If you were Teeny-Tiny and lived inside my refrigerator, this is what you would see a dozen times every night.
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It seems to me, that when entering the world of having children, we are expected to leave our sense of humor by the door. Joking is permitted in nearly all aspects of our lives, with the exception of infants and children.
Shortly after the birth of my first daughter, Hannah, my mother-in-law arrived at our house and asked where the new baby was. I simply answered, “I put her in the dryer because she was making too much noise.”
She did not find it to be the least bit funny and in fact, you would have thought that I had just committed a murder right in front of her. I started to explain that I was just only joking, but then my razor sharp wit took over and I added, “The dryer only amplifies sound. If I was going to stick her in an appliance, it would have been the dish washer.”
This sent her into a rage, “YOU DON’T EVEN JOKE ABOUT SUCH THINGS!”
It would seem to me, that when it comes to joking about sticking infants into appliances, the general consensus is that if I joke about it, then I have to actually do it.
A few years later, I was left alone with my two daughters and four of their cousins while all the mothers went shopping. One young niece started singing, “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round.”
Before long, all of the other kids had joined in, and after ten minutes of the same phrase being repeatedly sung by six loud children, my sanity began to wear thin. To make the concert more bearable, I decided to compose a second verse to the song, and have them perform it when the mothers arrived home from shopping.
The second verse went like this, “The cheeks on my butt make lots of sound, lots of sound.”
The six of them performing this new verse in front of their mothers, did not go over any better than the daughter in the dryer joke. You would have thought I had taught them all to swear like sailors. In fact, one of my sister-in-laws still won’t let me watch her children alone any more.
Perhaps my brand of humor is a bit much when talking about something as precious as our little children, but I think everybody could lighten up a little bit too . . . because if you don’t, I will come to your house, and glue your children’s feet to the ceiling and wrap them in Christmas tree lights . . . That is a joke, I would never glue their feet to the ceiling because the blood rushing to their heads would make them pass out. I would only glue children’s feet to the floor.
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We had just pulled into the parking spot of our family vacation destination, and had begun unloading our luggage into the room where we would stay for the next four days. It had taken us four hours of driving to get here.
My wife began removing clothes from the suitcases and laundry baskets (poor people luggage) and putting them into the dresser drawers provided in the resort room. We had already gotten past out usual argument about whether my clothes should be left in the suitcase or put into drawers like everyone else’s. A thought flashed through the back of my mind, not even a complete thought, more like the formations of what could turn into a thought. It involved not being able to recall seeing Natalie’s “Blanky” in the time since we had departed home.
Like nearly every parent knows, Blanky was a beat up, tattered child’s blanket that Natalie had held tight since she was an infant. Her grandma had sewed its remnants onto another piece of cloth to act as a backing. This due to the fact that the original Blanky had worn to a state where it was more “hole” than material. It reminded me of some precious historical relic, The Shroud of Turin or some flag that had endured many hard fought battles.
“Where’s Blanky?” I whispered quietly to my wife.
She scanned around the room then paused for a moment thinking, and then looking back at me with shear terror in her eyes.
“We don’t have Blanky!!!” she answered in a slightly elevated whisper voice.
Just then, Natalie paused in the doorway of the room and looked at the two of us like she suspected something was going on. My wife and I froze . . . as if any movement or or sound would alert the child to the absence of Blanky.
Finally, Natalie went back to bouncing around like she had been.
The next minute or two involved an argument between my wife and myself using our whisper voices, and even whisper shouting. Statements were made such as “I thought you were going to …”, and “no, I was busy packing all the . . . ”
Once the whisper shoutings and blame assignments had concluded, it was on to the real problem . . . What to do about the absence of Blanky.
What would you do? Or in some cases, what did you do?
Opt for inconvenience and peace by driving home to get it?
Endure the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would surely accompany a vacation without Blanky?
Chance it with a substitute?
As I walked in the door after my long day at work, I was met by my two daughters.
“How was your day, dad?” they both asked as they gave me a big hug.
“It wasn’t too bad” I replied, “What smells so good?”
“Oh, Natalie and I made nachos, tacos and burritos for dinner . . . after we finished cleaning our rooms and doing our homework.”
“That’s wonderful girls!” I said, giving each a big hug.
After a quick shower, I returned to the dining room where we all sat down to one of the best meals I had eaten in quite some time. In fact, it was so good, that after eating each delicious taco, I would get up and hug my wife and daughters and they would hug me back, telling me how wonderful my taco breath smelled.
