|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?"
"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.