad for being with my kid.  He's my kid, why wouldn't I want to be with her?  No one else is going to teach her to put her thumb on the outside when she punches so she won't break it.  I'm not a good dad, I'm just a dad.  And dad's love to hug their kids.  Don't let other people hold us to lower standards than Mom's hold to themselves.  If it is unusual for a dad to spend time with their kid, well, that's fucked up.

Acknowledge and embrace the fear--We are going to have some bad days.  And some bad days turn into bad weeks.  Then that shit gets in our head.  We start to wonder if we are good enough, that maybe we suck balls.  Hello to depression and a feeling of poor self-worth.  You don't have to face any of that shit with a stoic outer appearance.  It's ok to feel less than awesome sometimes and it's ok to talk about it.  I know that dads are supposed to be these rocks that aren't afraid of anything.  But you know what, sometimes when I hear a weird noise downstairs, it freaks me out too.  I make the dog come with me because he's way braver than me.  And it's ok to let your wife or your kid know that sometimes your head gets a little messed up.  We aren't John Wayne.  John Wayne wasn't even John Wayne and it's ok to talk about it.

Finally, and I swear I'll never write an advice post again, have some confidence in yourself.  Being different does not mean being worse.  Don't worry about the perceptions out there, I know that it can be tough.  This is not a competition and we don't have to do things because that's how it has been done.  Don't care.  Be a dad, be the guy you would want to hang out with.   Don't get sidelined, don't get caught up in expectations.

Because the only person's opinion that should matter to you is that little two-foot individual that sits in your lap and occasionally hits you in the balls.  Take care of that person and the rest of the world will fade away.


How To Pet A Spider

"Do you want us to take Elvira out o the cage so you can get a better look at her," the Spider Wrangler asks me. 

"Uh, hell yes I do!" I say.  Because honestly, who doesn't want to get a better look at a giant tarantula?  Actually, no I don't but I can't back down in front of the Wrangler, can I?  That wouldn't be very manly, not manly at all.

But as she gets the tarantula out of its cage/evil lair, I start to question a couple of things.  Do I really care if I look manly in front of a random stranger at this new nature center?  Why the hell does this matter to me?  It doesn't matter to Bacon Hoss, my four-year-old.  As soon as the spider cage is open, he yelps and then buries his head in the back of my knee, his little hands clenching parts of my blue jeans. 

The lady in front of me, who seems like she has no fear, starts to try and coax the spider out. 

"Come on, Elvira.  Come on out," she says.  She clicks her tongue like she is calling a dog or a pig on the farm.  I begin to question her qualifications.  Is she really a spider wrangler, is that a thing?  I assume it is but I'm not sure the one in front of me is part of the guild.  I haven't seen any paperwork nor any kind of official badge.  Something gold plated with her name on it would be nice, just to put everyone at ease here.  Is her only qualification for handling this little gem of nightmare fuel is that she isn't dead yet and hanging from the rafters in a cocoon? 

"So, it's a she?" I ask, mostly to break the tension and to remind my self to breath. 

"Yup!" the Spider Wrangler says. 

"Does she bite?"  There you go, probably a question I should have asked before I agreed to this.  I try and be polite about it, I really don't want the Wrangler freaking out here as the spider approaches her hand. 

"Oh, of course not.  She's gentle," the Wrangler says.  I notice that she's wearing a glove as the tarantula climbs from the cage. 

Bacon Hoss digs his face deeper into my knee as the spider climbs aboard.  I stop breathing myself, make no sound what so ever.  The thought of spooking the Wrangler sends shivers down my neck.  What if she gets freaked out and accidentally throws the spider at my face?  I bunch my fist as I think of this, fully prepared to come out swinging at myself if anything goes wrong. 

Elvira makes the transition to the Wrangler's hand. The wrangler stands a little straighter now and takes a step towards me.  I should punch the spider now.  Suddenly, I'm a very big believer in pre-emptive strikes. 

The tarantula doesn't jump.  Its mouth seems to be working overtime.  Is this the tarantula equivalent of licking its lips?  It's 8 legs (I did indeed count) shuffle a bit forward, but slowly.  The Wrangler still seems to be in good spirits as she comes even closer.   It is possible that the tarantula has sucked out her soul before I got here and now she only does Elvira's bidding? "Bring me closer to the fresh meat, Wrangler!  YESSSSSSS, CLOSSSERRRRR."  I know spider's don't hiss, I get that.  But it's what is in my head as the wrangler brings the tarantula up closer to my face so I can get a better look at it. 

I close my eyes. 

"Oh, she's nothing to be afraid of," Says the Wrangler. 

Bacon Hoss takes off.  I can feel him let go, he squeals as he runs back towards the bunny cages.  The nice safe bunnies.  I should follow him but I'm of the mindset of "NO Sudden Movements!" 

I open my eyes and look at Elvira.  I learn a very weird lesson.  Tarantulas grow 12 sizes the minute they get out of the cage.  Who knew, right?  In the cage, Elvira seemed very small, no bigger really than Bacon's little hand.  Outside the cage, and a foot from my face, she looks about the size of a dump truck.  A dump truck with mandibles that want to rip my lips off.  I breathe and see the hairs on the spider's legs bend back in the breeze. 

"Do you want to pet her?" the Wrangler asks me. 

"Hell yes, I do!" I say.  I want to punch my own self in the throat, blocking those stupid vocal chords from speaking any more.  That is not what is on my mind, not at all.  Do I want to pet satan's pet?  Fuck no, I don't.  But I don't say that.  Is this that macho thing welling up in me again?  Motherfuck, I hate that.  It can't be suppressed though, it's too ingrained, a natural mechanism that I'm sure has gotten plenty of cavemen killed through our evolution.  Why it remains, I have no idea. 

I reach out my ungloved hand.  Moving the speed of a glacier, I put one finger forward.  The payoff, the moment.  I either make friends with the beast or it rips me apart like I'm in some sort of John Carpenter movie. 

I touch the abdomen, and I swear to all that is holy, it looks like it was pulsating.  Elvira goes still.  No turning back now.  I stroke her and whisper "Good, Elvira.  Aren't you a pretty girl.  Human meat tastes sour, doesn't it?  Good, Elvira."

She's softer than I would have imagined.  The hairs are a bit prickly, but once you stroke they go a bit flat.  If I closed my eyes and go to my happy place, I could imagine that I was petting a docile garbage disposal.  But honestly, it's actually a bit pleasant.  I wonder if tarantulas purr? 

I take my hand back, again slowly.  The fear has been faced, I thank my ancestors for their macho bravery, forcing me to do something that I didn't want to do. 

"Thank you," I say.  I also figure it's a good idea to be very polite to the lady that is holding the giant spider.  "I really appreciate it."  I smile, no threats here.  I'm a good boy. 

"You're welcome," The Wrangler says.  She steps away and puts Elvira back in her cage.  I head to the bunny cage to collect my boy.  He's probably freaked out and I need to show him that dad isn't cocooned.  I text Hossmom as I walk.

"Guess what we just did..." I text Hossmom.

"What?" She responds. 

"We got to pet a tarantula!" I text back. 

"Don't come home.  Getting divorced."

Hossmom is not a big fan of spiders.  So I make sure I send her a picture that I took of Elvira, out of her cage. 

I still believe that I can hear my wife scream 40 miles away.