My name is Greg. I’m from Massachusetts and have been a househusband for over nine years. I am a parent and a foster parent You’ll learn more about the cast of characters as we go along, especially the little darlings that have since transformed me from a gentle, live-and-let-live individual into a single malt scotch and craft beer connoisseur.
The Cast of Characters
Me. A college-educated, well-read individual who has turned into a hardened veteran of “The Homework Wars”. Hostage negotiator who frequently deals with hunger-strikes as a result of limited menus and a refusal to cook multiple dishes at mealtimes.
Wife. Mother of “The Boy” and “The Oppressed”. Claims to work in Corporate America but I and a few others seem to think she works for a secretly-funded black-ops branch of the federal government due to long stretches of not being reached and impromptu travel.
The Oppressed. My daughter. Believes I am conspiring with her teacher to make her life miserable and blames me for her not, “enjoying life”. Anti-homework crusader and tireless advocate for oppressed children everywhere.
The Boy. My son. Proudly announces he will work 10 jobs when he grows up. These jobs include building houses and playing a role in a local S.W.A.T. unit. Considerately stacks five or six books in front of his bed for me to read every night.
The Gaggle. Any one or more foster child(ren) that enter and leave our home.
Kitty. Our cat. Kitty likes to think I am her personal climbing post and Wife is her own bed. Kitty enjoys running around in circles at random times during the day and stalking/pouncing on anything that moves. Kitty has already used up seven or eight or her nine lives if you ask Wife.
Sometimes you see kids and you just know what they’re going to do when they grow up. Coaching youth sports gives me insight to plenty of kids. I watch some and I just think to myself what this one could do with a little molding. I see others, like the subject of this entry and think to myself, “Good luck, World.”
I have one player on my team this year who happens to be one of the kids in my neighborhood. So, I already have a feel for his personality and what he will bring to that proverbial “table”. I am also friends with his parents and I love relaying the nuggets this child utters to them from time to time. His dad tells me he’s going to be a foreman when he grows up. I can’t say I doubt that.
I’m going to call this child “Marvin” (Google “Marvin Miller” and you’ll understand why.) Marvin is a kid who makes sure you don’t forget about him. Even after you tell him where he’s playing or when he’s going to bat, He will ask you if it’s his turn yet, or why he can’t play over there. I’ll tell him it’s because there’s already someone over there. He throws his hands in the air and rolls his eyes. “Oh my God!” he exclaims. “Why can’t I just be over there?!” He mutters a few more things that I can’t quite understand because he is walking away and because I have other crises on the infield that require my attention.
Marvin doesn’t miss much, especially when it comes to a break from the action. Immediately after it’s time to take the field, Marvin needs water. I remind Marvin he just had water and he should have had his water while he was on the bench, which, technically, he did have. He thinks for a second and says, “I have to go to the bathroom!'” I get his father’s attention and Marvin and Dad make their way to the bathroom (second time this evening.) Marvin returns and is unhappy to see his coveted position (whichever one he can’t get) has already been claimed by another player. Hands go up. Eye roll. The injustice. The humanity. Why? Why?!
The ‘Rona gave another trial this tried-and-true family had yet to endure: Vacation.
Wife usually picks where we go. I’m happy to go anywhere so I provide the tie-breaking vote if we can’t narrow it down to one place. We did have a place picked out and booked… Then Coronapalooza hit and we were forced to call an audible. We needed a place that would accommodate seven people. We needed a place that would provide fun, diversion and enough space for people to properly social-distance. What better place for that than the Great Outdoors.
Wife has told me time and time again she is a “Hotel Girl”. I did a couple of years in Boy Scouts and my first camping trip was wall-to-wall rain. The heavens opened up and stayed open from the time we made camp to the time we broke camp. We swam, cooked, ate and slept in the rain. I should have checked to see who made those tents because not a drop of water came in the entire week.
We arrived at the campsite; Me, Wife, The Boy, The Gaggle, The Oppressed. We were accompanied by two of wife’s cousins. One of the cousins had three kids. One week. Four adults. Eight kids. What could possibly go wrong?
We set up the tents when we got there. I was ready. We had enough tents to shelter everybody and we were cooking on propane. It wasn’t exactly Valley Forge that week.
Wife and one of the cousins did most of the cooking that week. I helped where I could. I washed some dishes. I monitored the kids swimming. The waves at the beach were fantastic. Everyone went out to the water and tried to remain standing as the large waves came at everybody.
