Evenings at Home

In the third and final part of comparing home life for me growing up and the home life my children endure, I would like to look at the evening hours. The evening usually starts with dinner and takes us right into bedtime. Adults reading this will no doubt find striking similarities between how well-behaved they were when they were growing up and how tough the circumstances are for their children today.

Me: I may or may not be finishing homework when I am called for dinner, which has been cooked by one or both of my parents. Parents, siblings, and I sit down at the table. We eat the meal said parent(s) cook. We eat. We talk.

Children: Call children to assemble around the table in the dining room. After two or three such announcements, we finally have everyone. Miracles of Christ see what is for dinner and immediately order something else. “Something else” usually refers to leftovers in the refrigerator. The stuff we cooked the night before that was gross and made them lose their appetites, but I digress.

Me: Sit at table eating my meal quietly while diligently answering questions about my day. Remain seated until plate is cleaned and I am excused. My parents may tell you a story about me doctoring my vegetables with ketchup or steak sauce. We’re looking into nursing homes.

A boy with hands folded.
A historically accurate photo of me folding my hands saying grace.

Children: After finding acceptable meals and sustenance for our little cherubim, we are finally ready to sit down to our meal. I try to talk to my wife but as soon as I utter my first syllable, The Oppressed and The Boy suddenly need to inundate us (read: Wife) with questions and stories. These are the same children who give me one-word answers all afternoon when I try to ask about school or their friends.

Meanwhile, we play our favorite game while eating dinner. We play “How long until The Boy needs to jump out of this seat and run around the table?” It’s usually one or two minutes. This is the only time we allow screens at the table so one of The Gaggle can use the stopwatch to see how long his self-control holds out.

Me: Dinner is finished. I have cleaned my plate and drained my glass of whatever it is my parents put in front of me. Usually milk as I was a growing boy. I bring my plate, silverware, and glass to the dishwasher and proceed to my room where I finish my homework, study, or find a quiet, constructive activity with which to occupy me.

Children: After telling the Miracles of Christ to sit down for the fourth time, we all take our plates from the dining room to the kitchen. The children, who inform us they are not hungry, return to the dining room to collect their plates. The Gaggle recaps how many times The Boy got up from his seat and what he did while everyone else was eating. Some children will either start to wash the dishes or run to their rooms to avoid washing the dishes, it really depends on who is saddled with the task. Those who are not burdened by the chore run to their rooms for a screen or a video game.

Me: After a few hours, I put on my pajamas without being told, brush my teeth, say good night to my parents. I go upstairs to my room, say my prayers, reflect on the productive day I had and fall asleep ready for what lies ahead of me tomorrow.

Children: Run around the house and say good night to everyone. Run around the house again to give a hug because they couldn’t have done that when they were saying good night. Ask for a story, maybe three or four. Eventually fall asleep.

Home-fooling Around

Summary

I’m trying to help the children with their remote learning. I’m thinking they would rather I didn’t.

This episode is also available as a blog post: http://brave-daddy.com/2020/05/03/home-fooling-around/

Transcription

School Days Past and Present Struggles (Homework Then and Now)

Last week, we looked at a typical morning in the lives of my children versus a typical morning in my own childhood. This week, I would like to look at an afternoon at my house today versus a typical afternoon in my formative years. As a parent, I’m sure you will notice the stark contrasts between the times and the behaviors of the children in the scenarios. You may even find similarities between this house and yours, as well as my childhood and your own.

Me: I walked home, just as I walked to school. It didn’t matter what the weather was. Everyone in my neighborhood walked to and from school. School wasn’t far from where we lived and the walk not only gave us exercise and fresh air, but it also prepared us for the rigors of homework, reading, and studying that we readily embraced when we arrived home.

