When I get these comments, I lean back in my chair, scratch my hair, and wonder if I couldn’t pull 50,000 words together to share some funny stories that became useful parenting tips.
Then Sunday happened, and I realized that if I wrote a book on parenting, my first sentence would read something like this: “I know nothing about parenting.” On Sunday, I was convicted with irrefutable evidence.
As some of our readers know, my wife and I welcomed our third child to the family on Dec. 4. This little girl – and we’ll discuss this in greater depth later – may only weigh six pounds, but she has turned our home upside down. By upside down, what I mean is Mom attends to Eleanor Bo every other hour, leaving me to manage our maniacal boys – Hank, 5, and Cal, 2.
The cliché says Meghan and I are now playing a zone defense. What we’re really doing is trying to keep our children alive, and the mortality of our two sons apparently rests on my shoulders.
So here’s what happened: My sons have an aversion to sleep. For the most part, they fight us on the way up the stairs each night, and long before sunrise, they clamor into our room begging for dry clothes and a cartoon. I’m not sure if I’ll ever sleep past 6 a.m. again in my life.
Last weekend, on Sunday morning, our precious little girl finished her 4 a.m. feeding, sending Mom and Bo back to sleep. Meanwhile, Hank and Cal descended from their room with the tact of Chewbacca.
I cursed the pillow, brushed my teeth and did what any self-respecting parent would do: I poured them a glass of Benadryl and turned on the cartoon. OK, not really. They watched YouTube.
Eventually, I made them breakfast, which meant opening the milk and pouring it over purified sugar (“Part of this complete breakfast,” right?).
When my boys wake up early on Sundays, it usually means we have plenty of time to attend early church, which was our plan this past Sunday. I got myself ready and then began the process of trying to fit khaki pants on an electric eel.
The skill of dressing young boys should rank somewhere alongside orthopedic surgery.
With dad and both boys dressed, and 15 minutes until church started, I summoned the boys to the kitchen and told them to go out the back door and wait by my car as I packed a diaper bag.
Our oldest son, Hank, has been part of The Leader pages since the day he was born. Many of you have read similar columns about him in the past, and if you paid attention, you know he is a bright, if not perplexing, young man.
Hank loves the outdoors. If there’s a rock in your yard, he’ll walk straight to it, pick it up, and search for creatures. If you’re not careful, he’ll walk straight through your shrubbery on a quest for lizards. And if there happens to be a neighborhood dog or cat anywhere around, he’ll spend hours sitting in the grass playing with it.
Here’s something else about our oldest son: He is a wonderful big brother. Even though three years separate him from Cal, Hank is almost clueless when his brother is not around. They play together constantly, which really means they fight over bats and balls and plastic trucks. They eat dinner together. And most recently, Cal wants to sleep in Hank’s room, which is just fine with us.
Meanwhile, Cal seems lost without his big brother. If he walks in a room, his first question (in broken English) is: “Where’s Hank?”
What I’m trying to say is these boys are absolutely wonderful together, they love each other, and they will spend the next 13 years fighting, which is in the International Code for Brother Behavior.
I tell you all of that to get back to Sunday morning, when I told the boys to walk outside and stand by Dad’s car.
Ever the obedient son, Hank walked to the door, turned the knob, opened the door, and shouted to his little brother: “Come on, Cal. Let’s go pee on squirrels.”
I remember exactly where I stood in the kitchen when he uttered the words. “What did you just say, Hank?” I asked with coffee spilling from my right nostril.
Hank looked at me with a smile the size of my car.
Before PETA and her friends come calling, let me assure you that my children have never been raised to pee on squirrels. Nor have they been instructed to pee on anything that moves. Let’s make that immediately clear. On the other hand, I may or may not have potty-trained my son in the backyard behind a canopy of trees.
The logistics of Hank’s instructions, as we know, are physically impossible. For starters, Hank can’t climb trees. More important, I’m not certain he has developed the aim to hit a basketball court, much less a squirrel.
But in the grand scheme of parenting, Hank’s hilarity sent me into something of a shocked state. At what point in this young man’s life has he considered the option of relieving himself on a moving creature? He certainly didn’t learn by watching his Dad. And despite some of my concerns over YouTube and children’s TV programming, not once has an airing of this sort of activity ever aired in our home.
As distraught as I should have been, that one phrase from Hank made me realize I probably am a horrible parent. I also spent the next hour in church saying prayers of thanksgiving because I now have the title for my first parenting book.