Men at Work

We had a small problem in the backyard recently. The ladder to the swing set broke. It wasn’t too bad. It was just certain rungs and just one side that needed to be fixed.

This is to be expected. We’ve had the set for years and our yard was the yard that everyone congregated at before Coronapalooza hit us. Countless children have played in our yard and made up numerous games in and around the swing set.

The trouble was brought to my attention one day. I stopped what I was doing to survey the damage and figure out what could be done. A brilliant flash then hit me. I looked at The Boy, who has told all who will listen that he will be working 10 jobs when he grows up. To our benefit, one of the jobs he will work will be in construction. I asked The Boy if he wanted to do a construction project. He enthusiastically said, “Yes,” and ran inside to grab his gear: Reflective vest, tool belt, helmet. We went to the basement to get a measuring tape for his belt. I grabbed a claw hammer, some pliers, a staple gun. I wait for times like these when I can do something with my son. Cartoons and baseball is still a no-no, so I take what I can get.

The father-son repair project “Before” photo. There is no “After” photo.

We get to the swing set. The Boy needs to measure the steps that are being repaired. He measures and marks them with a pencil. I haven’t removed the nails or the staples yet, but he needs to measure anyway. I remove the staples and nails. The Boy measures again. I line up the rungs and staple them in. Some need more than one. No problem. It just may take a minute or two longer than expected. Suddenly, The Boy needs to use the bathroom. He just went before he started, but he’s Union. On his way back to the project, he sees his bike. He just wants to ride it for a minute before he comes back to work. He never came back. His vest is on the patio. I pick it up along with his measuring tape and the rest of the tools and put them back on the bench. Our two-minute bonding session comes to an end.

Film Lesson

Monday through Friday is for schoolwork. You’ve read about the drama. You’ve read about the running and the yelling. The blood, sweat, and tears that produce a sentence with a word-count that fits on one hand.

On Friday, we celebrate the end of the week with Movie Night. Movie Night happens on Friday and Saturday Nights. We have spent the past few weeks working through the “Avengers” franchise. Good movies. The Boy picked Pokémon. I didn’t think it was terrible. Some members of the household have respectfully disagreed.

My turn to pick a movie is coming. Some members of The Gaggle have dreaded this. I have discussed movies with them from time to time. I love movies. I love talking about them, referencing them, and quoting them. I love all types of movies. On Halloween for example, The Oppressed and The Boy love watching “Frankenstein” and “Dracula”. They are old movies, but the children love them nonetheless.

For one of The Gaggle, a movie being old is reason enough to not watch it. Anything made more than 10 years ago is too old and not worth her time. She says the main problem is me being too old and that is why I can’t pick a good movie. Movies that I think are good (“The Magnificent Seven”) are really bad, and if I pick a terrible (“old”) movie, (“Chinatown”), she will go to her room and not come out.

This has been a point of contention between the two of us. Everything about me is old: My movies. My music. I’m old. She calls me, “Boomer”. Delightful child.

I could educate her about movies but that would mean stepping away from the daily house and homework duties. Wife is working 20 hours a day and the children think this is one big vacation for them. Their daily chores only get in the way of that. A break would be nice. I guess there’s always Movie Night.

Dish Duty

The Oppressed got moved to laundry. We ran out of clean clothes. Another of the Gaggle took over dish duty. Aaaannnd…

Like every other house, things have been pretty busy here during Coronapalooza. We decided everyone here should have some extra chores to do since me, The Wife, The Oppressed, The Boy, and The Gaggle are all pretty much inside the house 24/7. Speaking of blessings, I’m not sure if I mentioned this but an additional child from the neighborhood comes and stays with us during the day while Mom is at work.

The first round of chores went rather well. I was on dish duty. One of The Gaggle did laundry and she was very efficient with it. After a while things got changed up to break up the monotony. The Oppressed got moved to laundry. We ran out of clean clothes. Another of the Gaggle took over at dish duty. Aaaannnd….

She needed a little bit of a learning curve. That’s where I come in. I am an expert when it comes to easing children into work and responsibilities, so you can imagine the train wreck you’re about to read about.

We started easy. I gave her the things to put in the dishwasher. I washed. She dried. We both put things away. She had to put a plastic cup in the cabinet. She said she couldn’t reach. I reminded her it was closer than the candy she can get at the top shelf of the cabinet. I saw the lip stick out. I saw the look of hope disappear from her eyes. Her bottom lip was quivering. Her hands went up in the air.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “No one else has to do this. Just me!”

The gaggle enduring her daily torture.
The never-ending pile is behind her.

No one else was doing laundry, I explained to her. At this point, no one was doing laundry. No one else was cooking, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, the children I did love were assembled in front of the TV playing with the Nintendo Switch. My Nintendo Switch, which I haven’t laid my hands on in about two months… But I digress.

There are other things to go into the dishwasher, but they are under things that need to be washed by hand. I wash. She dries and puts them away. She’s about to put away something that still has water on it. It’s running down the side. I tell her to go over it one more time. More crying. More lamentations. Tears of my children. The ones I love are enjoying themselves. She is a slave. No one else is doing this.

She throws herself around the kitchen. She falls to the floor in the direction of the open dishwasher. Her face misses the corner of the door by millimeters. She yells. I pushed her. I punished her for not working. She wipes her face on the towel. I have washed five dishes during this episode. There are more things to dry but she needs a new towel. “You wiped your face on that towel,” I tell her. “You need a new one.” She throws the towel in the air. She has to get a new towel. Where are the towels? I tell her they are in the same place they’ve been for the past six month. She goes to the drawer for another towel, muttering to herself about her lot in life. Her mistreatment. The shame of it all. The humanity.

Home-fooling Around

Our adventures in parenting include taking care of our own children, children in our neighborhood, and some foster children. Our record of biological/foster combo is five. With the recent addition of a child from our street coming over for the day while her parents go to work, we now have a new record of six. Thank you. We’re very proud.

Like other households from sea to shining sea, we are tasked with home-schooling our children. This is easy with some children (The Gaggle). It’s not so easy for others (The Oppressed and The Boy).

We normally start school around 9:00. This is about an hour later than when it started when our children actually “went to school”. Sounds good, right? You’re starting later. You’re waking up later. You know lunch is going to be longer. This sounds like a good deal. Unless, of course, you happen to be The Oppressed or The Boy.

The Boy’s assignments consist of writing exercises. There are three-letter words in front of him. He identifies the letters. says the words, and then writes the words. Apparently, this is work more in line with PhD candidates. Rather than just say and write the 10 or 12 words in the assignment, The Boy would rather pitch a fit and try to run to Wife. Wife is working at home. The Boy sure she’ll save him from this torture. Writing words. Who does this to children?

Five hours. Six words.

In the afternoon, after a leisurely lunch, I have The Boy sit down and do his reading. I am a taskmaster if you don’t know this already. Just ask the Miracles of Christ. I select a book that may have about 20 pages, large type, and pictures. Allow me to explain “reading”. I read the book and he chimes in when it comes to “the, as, a, now” and other challenges that make “War and Peace” look like something you start and finish on a subway ride.

The Boy tries to run. He wants another book. This one is too hard. (Google “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”.) I’m mean. He hates me. No one else does this to their children. In the time he spends throwing himself down on the ground and cursing my name, we could have read this book and “War and Peace”.

The day is done. The Boy goes to bed and prays for himself and the rest of the abused, overworked children around the world who have to read two or three words on a page. I sit down with my laptop and a bourbon and start writing more words in one night than children have to read in an entire week. This, of course, is a lie. Just ask the children.