Children: Immediately upon being released from school, the children nervously look around for my car. Sometimes I park a little further from the school than normal, which means it takes longer for the Miracles of Christ to see their transport and refuge. On those days, their collective sigh of relief is longer and louder. On other days, they realize there is no such refuge and they are forced to march miles (it’s more like a little less than one mile) uphill in punishing, unforgiving elements (sunshine and a light breeze) barefoot, tired, and hungry.

On other days, they are forced to march miles uphill in punishing, unforgiving elements barefoot, tired, and hungry.

Me: Upon returning home, I remove my shoes, hang up my jacket and place my bag in the hall, out of the way of anyone who may come or go through said hall. Kiss my mother and say, “Hello.” Proceed to the kitchen for an apple or other such healthy and delicious snack. Return to the hall for my bag and go upstairs to my room.

Children: Doors open before I can even stop the car. I slam on the brakes to make sure I don’t roll over any cherubs who are inspired by the weekend’s screening of “Marvel”. I follow the cherubs into the house, carrying their bags that were somehow forgotten in the car. When I reach the top of the stairs, I see the door is wide open, prompting me to hear my father’s voice in my head. (“What am I, heating the city of Lynn?”). I enter the house, close the door, and nearly trip over discarded jackets and sweatshirts that mark the path from the door, through the porch, to the kitchen.

As I enter the house, I hear the snack drawer being opened and slammed shut. I call to the Miracles of Christ to collect their bags and pick up their jackets they “forgot”. My gentle, loving voice is drowned out by the stampeding footsteps hauling it upstairs. Doggie cowers under a chair thinking a herd of elephants is coming after her. Kitty books it to the basement thinking it’s Doggie running after her.

Me: I’m at my desk with books and notebooks out, ready to tackle the intellectually stimulating exercises before me. Off to my side is my snack on a plate with a napkin. I spent the morning tidying up my space and I would hate to clutter it with any garbage. It would have wasted my efforts in the morning and delayed my afternoon duties.

A child sitting at a desk. Books, pencils, glasses, a clock, and an apple are on the desk.
A typical afternoon for me after school. Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

Children: Pieces of torn granola bar and candy wrappers lead a trail upstairs, picking up where the jackets and sweatshirts leave off. The gate upstairs is wide open. Doggie, recovering from her trauma, sees the opening and gallops upstairs. I chase after her, hoping to catch her before she leaves some sort of surprise in my bedroom. I lead Doggie back downstairs into the yard and return upstairs where The Boy has something shoved in his mouth before I can ask what he’s eating and suggest something that won’t overload his delicate system with sugar that will amp him up far beyond bedtime. I remove work from his bag. He protests, saying he just finished school and needs a break before he is subjected to mental torture. (He has to add and then color the boxes based on the sum he added.) I go downstairs to let Doggie back in. The Oppressed is in the living room with The Gaggle watching a YouTube video of someone narrating someone else’s video. I wonder what I’m doing wrong with my life as the children explain to me the genius and high entertainment value of what is being offered. The Oppressed leaves the room under protest and complains about her arduous work that has been heaped upon her by uncaring, heartless teachers.

Meanwhile, The Boy is cursing my name as well as his evil teacher. He doesn’t want to color and refuses to fill the box, which is supposed to be red. He goes to every room of the house searching for that perfect shade of red that doesn’t exist in the box of crayons, pencils, and markers in his room. The crayon I find, marked “red” is the wrong one and I don’t know what I’m doing. In the middle of coloring, a sentence needing to be commuted by the governor, I ask about empty wrappers laying about the room. The Boy has no idea what I’m talking about and I need to be a kinder parent instead of one that enjoys forcing him to (wait for it) color in boxes.

The slave ship from "Ben Hur".
Homework at my house today

Me: Written exercises are done. Assignments are placed in proper books and notebooks. I go downstairs with my dish and napkin, discard garbage and napkin into the trash and place dish in dishwasher. Wash my hands and go back upstairs read and study.

