2:30 in the morning and my whole house shakes like it's just been hit with a broadside from Napoleon's cannons. I can hear the tinkle of the lightbulbs in my fan when the second shockwave hits. When the 3rd boom sounds I would bet that the little popcorn from my ceiling is now falling down on my bed like a snowstorm in Idaho.
"What is that?" my wife asks, sleep leaving her quickly. "Hoss, what is that. Wake up!"
I am awake. I've been awake for 4 hours. I haven't slept a wink. What is that, what is that?
Slumber Party. That's what that is. A slumber party for an 11-year-old and I'm pretty sure I'm going to meet my deductible on my home insurance this year.
My daughter just had a birthday, which kind of freaks me out. I am in no way old enough to have a child that is 11 years old. I'm young, I'm hip, I'm with it. Then my daughter will point out that grunge music was 20 years ago and I don't know who everyone was at the Grammys.
My little one is smart and perceptive, there is no denying that. Sometimes I imagine that she looks at me and wants to ask me a question: You have no idea what you are doing, right? To me sometimes it is painfully obvious that I'm winging it. But here is the thing about fatherhood, you don't get a whole lot of time to decide if you are doing it right or not. Moments drop on your head like a bull and you have to deal with it because there isn't an option to not deal with it. I don't want to be a shitty dad, that's the mantra that you have to tell yourself over and over again. This is one of those moments and my house shakes yet again. This time I hear giggling.
My feet hit the floor, slowly but surely. I have to do the dad thing now and wreck the party. I don't think that my poor house can do whatever activity they have decided to conjure down there. Every time I hear a thud I imagine that they have somehow cloned dinosaurs and are now jousting in my living room. Thud, giggle, thud, giggle, thud, roar.
I think there are 5 of them. I'm not totally sure. I could have sworn there were 5 of them when I told them lights out an hour ago. I may have even counted. But there is no way 5 little girls could make this much noise. It's just not possible and I think I might need to call in the military to let them know that an alien vortex just opened near my kitchen.
Earlier, I tried threatening with our house rule. It's our go-to rule when we want everyone to be quiet in the house. It's our baby rule. You wake him, you take him. Usually, that's enough to keep everyone real quiet because no one wants to handle a screaming baby at 1 in the morning. But my baby isn't a baby anymore either, they keep growing up and I keep growing old. He's a toddler now. I told 5 little girls they would have to take the 4-year-old toddler if they woke him up. They made more noise. Because you know what is awesome to 11-year-olds? Make-overs. And do you know who loves makeovers? Toddlers. It took me 45 minutes to break that up.
Now I'm going to have to go downstairs and put the old foot down, the foot that is sore if it walks on hardwood floors for too long without slippers. I consider just walking down in my shorts and letting the silverback gorilla look say more than my words every could. But I don't though because I love my 11-year-old and I don't want her to be traumatized forever. Maybe for a little bit, like a week, but not forever.
I get to the top of the stairs and the banging has stopped. I peak my head over and I'm a little taken aback but what I see. I see 5 little girls in a straight line, front to back. They are whispering, I hear a boy's name I think. They are laughing too, occasionally one will fall over. They are itching each other's backs or braiding another's hair. They are laughing, so much laughing. The T.V. is on and I can hear a movie playing, I think one of those preteen shows from Disney. I see my daughter hugging her friends as they laugh. Whatever crankiness that was in me, and there's a fair amount at 2:30 am, pretty much just goes away.
She's young, she's having fun. Sure, they are a little noisy but I also know that they spend a fair amount of their time being told to behave and quiet down. Not tonight, though, tonight I'm good. I'm going to let them be 11 for a bit and I can go back upstairs and be old. I'm good with that, it feels right.
Sure, I may be winging a lot of this fatherhood thing but I have to admit to myself, I'm winging it pretty damn good.