Father (thinks he) Knows Best

5 Jun

The morning of the first full day of summer, my husband (If he were a Super Hero his name would be MicroManageMan!), woke me at 6:50 am (Thanks, Honey) to tell me that my older 2 boys were in the pool.  I groaned at the realization that I would have to go from “comatose” to “alert” in 0.6 seconds in order to supervise them after my husband left for work, but the fact that my sons were already up and at ‘em to such a ambitious degree pleased my husband greatly. 

My husband was raised by a father we affectionately call “Grampy the Hun” for his gentle, laid back approach to childcare and forced labor.  This was a man who relished sending his children off to slumber with bedtime stories from the Struwwl-Peter book fresh in their heads.  For those of you unfamiliar with this book, Poor Struwwl-Peter and his friends learn life lessons the hard way. For instance, when Peter’s friend won’t stop sucking his thumbs, a tailor comes to his house and cuts them off with giant scissors.  Adorable.  Sweet dreams, son.  

Apparently every Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, Grampy the Hun and his never-ending chore list had my husband out helping with an unending list of home repairs, wood chopping, house painting and snow shoveling — even in the bleakest morning hours of the coldest Connecticut winters. My husband loves to garner sympathy with his retelling of an austere upbringing wherein he and his younger brother shared a drafty third floor bathroom with no heat which, according to family lore, had them executing a morning routine that included showering in frigid water while scraping icicles from thier eyebrows at the same time.  The way he tells it, waterboarding would have been a far more pleasant approach to their morning ablutions. (But don’t cry for them, Argentina.  That “rickety old house” they lived in had 11 bedrooms and was situated on 5 acres just down the street from David Letterman in New Canaan, CT… Poor baby.)  

Anyway MicroManageMan has a vision of how this summer will proceed that is clearly informed by his childhood memories.  In order to beat the Arizona summer heat and maintain maximum productivity during all daylight hours, my husband expects that all of his children will be up, dressed, and fed by 5:30 am.   By 0600 they will be fully engaged in some form of rigorous outdoor physical activity such as swimming, bike riding, running a military-style obstacle course, or perhaps enjoying a 5-mile forced march through the desert.  Note:  all preceding activities require competent adult supervision—which would require ME to be up at 5:30 am.  (Which tells you right there that his idea of the ‘perfect summer day’ is pure fantasy…) 

After completion of a minimum of 3 hours of vigorous outdoor physical activity, MicroManageMan dictates that each child has a healthy snack consisting of bran, pitted dates and whey protein.  After said snack, the children must brush their teeth with baking soda and sawdust, before swiftly moving to commence their chores.  This morning — the first morning of summer– MicroManageMan left a chore list for the boys that included the following:

1.    Unload dishwasher

2.   Load dishwasher

3.   Put backpacks away

4.   Make beds

5.   Fold, put away laundry

6.   Hug mom 

(Alright, I guess I’ll give him a point for #6, but still, he’s seriously stepping on my toes here …)

After the chore list is completed, MicroManageMan requires a minimum of 2 hours of academic work such as can be found in the Summer Bridge workbook or perhaps reading Tolstoy or memorizing entire books of the Bible. When academic work is completed (and painstakingly checked by Mother, of course) the boys are required to retire to their rooms for a 2-hour nap.  The children will arise from thier naps, do a series of calisthetics such as deep knee bends to alert thier minds; help Mother prepare dinner and perform their evening chores.  Afterwhich the family will provide a full accounting of their day’s endless productive and enriching activities to Father, who will nod his head approvingly and beam with pride.  Before bed, Father will smoke his pipe and read select passages from the Book of Virtues to the boys before they blow out thier lanterns and fall asleep by 7 pm.    

Frankly, if this is the way he thinks the day will go, then I want to know what kind of pipe he is smoking…  

(Editorial note:  OK, I’ll admit, at this point my original “Super Hero” idea has morphed into a dream sequence more reminiscent of Father Knows Best meets Little House on the Prarie.  If you don’t like it you can write your own damned blog).  

What actually happened this morning when my husband left for work at 7 am was this:  I dragged myself out of bed and threw on my robe to stagger to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.  There– at 7:05– I found my two amphibious sons dripping wet, staring at the TV and eating pudding.  Their father hadn’t been gone for 5 minutes.  I don’t even think the garage door was fully down or his car had cleared the driveway before they embarked on their own agenda for the day: Snack, watch TV, repeat. Fight with a brother. Snack, watch TV, repeat.  Jump on the couch. Snack, watch TV, repeat. Break something. Snack, watch TV, repeat. Fight with the other brother. Snack, watch TV, repeat.  The aforementioned routine can only be amended by Mother yelling “KNOCK IT OFF!!!” at the top of her lungs. Once won’t do it.  Twice is a joke.  She must yell it seven hundred and fifty two times before it catches their attention.   And so the day goes…

Mother tells boys to turn the TV off seven hundred and fifty two times.

Mother tells the boys to pick up their rooms seven hundred and fifty two times.

Mother tells the boys to keep their hands off each other seven hundred and fifty two times.

Mother tells the boys to put sunscreen on seven hundred and fifty two times

Mother tells the boys to stop yelling in the pool seven hundred and fifty two times.

Mother tells the boys to shut the sliding glass door because they are letting the cold air out seven hundred and fifty two freaking times.  

By now it is 4:47 pm.  Mother has yet to shower for the day.  Her hair like Medusa, her eyes wild and glassy; she’s hyperventilating in the kitchen, nervously rocking back and forth and muttering under her breath.  Surrounded by laundry and crumbs, a twitch develops under her left eye as she stares at the clock, mentally willing it to be 5 pm so she can pour a generous glass of chardonnay to wash down the sleeve of Girl Scout cookies she’s been eating.   The air conditioner is on overdrive because the sliding glass door has been left ajar.  Again.  The boys are quiet for the first time today.  Nevermind that hey are covered in sunscreen and lying all over her unmade bed eating cheetos and watching their third hour of reruns of ‘Saved by the Bell.’  They are quiet and that’s all that matters.   And that they finally have sunscreen on.  

The silence is broken by the sound of the garage door going up.  Uh oh, Dad’s pulling in the driveway.

Quick…  Everybody look busy!


2 Responses to “Father (thinks he) Knows Best”

  1. Kirk June 8, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    WOW! This is good stuff. You have a new regular reader. Thanks! At our house I am Mr. Turn Off the LIGHTS!! I can totally relate.

  2. Clinkers June 25, 2009 at 4:40 am #

    752 times!!!

    Can totally identify w/ the visual of waiting for 5:00pm (i’d be IN the pantry by myself to escape kids) to drink the Chardonnay to wash down the sleeve of girl scout cookies!

    I’m not alone….

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