Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wolverines are dangerous creatures, after all.

As the token male of the family, It would appear that I am responsible for a number of key tasks around the house. One might say too many tasks. I'm sure that my fellow dads have the same issue in their own household. Here, I'm the grill master. The bug squasher. The closet purger. The handyman. The only one who will go within ten feet of a drain so clogged by toothpaste and hair gunk that it actually laughs at you if you dare threaten it with a dose of Draino and a drain snake.

We've gotten into a pattern around this house. It sounds something like this. Note that "her" pretty much refers to any member of the family that isn't me:

Her: Dad! Spider!
Me: Yeah? So?
Her: Kill it!
Me: You kill it!
Her: Uh uh. That's your job. I'm not going near no scary spider nuh uh.
(dad begrudgingly gets up from couch, squishes spider, and returns to couch)
Her: Did you wash your hands?
Me: Why would I do that? I used a tissue to squish it.
Her: You HAVE to wash your hands! Please dad, for god's sake, you're touching the couch after squishing an ooky spider!
Me: You don't seem to have a problem lying right where Daisy spent the last hour licking her own crotch.
Her: DAD!!!!!!
Me: Sigh...fine....if it will make you go away....

Basically, any time I hear someone in the house yell something that starts with "Dad!", I immediately cringe, realizing it means more work for me.

I started giving this a little thought and, frankly, I'm doing my children a great disservice by taking care of many of the tasks around the house that they could should be doing themselves. Tasks that they will need to know how to do in their later years if only to avoid blowing up the house or getting attacked by hungry wolverines. I mean, when will my kids learn to change their own batteries, for goodness sake?

So, I've decided it's time for a little survival boot camp.

After a modicum of consideration and perhaps a Sam Adams or two, I've come up with a list of practical, everyday tasks that Things #1 and #2 need to learn if they are ever to avoid that wolverine attack. Here's what I've come up with so far. Please feel free to suggest others.

  • How to run the lawn mower without losing a toe
  • How to use the leaf blower AND get the leaves to successfully form a pile
  • How to run the dishwasher. Wait - how to LOAD and run the dishwasher. There's an art to it properly, so you don't end up with bowls full of water and that one fork with the rice stuck in it, after all.
  • How to push that little red button on the GFCI outlet after attempting to run the hair dryer at the same time as the hair straightener and tripping the breaker.
  • How to stop the toilet from overflowing
  • How to use the plunger on a clogged toilet
  • How to clean the plunger after use
  • How to use a shovel
  • How to sweep the floor and not make it look worse than when you started
  • How to get dad another Sam Adams. Wait - how to get a Sam Adams AND pop the top
  • How to light the gas stove without blowing up the house.
  • How to turn off the gas stove so as not to blow up the house
  • How to call the fire department after you've blown up the house
  • How to use the vacuum cleaner
  • How to unclog the hair from the vacuum cleaner
  • How to unclog the hair from the drain
  • How to untangle the hair from the ceiling fan (don't's a thing)
  • How to clean that backside of the hairdryer, where all the dust collects
  • Yeah, there's issues with hair around this place.
  • How hanging a 5 lb. picture on a wall should involve a nail, not an entire roll of scotch tape.
  • How to hammer a nail
  • How to change a light bulb
  • How to close the freaking door behind you, what do you live in a barn?
  • How to put the vegetable drawer back on it's track in the fridge after you've pulled it out too far, rather than just jamming it in there with the refrigerator door half closed.
  • How to read an error message on the computer screen and remember what it said just before the computer ignited, rather than just telling me, "dad, something's wrong with the computer".
  • How to squish your own damned spider.
It seems I have a lot of work ahead of me. I'd better get another beer first.

I've made a huge mistake.

Back in my formative years, back before pudding was handed to you in a disposal plastic cup and its only protection from the elements was that deliciously rubbery skin, I had a bike.

This bike had a banana seat, sparkly green paint (it was a MANLY sparkly green), and a three-speed shifter on the down-tube that looked like it was cribbed from an Iroc-Z.

Back in those days, bikes were tough and made for abuse.  Like the other boys in my neighborhood with their banana-seat bikes, I would grab a scrap of plywood from dad's workshop to use as a makeshift ramp for jumping curbs. No helmets. No parents following closely behind. This led to my eventual enjoyment of single-track mountain biking as a young adult, something I still like to do when I'm not at the chiropractors office nursing a slipped disk. But rarely was there a day during the summer where I didn't just take the bike out on the street and ride back and forth for hours with little supervision and dreams that the banana seat was actually the driver's seat of that Iroc-Z, and Iroc-Z with one badass suspension made for jumping over curbs.

The mistake I've made is to teach my children how to ride a bike using current 21st century methods.

I remember getting them started on their little "Foxy" bike. 

Things #1 and #2 were taught how to coast and pedal carefully back and forth in the cul de sac. When a daughter fell off, dad was there to give her moral support and nurse the bleeding. They were taught to be so paranoid about helmets that they would refuse to be within ten feet of the bike without one. They were never taught what it was like to jump a curb. To build a ramp. To even stand up on the pedals. 

Now that the kids are 10 and 13, they should just want to pull their bikes out and disappear down the street, enjoying the sunshine. Instead a typical bike ride involves dad getting up early to strap everything to the car, fill water bottles, and pump up tires, then driving to the nearest rail trail, unstrapping everything, and leading the family in a ride. A STRAIGHT ride. No hills, no curbs, no crazy flying down a grassy hill only to flip over the handlebars, suck up the pain, and try it again. That's not biking. That's riding a monorail. 

I sense now that the kids view biking as a means to an end - dad means to get everyone outdoors and away from screens, and the kids mean to ride just long enough to make it to the nearest lunch place halfway down the rail trail. And in the end, dad drives home, the kids disappear into the house, and dad's stuck unstrapping those bikes again and storing them in the garage, to remain there until he, and only he, demands the next family bike ride.

I've made a huge mistake.