When kids outnumber their parents, something strange happens. There is a sadistic magic that multiplies their messy hands while shrinking our arms so that everything soiled is slightly out of reach. And the children are everywhere at the same time like little wind-up toys that rumble this way and that – only kids never power down. They just keep going and going until the parents fall out from exhaustion and give up on things like bedtime, nutrition, and cleanliness.
In my house, we grown-ups played a little game called divide and conquer. At three kids, we went from a man-to-man to a zone defense. When we had our fourth we switched to a box-and-one to manage the troublemaker of the group. Whatever the game, I am sure we lost more than we won.
There were years when neither of us spent ten minutes alone, not even to go to the bathroom. If we managed to shut them all out, there would invariably be little fingers wiggling underneath the door or a persistent knock.
But then, something happened. They began to construct vivid scenarios using their imaginations. They dressed up, created games, and directed plays while closing themselves in a different room to keep our prying eyes out! We weren’t invited to their budding world of make-believe.
And for the first time in several years, we got to do adulty stuff.
I held the remote, which I hadn’t controlled in forever. Our TV had been stuck on Disney and I yearned for a mindless R-rated movie. You know the kind: blood, guts, killing, and mayhem. A movie short on plot and high on action. We short-on-brain men love that stuff.
One day, my wife left me alone with them and when they entered their make-believe world, I found a movie: Déjà Vu with Denzel Washington. I was quickly entranced as Denzel flirted with time-travel to nab the killer. (Spoiler alert) The flick culminates with a spectacularly violent death scene in which the villain gets shot, hit with a car, AND blown to smithereens! Awesome.
Awesome… that is, until you emerge from your movie coma and realize that your youngest three children are in the room with you and have witnessed the entire bloody conclusion.
“What happened to him, daddy?”
“Was that his head flying in the water?”
“Can men really burn like that?”
As I imagined the incendiary stare I was soon to get from my wife, the question rolling through my mind was where she would store my ashes – if men do, in fact, burn.
How can you scrub the memories of three bright children before mom gets home?
I’ll answer that for you – you can’t. They remembered then and they remember now. With all of them home from college, dad’s parental lapses have been a favorite topic and this one ranks right up there. I would say it is an anomaly, but that would be a lie. There were several sketchy choices that backfired, many of which were centered around movies they watched too early. But looking back, it was kind of a mixed bag. I mean, follow my logic: if I hadn’t periodically scared the bejesus out of them, they probably would have learned to sleep in their own beds. Ergo, they wouldn’t have come to our bed every night and mommy loves to snuggle with her babies.
So I suppose you could say, my dear, I did all of those boneheaded things that scared the crap out of our children for you. You’re welcome.