Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mommy's Day Out

My wife slipped into her shoes. Normally that’s not a big deal. People put on their shoes for a lot of reasons; cold feet, they’re not at a Japanese restaurant, they know the dog did something in the house but they don’t know where.

It was for none of those reasons … she was going Out.

Our baby was three weeks old, and in that time my wife had been out of the house once. She and I went to the grocery store and she’d called it a date. I was surprised it took her this long to try to escape. I just hoped she’d come back.

“Where are you going?” I said, wondering if I should ask her to bring home beer.

“The library,” she said, her feet in the sprinter’s blocks. “I’ll be gone about an hour. Can you handle the kids?”

What? I thought. Can I handle a two-year-old and a baby? I once took two girls to a high school dance and got away with it. I can handle anything. Wow, I’m glad I didn’t say that out loud.

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll be …”

But she was gone.

Handle the kids? I thought. Pfft.

The baby was sleeping soundlessly in her bassinet and the two-year-old was quietly lining toy trucks into a precise grid on our dining room floor. It looked like a car lot, I realized, wondering if I was looking through a window at careers to come. Yeah, I could handle this.

“So,” I said to my two-year-old. “Do you want to make cookies for Mommy?”

He giggled and shot off the floor, scattering die-cast metal trucks over the room.

“Coook,” he screamed, using the traditional toddler word for ‘Daddy’s an idiot.’

I had about an hour. No problem.

Then the baby cried. OK, I picked her up. The toddler squished his fingers in raw eggs and flour, which we all know means in this modern age of enlightenment (by which I mean our parents didn’t love us) I don’t care about my child’s health. Fine, I’ll wash his hands later – if the baby ever stops crying.

“That’s nice,” I said, grabbing the toddler’s chocolate-chip cookie dough hands as he waved them at the baby. “Yes, she has eyes.”

Did I mention there was a game on?

Can I handle it? I wondered as I calmed the baby (without the NyQuil my folks used), baked a golden-brown batch of chocolate chip cookies, washed salmonella from the toddler’s hands, and didn’t say “&%$#” during the game.

“I don’t know how you did it,” my wife said when she came home, seeing the happy children, the plate of warm cookies, and a lack of emergency vehicles in front of our home.

Yeah, me neither.

Being a parent is tough, but if I can do it, monkeys can do it. Oh, wait. Monkeys have been good parents a lot longer than humans have. Let’s have a few cookies and think about that.

Copyright 2007 by Jason Offutt

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Some things Dad just shouldn't know

I'm not in charge of anything. Well, except the garbage, but that's only once a week. A lot of dads are like this. We go to our job, come home, eat supper, take out the garbage, then catch up on all the neat stuff our wife and kids did while we were at work.
Of course, some things we don't need to know.

"Sam has a play date," my wife said, not realizing how much those words were as foreign to me as if she'd spoken in Klingon.

A play date? I thought, fighting off images of two toddlers singing pidgin selections from "The Music Man." Do the words 'play' and 'date' even go together? Is that what Bush and Putin have when they meet at Camp David? A play date? Does 'Shipoopi' actually translate into 'the bombs drop at dawn?'

"You mean another mom is bringing her toddler to our house to play with our son?" I said, trying to put things in terms that didn't sound silly.

"Yeah," she said. "It's a play date."

People have an instinctual need to rationalize things to fit into their own concept of the universe. With kids, jumping off the roof in a Superman cape has Mom's endorsement if she's not there to say no. With women like my wife, Rainbow Brite is the unquestioned lord and master of the universe. And with guys, comparing everything to sports, auto mechanics and warp drive technology is acceptable and, frankly, expected.

Not all of our rationalizations are correct. And most of them, despite the name, are not rational. Comfortable maybe, but not rational.

"Please don't call it a play date," I said, shuddering. "It sounds like they're going out for dinner and dancing Š then maybe to a show."

If guys were in charge of their kids' play schedules, things would be different. A "play date" would be called a Belching.

"We're going to a Belching," dads would say, assuming our wives would know we were taking our toddler to the playground to play with Terry's 2-year-old. The kids would run around, throw rocks at squirrels and climb the slides backwards, while Terry and I talk about football, cars, diapers, beer and most probably cheerleaders.

At some point, we'd belch hence the name.

"Then what would you call it?" she said in a way that meant "a Belching" was out.

"Well," I said, going down that old fogy route by saying "when I was a kid." "When I was a kid, my mom called it 'going over to Charlie's house.'"

She smiled and patted my arm.

"When you were a kid, eight-tracks were cool," she said. "His play date's tomorrow."

Wow. Maybe that's why I'm only in charge of the garbage.

Copyright 2006 by Jason Offutt