And so it begins. The boys’ Winter Break, 2014-style. Only one of my sons is currently awake as my fingers pop the keys of this keyboard. Hunched over a Santa-sized bag of Legos, clawing away at them, since I rebuffed his first attempt at turning on the television. Coughing loudly every 3 or 4 minutes, wearing T-Rex and Skull and Crossbones-print pajama bottoms and a blue and grey “Duke” beanie. No shirt, of course. The shirtlessness likely explains the coughing, at least in part. But I don’t demand a shirt. I’ve long-since learned to pick my battles. And I don’t pick this one. Cough Cough.
This is a busy time of the year for my wife (and my sons’ mom) at work, as people suddenly realize they need her to do a bunch of important stuff for them. Like now. So that means that at least until Wednesday afternoon, I’m mostly solo. I like solo. I like my wife, too, of course. But I also like solo.
I’ve already got today and Tuesday accounted for: I’ll finish this blog post in the next 30 minutes, accompanied by Everett raking through his thousands of Lego pieces and by our dog staring at me from her bed. The dog won’t become a priority until her staring becomes so persistent that other recipients of said stare would anticipate an imminent attack on the jugular. To me, that just translates into “take me outside or I will for sure poop and/or pee right here and right now.” No such stare at the moment; I just checked.
I aspire to fire up some eggs (fried or scrambled depending upon which son’s preference is the morning’s squeakiest wheel), hash browns and bacon on the stove top grill. The grill’s surface is scratched from heavy use, and I harbor some concern that I will be feeding my kids a dose of non-stick chemicals. That’s an ongoing risk that will have to be addressed another day. Because after breakfast, we are headed to the Academy.
The California Academy of Sciences, that is. When the boys were younger, the Cal Academy was a go-to. One of the few places where a parent could lower a toddler’s feet to the ground and, more or less, let the toddler explore on his or her own, while the parent trailed behind. On a crowded day, this admittedly made for some nervous moments. I have run-walked some shallow-breathed loops around the trippy blue underwater rooms downstairs, picking up my pace as my eyes scan the dark corners for my progeny, calculating the odds that he could drown in a starfish pool, crack his head on the stairs near the Gar tank, wind up in some stranger’s stroller, or topple into Claude’s den. Did I mention that Claude is an albino alligator? None of those things have ever come to fruition, though in retrospect, I always sort of admire my creativity in terms of all the incredibly terrible things I conjure up before I find Max or Everett at a water fountain.
Fortunately (or maybe, unfortunately), those days are over now. My kids only disappear if they choose to. And they know my cell phone number, combined with absolutely zero fear of asking a surprised stranger to borrow the stranger’s cell phone. “Just real quick, if you don’t mind, so I can call my dad.” I’ve grown accustomed to seeing incoming calls bearing completely bizarre, I-don’t-know-anyone-in-Alaska area codes. That just means Max or Ev is calling from some bemused person’s iPhone. Fun for the kid. Strange mixture of pride and mortification for me. Pride for their resourcefulness. Mortification if the owner of the cell phone is the type that will admonish me or give me that look when I show up to claim my offspring. A similar scene plays out if there is no stranger’s cell phone readily available. Both of my kids are adept at commandeering the public address announcement system at grocery stores, museums, even airports. In those situations, the mortification is magnified by the hundreds of disapproving eyeballs.
I so dread the mortification part, I sometimes catch myself considering ways to avoid or diminish the shunning. Maybe I should wear a suit. Or a tuxedo. I have a tuxedo, it’s the one in which I was married. Still fits, pretty much. And I’m always looking for an excuse to wear it. I imagine there are peer-reviewed, double-blind scientific studies supporting the notion that a man wearing a tuxedo is less likely to be admonished for delinquent parenting than a man wearing fleece sweats, a striped beanie, and goofy green running shoes. If there is no such study, there ought to be. Perhaps I’ll roll the study out this morning. Given what I’m wearing at the moment, I’m thinking the beanie and green running shoes should probably be the control group. The tux may have to wait until next time. It’s been awhile since I’ve tied a bow-tie, and I don’t think I’ve allotted enough time for that this particular morning.
On the other hand, a tux today might just be the perfect choice. I imagine the scene: Responding promptly to the fully-expected page using my first and last name (combined with the delinquent parenting part). Mock surprise on my face, eye brows raised phonily, maybe even mouthing a “who, me?” I glide gracefully, with purpose, towards the Customer Service kiosk. The spotlights normally trained on the enormous Blue Whale hanging from the ceiling — they snap onto my me, illuminating my path towards the kiosk, allowing me to cut through the admiring throngs. (Slowly, the mortification begins to transfer from me over to my sons. I can see it on their faces.) Somewhere, a drum roll pounded out on a timpani reaches a crescendo. I reach for (read: yank from the grip of the nervously-smiling Customer Service representative) the mic. With the entire place holding it’s breath now, I scan the crowd. Take it all in. I smooth down a slight cowlick with one hand, pinch a corner of my black bow tie with the other. Then maybe a quick flattening of the cummerbund. I clear my throat, “First, I’d like to thank the Academy.” I don’t get the rest of my speech out, though, due to the heavyset security guards clutching my elbows.
So on second thought, I think I’ll just go with the beanie and green sneakers.
Thanks for reading.