We cooked and cleaned outdoors. We roughed it, especially the gaggle, who did everything they could do to find and use wi-fi. All of the children went a week without screens. It was, by far, one of the longest, hardest weeks they ever endured. the mental anguish. The Oppressed was also concerned for everyone’s safety. On the way to the beach, she saw signs warning about sharks and made sure no one went into the water. I reminded her that sharks did live in that water and we needed to be told about this. The sign convinced her that there were definitely sharks and maybe we shouldn’t go in.
There were other challenges and trials. Some Daddy Long Legs infiltrated tents. I was sent in a couple of times to rescue God’s little creatures. Some of the tents looked like the children (the boys) were actually trying to grow or culture something in their tents. I was glad I had a mask when I went in there. Some of the kids left their shoes out in the rain. Luckily, we had extra shoes packed.
There were hot showers on the premises, so it was nice to be able to keep clean during the week. What wasn’t nice, was having to trip through the roots and rocks in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
Our T-ball season draws to a close. I am proud of the improvements my team made over this brief and unique season. If anything, I hope these troopers will take at least one thing they learned this year and apply it to their game as they grow as people and baseball players.
There were plenty of teachable moments and growing pains this year. I needed to remind players that if they were on one side of the field, there is no need to run to the other side and chase the ball. This was especially important for the first baseman, who somehow thought they could catch and throw at the same time.
Speaking of first base, that position taught my team the importance of sharing. Everyone wanted to play first base and there were usually two or three people congregating and explaining why they needed to play first for that inning. The future union rep was always in the middle of the discussion and explained why everyone else was wrong.
Everyone got out and got some exercise, including me. I got my share of aerobics in by dodging wayward bats and balls coming in without warning. I was also running after the pack of children who needed to tackle each other so someone could throw the ball. Ah, yes. Throwing. How could I forget my little shotput thrower. Every ball hit to them was a chance to show off his arm. It was a good arm, I have to admit. I was constantly reminding Kid Kannon that the object was to throw the ball to first base and not see how many trees they could clear.
The Boy was on my team this year. He has joined The Oppressed in giving up hitting for life. He has no use for it. Hates it and would like to see baseball banned from the world forever.
Yes, it certainly has been a fun-filled year. No more chats with individual players about what they’re having for dinner that evening. No more rundowns of how their parents are at another field to watch a sibling play. No more close calls about how they couldn’t find their glove at home but they remembered they had it in their room and they ran to get it and still made it to the field. No more knowing glances from the other coaches. No more being reminded by my players of who and where there players are. I go back to dealing with five children and continue to show some semblance of organization and balance.
“Walkin’ the dog. I’m just a-walkin’ the dog.” – Rufus Thomas
My children are enterprising. They are constantly seeking new ways to be productive. Whether it’s a way to make money or a way to give back to the community, they are able to come up with ways to improve the world or save up for something they would like to buy.
The Oppressed is usually the one who comes up with these ideas. She thought it would be a great idea to have a lending library on our property. It has been a hit with people in our neighborhood and beyond. There is barely enough room to fit any more books sometimes. That’s when I make a few selections and make room for the next person who wants to come along and be generous. I help her help others.
The latest idea from The Oppressed was a dog-sitting service. Wife would see messages on social media from people looking for someone to take care of Spot or Fluffy for a period of time while they went away. They would come with their pooch a few days before the vacation so doggie and The Oppressed could get acclimated to each other. It seems like a good fit. Doggie returns at the set time for the actual visit and The Oppressed goes to work.
Wife and I help out at times with the dog. We have a little experience with keeping a dog. We had one a long time ago. This dog was a handful. He singlehandedly pulled up the floor on our porch. He chewed bookcases and clawed doors. I think we went through four rugs in our house because he kept peeing. I could go on and maybe I will in another installment of these fantastic adventures, but the point is that Wife and I are experienced when it comes to dealing with problem pets.
At least three dogs who have entered our house during this endeavor have left us presents at various times in various places in our house. One dog tried to mark his territory on a mesh-wire wastebasket. We’ve also had some other problems like a dog whose breath was so bad we could smell their breath from the opposite side of the room. I bought some dental chews hoping it would help things. It didn’t. The dog would want to lick us and we would have a stench on our legs or feet or whatever doggie was trying to lick. We felt bad about it but the dog smelled bad.
I sometimes will join The Oppressed on a morning walk with the dog of the moment. It gives me a chance to get some exercise and talk to the Oppressed. Of course, nothing in going on and everything is great. The same story, by the way, with the older children. You’re obviously reading from half of the greatest parenting combo in the history of Parenting. Our kids are great. Nothing is wrong. They’re great. It’s obvious Wife and I are wonderful.