Children: Homework is done. They never should have received so much, or any at all. One assignment is on a table. Another is on the dresser, of all places. Folder, provided specifically to keep assignments is in another room. No one can explain why. I take my place in the guard tower as the children place their work in the folder and put away the folder. The bags are placed by the door so they will be ready to go the next morning. The Oppressed is on the computer emailing Congress to ban homework assignments. The Boy is with her making sure his grievances concerning coloring are not forgotten.

Me: In my room reading and studying until called for dinner.

Children: Screen Time. Can’t be bothered to come to the kitchen to eat. They’re not hungry and have better things to do.

Check my podcast for exciting stories and episodes at https://anchor.fm/greg-gorman0

Kitty

Summary

Our cat patrols the property protecting all of us. Volume is low in the first few seconds. Sorry about that.

This episode is also available as a blog post: http://brave-daddy.com/2020/04/20/kitty/ — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Transcription

A Morning in the Life

Summary

My mornings are spent waking children up multiple times. Getting them out of bed is the easy part of the day.

This episode is also available as a blog post: http://brave-daddy.com/2020/03/30/a-morning-in-the-life/ — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Transcription

Modern Morning Struggles

We have a busy house: two (technically three) adults and five (technically four) children. We also have a dog, a cat, and numerous visitors that come by, some of them stay overnight. We don’t mind it. Wife and I have always said we wanted to have “that house” in the neighborhood where kids are always over playing and people are constantly visiting.

The one downside to the high-traffic lifestyle is the upkeep required of a house with five (or four) children and two pets, one of whom isn’t quite housebroken. One of my first jobs was at a restaurant where I washed dishes and bussed tables. Some days, working at that restaurant all day or night was easier than preparing a meal or cleaning up after said meal.

As part of preparing our Miracles of Christ for adulthood, we assign everyone tasks and chores. This also lessens the burden on one or two people. Everyone, even The Boy, has a task that changes every week or two so people don’t feel like they’re stuck with the worst job in the house forever. Some chores are easier than others. Some children are better than others.

I’ve referenced the children and their given chores many times before. We’ve had mornings digging through drawers and piles of clean clothes downstairs for socks. We’ve washed dishes and silverware just before sitting down to dinner. I have repeatedly asked, “Who has (fill in the blank with a chore)?” as a way of reminding our miserable little darlings that they are charged with a certain responsibility and their services are desperately needed at that moment.

Wife and I have stepped in more than a few times to prevent the ever-growing mountain of clothes and/or dishes from falling down upon us or our loved ones. People get busy. Children are in school. Two of the children work. Two others play sports. Wife works. I chauffeur children to school, work, sports, doctor’s appointments, as well as handle grocery shopping and handling whatever pick-ups and drop-offs are required depending on the day. Like I said, people get busy.

My bedroom on a typical morning.

As busy, as it gets, wife and I are still confused as to how things can sometimes get so out of control. You see, this was never a problem when I was a deferential, obedient child. To learn responsibilities, my parents gave me chores to do like a lot of children get as they are growing up. These chores were done quickly and without hesitation. It was usually after school. A typical day went like this: I would make up (on my own) and make my bed. After getting dressed, I would go downstairs and say, “Good morning,” to my parents. I would eat my breakfast. After breakfast, I would put my things in the dishwasher without being asked, go back upstairs and get dressed, brush my hair, brush my teeth. I would spend the remainder of the morning straightening out my room and making sure everything was in place, especially my work area when it was time to do my homework after school.

Today it’s different. Today, I go into my children’s rooms and try to wake them up. They roll over and pull the covers over their head. When I try to nudge them and tell them they have to wake up and get ready for school, they groan and curse my name. They inform me they don’t want to get up and they won’t get up. Finally, they begrudgingly trudge into the kitchen wrapped in a blanket. They rest their head on their hand, elbow on the table and demand to know what’s for breakfast. Loyal readers and other struggling parents know the daily menu is never up to snuff. From there, it’s back to their rooms to get dressed.

I was out the door ready to walk to school as a child. I would get there with time to spare. I wasn’t barefoot and it wasn’t uphill, but it was nice to be able to get some exercise and fresh air before my day at Academia.