Upon finishing the excellent dinner, the girls cleared the table and washed the dishes, and then the four of us retired to the living room to relax and watch a little TV. My wife brought out a heavenly double chocolate cake that had been made for desert.
“What should we watch?” I asked.
“How about something with rocket launchers and zombies!” replied my daughter, Hannah.
“Yes!” added Natalie, “and with fast cars and explosions!”
“Are you sure?” I asked, “Don’t you girls want to watch your stupid teenage drama shows?”
“No father, you have worked hard all day, we want to watch your show.”
“That sounds wonderful” I said as I hugged and kissed both girls.”
As I turned on the TV, my wife brought me a huge piece of the chocolate cake and my slippers.
“Thank you my lov- . . .”
Before I could finish my sentence, I was interrupted by a loud crash and a sharp pain in my nose. I winced in agony.
When I opened my eyes, my wife was gone . . . and there was no sign of the chocolate cake she was about to hand me before the loud noise and the pain. Instead, I was lying on the couch with my daughter Natalie sitting on my chest. My daughter Hannah was standing at the end of the couch near my head, violently swatting at her sister with a tennis racket. Natalie was kicking back at her with her feet, in an attempt to ward off the blows. And with every second or third kick, her leg would come down with a thump on my face. Hannah’s racket aim left much to be desired as well, in that every other swat would crack me on the nose with the follow through. There was also a half-eaten piece of pizza lying face down on my forehead.
“WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!!!!” I demanded.
“Hannah stole the last piece of pizza!”
“Well Natalie keeps changing the channel from my show!” Hannah answered.
“I thought you girls wanted me to watch my zombie movie . . .” I said, somewhat confused.
Both girls looked at each other as if I had just spoken to them in Latin.
“Where did you get pizza? Aren’t you both full from the dinner you made me after you cleaned your rooms?” I asked.
Again they looked at each other and then both broke out in loud maniacal laughter.
“Made dinner? Cleaned our rooms? HAHAHAHAHAHA!”
I was more confused.
“Remember? You said I had worked hard today, so I could watch my show, and you guys made tacos and nachos and burritos for dinner, and we were hugging, and you said how wonderful my taco breath smelled . . .” I sputtered.
I stopped talking as my brain began to piece together the facts.
The girls started in with their wild laughter again, “HAHAHAHAHA! You’ve been a dead lump on the couch since you got home! HAHAHAHAH, he said his breath smelled good! HAHAHAHA!”
As the girls walked off, laughing hysterically, I began to realize that it had all been a dream. There was no taco dinner, or hugging or even chocolate cake.
My wife sat across the room with an amused smile on her face. I tried telling her about my dream, but had to stop when she began laughing as hard as the girls had been.
Being disappointed about not actually having a taco dinner or hugging, I decided that I wasn’t going to miss out on the chocolate cake. I rose from the couch and went to the little diner down the road from us, where I ordered a large piece of double chocolate cake . . . a man can only handle so much disappointment in one evening.
“Dad, how come there aren’t any pictures of me?” my younger daughter asked as she sat on the living room floor looking through the family pictures.
“Of course we have pictures of you,” I replied and grabbed a box of pictures to prove my point.
As I began flipping through the photos, I was alarmed to find that there really were no photos of Natalie. I mean we had the normal burst of photos taken within the month or two after she was born, and a few school pictures, but then the Natalie photos seemed to just taper off to nothing. Frantically I searched three more boxes, but all I came up with was one photo of her tonsils that we took to compare with a picture of normal tonsils in a medical book, and a shot of the back of her head taken when she had apparently wandered into a picture I was taking of my lawn mower.
As for our firstborn, Hannah, there were pictures of nearly every event in her early years. There were pictures of her birth, her first week, her first month, and all the months following. There were pictures of her first solid food, her first steps, her first bloody nose, Christmas programs, and playing in the snow, rain, and sun. There was even a picture of her first poop on the potty…and not just one of her on the potty…I’m talking about a picture of the actual poop.
Embarrassed and not knowing what else to tell Natalie, I simply said I was sure there must be a whole box full of her pictures that had been misplaced somewhere. And although it seemed to satisfy her for the moment, I still felt terrible at our failure to photo document our second child’s existence.