Of course, there was one time my status as wonderful, perfect parent may have come into jeopardy. In the middle of one night, one particular tenant was being restless and whimpering. Wife and I were woken up by the sounds of a pained pooch. I thought the dog maybe needed to be walked, so I got dressed and took the dog for a walk. This was a strong, good-sized dog and they posed some challenges for me as we saw a skunk up the street. I was able to hold on to the dog and save the both of us from getting sprayed. We returned home. The dog was still whimpering but not as much as before we left the house. Wife and I told The Oppressed about the midnight walk and she was most displeased when she found out I walked the dog without her. This, of course, was her job and she should have been included in this situation that had arisen in the middle of the night. I thought I was doing her a favor. I should have known better.
Like you, Corona screwed a lot of things up with my family. Loyal readers of my heartfelt stories know the challenges faced when it came to homeschooling the Miracles of Christ. You may also recall the fun times when I coached not one, but two baseball teams last spring. Due to Coronapalooza, our season got pushed back to the first week of August and like most T-ball teams, this crop of kiddos comes with their challenges as we tackle the fundamentals.
Given where we are with this whole pandemic, I’m guessing we’re lucky to be doing this at all. We’re slowly easing back into group settings and six kids on a baseball diamond seems manageable. Even when they are in their extended dugout, the tikes are able to keep a safe distance. When our team is up at the plate, my attention is divided between the dugout, the batter, and the baserunners. I’m making sure the batters hands are in the right position. I’m making sure the batter has a level swing. I’m making sure everyone is keeping a safe distance in the dugout.
I also have to make sure the runner on first doesn’t run after the ball. That’s happened. The runner chases the ball, picks it up and will try to throw it. I tell them to not pick it up. They then look around for a fielder to hand it too. If these kids don’t make it in baseball, they certainly have a solid grip on etiquette and manners.
We wear masks on the field. Again, I need to multitask. One fielder is chewing on their mask. Another is making a pretty sand mound… And then there is our future Major Leaguer. This kid doesn’t have an agent but they are able to make sure they have ample water breaks in the middle of the inning. It gets hot out there and they need a drink maybe every other batter. And what happens when you drink? You got it. Said future union dues-payer likes to make sure they are able to use the bathroom as often as they can. Sometimes, I will remind this player they just got a water break and how can they need another one already. That’s when Marvin Miller remembers he hasn’t used the bathroom yet.
Yes. It’s been a rewarding season. I’m still reminding kids to use the gloves they are already wearing instead of trying to catch the ball with their bare hands. Although catching with their bare hands is a small improvement. Some still run away hiding their faces when the ball comes to them.
Taylor Swift wants Starbucks Grandes delivered to her before 11 a.m.
Mariah Carey wanted bendy straws to go with her champagne.
Every diva has their food demands when it comes to what it will take to get them to perform. They don’t even need to be an entertainer preparing for a show before thousands of adoring fans. It can be a child who needs to get up and ready for camp.
Loyal readers of brave-daddy have seen and shared the heartwarming stories of the ungrateful Miracles of Christ. The daily struggles begin when they are told it’s time to get up and face the day. Once they grace us with their presence, they inform me of their displeasure with the day’s menu. There is always one we can count on to be up and out of bed long after they’re supposed to. When this happens, the menu is narrowed down to a piece of fruit or a granola bar. A granola bar. The humanity! This also happens when the children take their sweet time deciding what they want to eat. Time is running out and the menu will reduce to what can be made and consumed in the remaining time they have.
Morning requests are usually something like pancakes. I tell them that’s not possible. We need to get ready. People need to get dressed, pack their bags. Have cereal. Can I get it for them? It’s out of their reach. These are the same little darlings that will move a chair to the cabinet for the candy that is on the top shelf. But no, these are divas and they insist of the highest standards of service. Lady Gaga has her smoothie station. My children need cereal pulled out, poured out and served. Or maybe a breakfast burrito. Why can’t we have pancakes?
Keep in mind these children are running around at camp. They bring water with them. We also try to make sure they have something to drink with breakfast. They want juice. I give them juice. Are you going to drink your juice? Sure. Drink your juice. I am. (They’re not.) It’s time to go. We’re in the car. I hear a voice say, “I’m thirsty.”
