The wife had an all-day teaching workshop on Saturday (at least that's what she told me -- if not, hope she and her boyfriend had a blast), which meant me and the kids were left to fend for ourselves. No problem, even if I had to work, since I've been doing this for the better part of a decade. I even decided to document the day as it unfolded. And I'm glad I did.
Sometime before 7:30 AM: The wife leaves. I'm still asleep, even though the four-year-old is awake, and likely has been for some time. I finally get up at 8 because i have no choice. I hear him in the bathroom yelling, "IS ANYBODY THERE? I NEED HELP!" I'm not worried that maybe he's pinned under some heavy piece of furniture, or the dog had finally had enough and attacked him because we've had this conversation before.
He needs some help wiping his butt. When I ask why, he gives me some crazy reason that didn't make sense -- and wouldn't have made sense even if I wasn't half-asleep. So instead of trying to reason with him, which invariably leads to both of us yelling at each other, I just did it. Seemed like a perfect way to start the day.
8:12 AM: The eight-year-old is battling a cold and a sore throat, so he's still sleeping. Meanwhile, me and the four-year-old head downstairs for breakfast. Fun fact: the four-year-old, who a month ago would eat anything you put in front of him -- including construction paper made to look like a muffin -- is suddenly and excessively picky. It might be one of the most irritatingly underreported parts of being a parent.
You could point at anything and ask, "Hey, you want this?" And he would invariably respond, "I don't think I like that very much," which is infinitely more annoying that "nope." So instead of going through the list of things he won't eat, I offer up a cold piece of pepperoni pizza from the night before.
Done and done.
8:27 AM: With the eight-year-old still sleeping, and me working, I give the four-year-old what I thought were some pretty simple instructions. "Okay, here's the deal: I just need you to play quietly. I don't mean you can't talk or move, but it would be awesome if you wouldn't jump, stomp, roll around like you're on fire, or pull every toy out of the toy bin because it makes too much racket. Deal?"
The four-year-old nodded ... right before he did all of the above and and even sang loudly for good measure. So we had the conversation again. And two more times after that.
"Sorry, I keep forgetting!" he explained.
I gave up.
8:31 AM: The eight-year-old came downstairs. Said he couldn't sleep. I'm as shocked as you.
11:02 AM: We head to our friendly neighborhood coffee shop, where both kids are local celebrities. Partly because the average age there is 93 and it's always nice to see people capable of walking without assistance, but also because, despite all my bellyaching, the monkeys are pretty good, especially in public.
One orders a chocolate milk, the other a strawberry smoothie, and that always leads to this conversation:
Me: "Please, for the love of all that's holy, hold the glass with two hands and move it away from the very edge of the table when you're done taking a sip."
I can only assume by their actions that their brain translates this into, "SWING YOUR ARMS WIDLY AROUND THE TABLE AND SEE IF YOU CAN KNOCK BOTH DRINKS ON THE FLOOR."
So I spend the next few minutes repeating myself before I finally move the drinks to the center of the table and have both kids sit on their hands.
12:12 PM: The kids play with LEGOs while I work. Note: my "office" is 18 inches from their play room. Which means I spend 95 percent of my time having some variation of this conversation:
Four-year-old: "Hey, dad, look at this thing I just made!"
Me: "Awesome. I can't believe you did that. Well done."
Ten seconds later...
Four-year-old: "Hey, dad, look at this thing I just made!"
And so on and so forth. I give up explaining that it's difficult to work with him chirping in my ear because while he says he "keeps forgetting" I'm convinced he just doesn't care.
1:01 PM: The eight-year-old yells for me from the other room. I ignore him because I hate it when my kids yell for me from the other room, and surely he'll remember this and come talk to me in my office.
He yells again. And once more.
I finally storm into the kitchen wondering what the hell he wants.
"I'm in the bathroom and my stomach hurts," he tells me.
"Just curious, but what do you want me to do?" I ask. "You're on the toilet, yes?"
"Yes I am. I just wanted to let you know."
1:35 PM: I mention something in passing about how they should make LEGO handcuffs for unruly kids. That gives my eight-year-old an idea. After several prototypes, he came up with these:
Sadly, the strongest plastics known to man are no match for BABY VADER HULK, who frees himself with little effort.
2:32 PM: The kids head outside, and I give them my "because you guys are unreasonably clumsy and always get hurt" spiel: "Stay away from the deck. No running in the woods behind the house because it's only a matter of time before one or both of you impale yourself on an innocuous-seeming stick otherwise minding its business on the ground. Also: no yelling."
There is yelling, of course, but things go well ... until the eight-year-old breaks out the bubbles.
(By the way, bubbles are a societal scourge and possibly one of man's worst inventions. The bubble mix is sticky, which is ironic because my kids are constantly spilling it. Luckily, it stains too.)
3:04 PM: The four-year-old runs inside to tell me his brother isn't sharing the bubble gun. The reason? The eight-year-old insists it was gifted to him when he was four, and according to some law he makes up on the spot, he doesn't need to share it. I overrule him and threaten him with imprisonment. He relents.
3:05 PM: I fire up the first glass of wine. Would've happened sooner but I forgot we had any left.
4:08 PM: They're back outside again. I give them The Spiel again. I'm informed that they'll only be pretending to be ninjas (thanks, NINJAGO). I'm also informed that the treehouse will serve as their "Ninjas Are Cool" clubhouse. It's known as "NAC" for short.
4:12 PM: The four-year-old falls out of the treehouse. (The only place on the planet where ninjas are terrible climbers.)
After a little investigative work I found out that the four-year-old was wearing LEGO handcuffs while climbing the ladder into the clubhouse. Apparently, it never occurred to the eight-year-old that this was a horrible idea.
A few minutes later, after the four-year-old had stopped crying and was ready to go back outside, I heard this exchange:
Eight-year-old: "To show that I'm sorry, you are promoted in this club."
Four-year-old: "I am?"
Eight-year-old: "You are now second in command."
(Editor's note: Pretty sure that's not really a promotion.)
Four-year-old: "Because I got hurt?"
Eight-year-old: "Because I'm really sorry."
I feel like the world would be a much better place if more disputes were handled like this.
4:13 PM: I refill my wine jug.
4:35 PM: I look outside to see the kids playing soccer. Honestly, it's the last thing I expected. I ask the eight-year-old what's going on.
"We're playing soccer to improve our ninja skills," he says.
I chug my wine so I can refill it.
(Seriously, it's something so I'll take it.)
5:55 PM: We're off to dinner because God forbid I actually cook something.
6:08 PM: Not making this up: twice the kids knock over their lemonades. Yes, the cups have tops, and nothing spills, but that doesn't make it any less egregious.
7:06 PM: We're back home, where I promise sugary treats before bed if the kids can get in their PJs without getting hurt.
7:30 PM: One last refill as the wife arrives home. The house hasn't been burned to the ground, which makes the day a resounding success.