It bothered me so much that I even spent a few late-night hours attempting to cut out Natalie’s face from some of her duplicate school pictures, and gluing them onto some of the abundant photos of Hannah that filled the boxes. But try as I might, I couldn’t get the perspective between the cutouts of Natalie’s head and photo bodies of Hannah to match up quite right. The resulting pictures looked like mutant alien children with freakishly large or too-small heads, so I was forced to abandon my efforts.
My wife and I didn’t intentionally decide not to take pictures of our second child, nor do we love her any less than the first. I think that we are just more relaxed as parents, having survived our first one. Maybe a little too relaxed.
As I thought about it, I realized that it applied to more than just picture taking. One time, Hannah got some dog food out of the dog’s dish and ate it. My wife and I panicked. We rushed her to the emergency room, convinced she would succumb to dog germs at any second. But after a few eye rolls, the doctor on duty assured us that she would pull through, and indeed she did.
So having been through a few incidents like that with Hannah, we were a little less uptight when Natalie came along. So less uptight that when Hannah came in the front door and informed us that Natalie was picking dead bugs out of the car radiator and eating them, my wife’s only reaction was to tell Hannah to make sure that Natalie brushed her teeth when she was finished so that she wouldn’t have dead-bug breath.
Likewise with the pictures, after trying so hard not to miss photographing a single moment with Hannah, we realized that you just end up with mounds of pictures that make you wonder why you took so many of them. So we were not as camera crazy when Natalie came along.
We love both of our daughters very much, but I guess we went from fretting too much with the first one, to being a little too relaxed with the second. I think if we would have had a third child, we might have actually been able to get it right.
My girls were watching a video from a family get-together that we had at our house last summer and laughing hysterically.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, as I walked into the living room.
Both girls stopped laughing and acted as if they hadn’t heard my question.
“What’s so funny?”
There was still no response, so I turned my attention to the video. The camera that was recording the video had obviously been set on a table or chair and left to record the goings-on, the center of which was a volleyball game that had gone on for most of the day.
As I stood and watched for a few minutes, it became obvious that the girls had been laughing at one of the players in the volleyball game. His lack of coordination and overdramatic reactions to his pathetic attempts at diving for the ball made him a comical center of attention. Other players on the volleyball court chuckled behind his back on the video.
“Who’s the bald idiot?” I asked, still laughing at the poor player’s lack of skill.
Both girls looked at each other for a silent moment.
“Ummm, that’s you, Dad,” my daughter Hannah finally answered.
“Ha-ha, very funny,” I replied, but neither girl was laughing.
I narrowed my gaze at the video playing on the television. I recognized the Star Trek T-shirt that the “bald idiot” was wearing as my own.
“Hey, why is that guy wearing one of my…”
My face suddenly got hot with embarrassment, as I realized that the spectacle, the train wreck, the elephant on the court…was me.
I stood in shock. I knew my hairline had receded a bit, and the back of my head was getting a little thin, but I had no idea it had become bare; bare like the grassless spot on my lawn that commemorates the great hornet/gasoline battle of ’04.
My posture was slouched like a man who had been beaten down by years of climbing trees for a living and accented by a potbelly that was much larger than the one I see when I look down.
My playing skills were terrible…terrible to the point of being amazingly terrible. I had never been a volleyball wizard, but I could, at the very least, hold my own in a game when I was younger. But time after time, I watched myself on the video hit the ball out of bounds, into the net, off my face, or miss it altogether. Worse yet, with each failed bump, set, or spike, I would fall to the ground in an overly dramatic fashion that would best any cowboy movie showdown death. Then I would lie there, flailing like a turtle stuck on its back, until someone finally came over and gave me a hand getting up, followed by two or three minutes of “walking off” my injuries, while I made loud “walking off” my injuries noises.
The video was much too painful to watch. I could still hear myself encouraging other players to “COME ON, GET IN THE GAME!” And my exaggerated grunts and bemoanings coming from the TV as I walked out of the living room. The girls resumed their laughing at me when they thought I was out of earshot.
The video had been a rude awakening to my current state of degradation and lack of coordination. Ever since watching it, I have begun to see myself in an unflattering new light.
More recently, a video of myself dancing at a wedding reception enlightened me to my dreadful loss of rhythm and fashion sense. Mothers in the video are seen rushing to shield their children from my thrashing, dancing appendages. A young couple sitting a table near the dance floor are pointing and laughing at my twenty-year-old dress shoes that I occasionally revitalize with a fresh coat of black magic marker.