This isn’t limited to breakfast. There are plenty of examples of dinner where the children are led to the table and disgusted at the swill and slop before them. Marinated meat. Fresh vegetables. Who does this to children? They don’t want this. They don’t want that. There will be threats if the menu doesn’t change. Strikes. Protests. Polish hostage situations behind bedroom doors. They won’t come out until there are acceptable items on the menu.
Like you, I do what I can to stay healthy. I ride a bike. I take walks. I went to a gym before Coronapalooza. I have been trying to lose or maintain my weight for a while. Some weeks are better than others.
I recently took a walk one night and someone was smiling down upon me on this particular constitutional. I passed a house with a table of boxes. These boxes contained books, CD’s and movies. I still read hard-copy books and collect and listen to CD’s. I read digital books and listen to digital music but I still like books and CD’s.
I was excited to return home with my new finds, one of which was a Genesis CD. I love Genesis. I was listening to it on a CD player (an earlier birthday present) as I was dealing with the mountain of dirty dishes and making dinner. Dinner just happened to be a recipe from a cookbook; another find. I was preparing a delightful batch of Pork and Red Chili and listening to my new find when one of The Gaggle come into the kitchen. Said Gaggle asked me what it was I was listening to. How old was it? What? Oh my God! This turned into another lecture about my questionable taste in music, which led to my questionable taste in movies. I told her I can’t help her if she can’t appreciate or recognize good music. She says, “Whatever,” she says. I’m old. She can’t help me.
Time for dinner. The Pork and Red Chili was enjoyed by everyone except for The Oppressed, who is a vegetarian. Even The Boy seemed to like it. He tends to skip meals that contain spices or more than two ingredients, or don’t involve takeout
A similar incident occurred when I was driving with The Oppressed. I had a CD in the car. She was not impressed with my selection and proceeded to take my phone for more acceptable music. Fortunately, The Oppressed likes the Veruca Salt album I downloaded on my phone and she proceeded to play “Benjamin.” It’s one of the very few selections I have, CD or digital, that The Oppressed will tolerate.
We’re having some issues with Kitty. I don’t know if she’s entering adolescence (she’s 15 months old) or if we have a bona fide psycho kitty on our hands.
There is still a matter of who, exactly, Kitty belongs to. Technically, The Boy got her for his birthday. Being home, I spent a lot of time bonding with Kitty. One of The Gaggle thinks Kitty belongs to them. They will take Kitty to their room. They will pick her up in front of me and tell her how nobody loves her more than them and they are the only one who cares about her. I say that’s a little immature and insecure on their part. The Gaggle says, “No it’s not!” The Gaggle goes to their room, this time, they don’t bring Kitty with them. I take this opportunity to spend a minute with Kitty. I pick her up, rub her head, and tell her who really loves her.
Kitty will also spend time with me and wife at night. This can be good. This can be bad. It’s bad for Wife. I think Kitty likes Wife more than she likes me. Wife disputes this but facts are facts. Kitty is always spending more time with her. It’s nice until Kitty jumps on Wife. This seems to happen just as wife is falling asleep. Wife is peaceful and rested and then Kitty comes into the room and jumps on Wife. Wife is rudely awakened. Specific threats are made regarding Kiki’s future in this world.
Wife likes to keep a cup of water on her nightstand. Kitty knows this. Kitty likes water; Not the water in her own dish, but she likes water. It has become a point of contention between Wife and Kitty. Kitty sees the cup of water. Kitty can’t pick up the cup so she will try to stick her face in the cup to drink it. More often than not, the water will end up out of the cup and on the floor. This always seems to happen early in the morning, two or three hours before Wife is supposed to get up.
One time, Wife thought she had a good idea and put two books on top of the cup of water. Kitty couldn’t see what was in the cup, so she tried to get the books off of the cup for a better look. As a result, everything, books, cup, and contents of said cup were knocked to the floor. Wife cursed Kitty’s name. I hustled Kitty out of the room and closed the door. Kitty was meowing at the door, doubtlessly to see if Wife was alright. I got towels from the bathroom and helped clean up what I could. Kitty is still meowing from the other side of the door. I tell Wife that Kitty is only trying to apologize. Wife didn’t believe me.
I was the proud coach of not one, but two baseball teams last year. I coached The Oppressed and one of The Gaggle on one team, The Boy on the other. Both teams presented their own unique challenges. No matter what team had the practice or the game, I had more of The Gaggle sitting on the bench presenting an additional set of challenges to my parenting strategies and my overall sanity.