Nowadays, I let the cherubim know I will be in the car and we are leaving in two minutes. This announcement is always preceded by five-and-ten-minute warnings. After waiting in the car and wondering why there is no activity progressing from upstairs to downstairs to the porch out the door and to the car, I go back inside. One child is under a bed looking for shoes. Another doesn’t have socks to wear. They do have socks but not the right ones. This always baffles me since it’s cool now to wear mismatched socks and your pants have to be short so everyone can see you’re wearing mismatched socks. If that’s the case, why, then, does it matter what socks you’re wearing. “It just does,” is the answer I get as the children are forcefully marched to the car for the transport to prison – I mean, school. Along the way, there are complaints of the heated seats not being turned on and the lack of quality programming on the radio.

I would arrive to school early and ready to learn. My coat and bag were meticulously hung up and I would be at my desk with books and work properly put away and necessary materials out on my desk. Pencil sharpened, eyes on paper, mind on the moment. All of this is true. I’d tell you to ask my parents, but they’re very busy these days. Very, very busy.

Nowadays, we get to school just before the bell rings. Children tumble out of the car, still complaining about the cold seats and how they were rushed out of the house with empty stomachs. They carry on to school, looking for a classmate or an adult they can complain to. Hopefully, one of these adults will take pity on them and my children can live with these kind souls who obviously know how to treat children. No such luck. The best my children can hope for is a sympathetic ear. I call back to the Miracles of Christ for them to return to the car for the snack they left in the car or the folder that fell out of their bag. They roll their eyes and begrudgingly return for their forgotten personal effects. Of course, I should have seen all of this before they left the car. I return home to do my own work, or maybe clean up a mess.

Math Problems

Summary

I would like the children to check their homework before putting it away. Here’s one genius method.

This episode is also available as a blog post: http://brave-daddy.com/2020/03/01/math-problems/

Transcription

The Boy Needs a Haircut (Where’s the Barber?)

As a parent, one of my main jobs is to make sure my children, all of them, look respectable. This means sometimes checking them before we leave the house and making sure their clothes are clean, their faces are washed. The sort of things everyone does everyday without even thinking. People do it because they need to do it.

Some days are easier than others. Sometimes the Miracles of Christ get in the car looking respectable and ready to go. Other times I ask if they even looked in the mirror at all in the morning. They look at me with that stare, trying to understand exactly what it is I’m talking about. They look fine (they don’t look fine). They’re ready to go to school. Dad, you worry too much.

The boy has let his hair grow for a while now and it looks… well, he could use a trim. I could also use a trim. It’s been a while since either of us has seen a barber. It bothers me more than it bothers him and it bothers me enough for the both of us.

The Boy

I would like to see a barber but, like a lot of people, I’m not sure about the ‘Rona. I’m hearing a lot about the vaccines and I really hope there’s light at the end of this long tunnel. I’m ready to leave the house again without a mask and talking to people through glass like it’s visiting hours at the state penitentiary. I’m looking forward to sitting in a chair and telling the barber what I want without saying, “What?” because I can’t hear the nice person through their mask. It’s also nice to have a mask-less conversation.

We have dealt with this by the Wife setting up a makeshift barber shop in the bathroom. She does this when she gets the chance and cleans up the people in the house who would like it. The Boy turns down this service and his hair gets longer and longer. I have tried suggesting a “Boy’s Day” where we go out and get haircuts. I’m not saying he needs to get it cut short. I just don’t want him looking like he was auditioning for “Lord of the Flies”. I’m willing to ignore my apprehension towards the ‘Rona and sit in a chair and deal with someone talking through a mask. The Boy is not interested. I remind him police officers need to get their hair cut. I suggest matching haircuts. We get both get the “High and Tight” look. We can look like police officers. The Boy has since told me he no longer wants to be a policeman if he has to lose his long hair.