My dancing very closely resembled someone who was making fun of someone dancing…in his grandpa’s shoes. Once again, I was mortified to my core.
I now avoid being in a video at all costs. And in the event I end up getting caught on camera, I steadfastly refuse to watch the footage. The volleyball and wedding reception incidents have damaged my self-esteem so horribly that I don’t think I would survive another video episode.
When you have children, one of two things is always happening. Either you are training them on how to act like mature, responsible adults, or they are training you to act more and more like a child.
This revelation came to me just the other day when my two daughters and I had just finished watching the highly ridiculous cartoon that my youngest, Natalie, had chosen. Before that, we had watched an even more ridiculous children’s sitcom that my other daughter, Hannah, had picked.
I now figured that it was my turn to pick the show, but this was not agreeable to my darling children. An argument quickly broke out and soon escalated into violence. Fists were flying, teeth were gnashing and hair was being ripped from the roots.
After two minutes of this mayhem, I’d had it, so I announced in a loud voice of authority, “I’ve had it!”
And with that being said, I left to go tell mom . . . . . . I mean my wife, that they wouldn’t let me watch my show, and that Hannah had kicked me, and that if Natalie came and told that I had bit her on the arm, that she had pulled my hair first .
That’s when I realized, “Hey! I’m the adult here!”
So back to the living room I marched and said, “I am your father and you have to do what I say and I don’t need to go tell Mom . . . . I mean my wife . . . . I mean your mother!!!”
I then gave Natalie the most sincere, tongue-sticking-out “Nyaaahhh-Nyaaahhh” I could muster, stomped on Hannah’s foot, and sent them both to their rooms to think about resolving conflict in a responsible, adult-like manner.
I was then able to sit down and watch Bugs Bunny in peace, like a mature grown up.
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*Turn off the shower when you have finished, but don’t turn the knob with the arrow on it that switches the water from coming out of the shower head, to flowing out the spout. So when dad goes to turn on the water, (which requires that he bends over, placing his head directly in the crosshairs of the shower head) he is blasted full force in the face with freezing cold water for the ten seconds it takes to swear and find the knob with the arrow on it that switches the water from the shower to the spout.
*Repeatedly tell him how outdated his fashion choices are. Then, when he actually has heard it enough times to motivate him to buy some more current looking attire, tell him he looks like an old guy trying to look young.
*In the middle of a heated lecture on not taking care of your messes in the living room and kitchen, point out that his bowl that he used for his fruity pebbles is still sitting on the coffee table from that morning. . . . But be cautious . . . . He will turn red and sputter for a few seconds, after which, you should probably be out of arms reach.
*Let him discover that the source of a seemingly endless supply of fruit flies in the house, are coming from a bowl of some unidentifiable organic matter under your bed.
*Drag him around on a six hour shopping trip that covers thirteen different stores, and then a return visit to eight of them, in an attempt to find a pair of shoes like Emily has, only to return to the very first store we looked in and decide to purchase the very first pair of shoes you tried on. And then, for the bonus dose of fury, tell him the following day that you don’t like them and refuse to wear them.
*Don’t answer the phone when he calls and then tell him your ringer was off, even though he could see you through the glass doors of the school entrance when you pulled the phone out of your pocket and looked at it when it rang.
*In the middle of a heated argument about why your grades are so low, say something like, “maybe I’m just not the kind of person who gets good grades. Why can’t you just accept me for who I am?’’ Even though your teachers and placement tests indicate you are capable of performing at an above average level.
*Leave the screen door standing wide open while you talk to someone outside during the middle of mosquito season instead of talking through the screen provided.
*Tell everyone that you caught him tearing up at the end of Bambi the last time the both of you watched the DVD.
*Spend the change from buying a movie ticket with the fifty dollar bill he gave you because he didn’t actually say he wanted the change.
*Scream down the stairs that you are done cleaning your room. He will then come upstairs and inspect your work. When he tells you that your room is no where near clean, wait until he is back downstairs. Pick up one of the fifty items still on your bedroom floor and then scream down the stairs that you are done cleaning your room. He will then come upstairs and inspect your work. When he tells you that your room is no where near clean, wait until he is back downstairs. Pick up one of the forty-nine items still on your bedroom floor and then scream down the stairs that you are done cleaning your room. Repeat as necessary.