There was one particular afternoon where I had to remind myself I love my children and the work I was doing on the baseball field. It had been a challenging afternoon with the budding stars of the diamond that day. I had the usual two children telling my why one should be playing first base and not the other one. Another child was mesmerized by the blades of grass surrounding them, the occasional dandelion in the grass, and anything else not relating to baseball. I found that to be rather odd since baseball was the reason we were all gathered there on that particular day.
The game that particular afternoon mercifully came to an end. I carried the equipment back to the van hoping my last half-ounce of sanity would hold out for the ride home so I could hide somewhere and recharge until the next crisis presented itself. Unfortunately, the next crisis presented itself before the bag was dropped in the van.
I couldn’t help but notice the back of a seat had been touched up a bit by an artists touch. Now, the van at that point had been seven or eight years old but I didn’t recall artwork being included in the list of options when we bought it.
I took a deep breath and calmly called the children to the back of the van. They dutifully assembled and saw the work of art that wasn’t there that morning. I asked them if anyone wanted to take credit for the new work gracing the back of the seat. There were no takers. We get home. Everyone sits at the table. The first thing I do is demand that anyone with “Stupid Pills” hand them over to me that very instant. There is obviously some mental damage here and I need to curb it.
Next, I inform all of the Miracles of Christ that everyone will be punished until the Real Rembrandt steps up and lays claim to the work. They hear me. They understand but they all tell me, swear to me that no one sitting at the table did it.
We begin the days-long interrogation process. Extra chores. No screens. Early bedtimes. The Oppressed is mad at whoever the culprit is. She, as well as the rest of the innocent parties are missing out on screens: the vital staple of any child’s development and well-being. One of The Gaggle offers to take the heat for everyone for the sake of getting it all over and done with. The rest of the Miracles of Christ will owe them down the road.
My wife and I play a guessing game every night. Whodunnit? We have our guesses and theories supporting those guesses. All of the guesses are good and the theories are intriguing. We don’t act on any of these, of course. We still wait for the guilty party(ies) to take it upon themselves to tell us what they’ve done. We have ruled out one of the children because of a “Tell” they have when they do something wrong. The “Tell” is not there. We figure they’re not involved this time.
Wife and I continue to wait for a confession. The children are put to work in the backyard. All of them, including the one we think is clean. There’s a lot of land to be mowed and tended to. We also have trees with falling branches that make it difficult to cut the grass. The Miracles of Christ are charged with removing the sticks from the grass and moved to the patio. This was happening on one particular day when the social worker of The Gaggle came to visit. She saw the children at work and felt this was a little excessive, even if our vehicle was vandalized. I thank the nice lady for bringing her opinion to my attention.
Time passes and someone cracks. They cave. They did it. Was there anyone else. No. They acted alone. Wife and I have the confession we have been waiting for. The rest of the children are off the hook and we discuss the proper punishment for the individual. But wait… There’s more! The guilty party had an accomplice. Said accomplice was sitting back letting the other take the heat. Brilliant child. A budding mastermind. Somewhere on the other side, Al Capone probably did a facepalm.
Punishments are handed down. I assess the situation and determine the retribution to be exacted. Wife thought the punishments were excessive and feels we should tone them down. I agree under protest. We hand down the sentences and wait for the next crisis to befall us.
I started a new job recently. It’s not great. Not glamourous. It is physical but that’s okay. Most of the work I’ve done is physical/manual labor and those types of jobs love me and like to keep me so I guess this is nice and convenient.
We have since moved on from home-schooling to vacation time and I am proud to tell you all of our children have passed and have been promoted to the next grade. The Oppressed. The Boy. The Gaggle. Everyone made it. I’m making another drink.
The Oppressed and The Boy are in camp. It’s a great place. It’s nearby and many of the parents I talk to would like to know if there is a program for grown-ups. This is a camp located within acres on acres of woods. There’s a pond, a pool. You can do archery. you can paddle a canoe. You get there in the morning, swim, play kickball, and eat lunch. After lunch you can go out in the canoe, do a little more swimming, hang out with your friends, maybe have a snack. You play another game and then you can go home. Sounds like a pretty good way to spend a summer day. Right?
My children seem to think so… I guess. I can’t get them to tell me anything about it. I get home. I have dinner. I ask the kids how camp was. “Okay,” they tell me. What did they do? “Stuff.” Care to elaborate? They don’t.
I finished dinner one night. The Oppressed has commandeered Wife’s phone. The Boy is watching YouTube videos. I ask both if they would like to take a walk and talk about their day at camp. The Oppressed runs away. The Boy is too tired.
I guess I’ll just pour a drink and do some writing.