No. Here’s the Boy.

Another day passes with long hair that falls in front of his eyes. I will continue to try to help him so that he can at least see where he’s going. In the meantime, I can at least hope the hair gives enough padding for his face if he walks into something.

The Afterschool Death March

I thought I could get some exercise and enjoy a nice afternoon with my daughter. My daughter thought her father loved her… This episode is also available as a blog post: http://brave-daddy.com/2020/01/27/the-afterschool-death-march/ Twitter: @Greg_the_Brave Facebook: Drink Your Juice — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Summary

I thought I could get some exercise and enjoy a nice afternoon with my daughter. My daughter thought her father loved her…

This episode is also available as a blog post: http://brave-daddy.com/2020/01/27/the-afterschool-death-march/

Twitter: @Greg_the_Brave

Facebook: Drink Your Juice — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app

Transcription

A Little Getaway

Coronapalooza continues to affect our daily lives. I still need to remind my little Miracles of Christ to bring a mask with them when we leave for school. Make sure people have a mask when they go to work. Make sure I have a mask. Masks, masks, everywhere masks.

We also need to do a little extra coordinating if we want to go out to eat. There are seven of us. I don’t even know what the regulations are anymore. I don’t know what the limits are for parties at restaurants. Sometimes we’ll have two separate tables. I try to lobby for a table of two and a table of five. I figure the children can take care of themselves and wife and I can have a chance to catch up and discuss whatever strategies we need for an upcoming task or challenge. This is hard because the children (the teenagers), despite being reminded we are in public (which means we all have to act normal), feel the need to verbally assault one another and criticize each other for their sophomoric behavior. These instances of showing off their immaturity will sometimes include a physical assault on one’s person. Again, wife says she doesn’t have teenagers. She has toddlers.

We recently tried to spend a couple of days at a hotel. We thought some time in the pool and walking around Boston would be a great way to spend a couple of days. When we got there, we found out the pool was closed (not blaming the guy at the front desk unless he designs the website). That put a little wrinkle in our plans. No problem. We could still find other things to do. One day, we decided to visit the U.S.S. Constitution and museum. This got me excited (see “The Valley Forge Death March”). I was totally up for that, I couldn’t remember the last time I saw Old Ironsides. The first time I did visit was when my grandparents took me and my brother one day after school. I was about the same age as The Oppressed is now.

We got to the ship. It was closed because of the ‘Rona. I thought being outside would minimize the chance of contracting it. I guess not. We went to the museum. As soon as we got inside, we were informed by the nice person behind the desk (and barrier) that the museum was closed because of the ‘Rona. Exhibits, enclosed in glass cases, had sheets draped around them… To protect them from the ‘Rona, I guess. Wife and I looked at each other. What were we going to do? The nice person behind the desk (and barrier) did inform us that their gift shop was open. The ‘Rona can’t get you there.

We went to the gift shop. The gaggle bought snacks and drinks. It had been a few hours since they last had some tonic, so they were suffering from withdrawal; and what’s a drink without snacks? You can’t have one without the other. I’ve learned a lot from teenagers.

I walked around the gift shop. The Boy, The Oppressed and I saw toy muskets for sale. I gave a quick lesson on how they worked and the process that was involved in loading and firing one, reminding them that you had to do all that while people were firing at you. After the impromptu history lesson, I found some coloring books, decks of cards and other “fun” (for me) things to do to while we were in our hotel room. The decks of cards are still unopened. In the middle of the excitement of finding the dated, mundane, toys and diversions, I forgot the children had brought screens with them. How foolish of me. Why bore yourself to tears with “War” or “Go Fish” with someone right in front of you when you can play Roblox or Minecraft with someone, anyone, remotely?

It certainly wasn’t what we were expecting. Not much is these days for anyone here. Oh, well. At least we were able to hang out together and get outside for some exercise and fresh air. Wife was able to get away from her work for a little bit. We were able to get away and we had some good stories to tell the dog.

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