Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ants in the Potato Salad: Stay-Home-Fatherhood Ain't No Picnic in the Park!

Since my lay-off earlier this month, I have been taking on the responsibilities of a stay-at-home father. I had no earthly idea that this simple(?) duty ranked right up there with other fun and easy occupations such as septic tank waste management, Hell's Angel biker bar bouncer, and Tasmanian Devil wrangler.

Aw, I reckon it ain't quite that bad... at least not during the afternoons. Running to school and daycare to pick up the young'uns is kind of a breezy get-out-of-the-house-into-the-warm-sunshine deal. It's getting the kids up in the morning, fed, dressed, and to their proper places in childhood society that is an entirely different matter.

It starts rather early in the AM. After writing, answering emails, and checking out the various horror discussion boards for a couple of hours, I rouse the household at 6AM on the dot... first my wife, then my oldest daughter, and then the two little 'uns. Hustling Joyce into the shower, I prepare breakfast. It's nothing very elaborate, I assure you. No Iron Chef with matching asbestos apron mans the Kelly kitchen. Usually it consists of Toaster Struddles (or Toaster Screwddles, as Makenna calls them), Pop-Tarts, or frozen pancakes or waffles. The quicker and easier the better. Sometimes I'll get a wild hair and fix instant muffins or a fried egg and bacon sandwich on toast, but normally those time-consuming meals are reserved for the more liesurely weekend.

Since my presence in the morning household has given my wife, Joyce, more liberty, she has taken to leaving around 7AM or a little after. That leaves me to get three kids of various ages and degrees of temperment ready for school and daycare. I had originally intended to keep baby Ryan home with myself during my lay-off, but I'm having to pay full price to keep his spot open in a very demanding and competitive daycare setting, so, heck, I'm taking the little guy. Hope that doesn't make me out to be a mean, ol' Da-Da in your critical eyes.

My oldest daughter, Reilly, is fully capable of getting herself ready at the resourceful age of ten, yet it is she of the bunch that gets screamed at the most during the mad dash for school-readiness. Uh, let me rephrase that... "scream" is a bad word. "Strongly urged with great passion that borders insanity" is more like it. After about six times, a request (Brush your hair! Brush your teeth! Put on your sneakers and not those danged Crocs!) slowly sinks into her head and she becomes motivated. Of course this usually happens two and half minutes before time to leave.

Getting eleven-month-old Ryan and four-year-old Makenna ready is all up to yours truly. If Joyce hasn't laid out their clothes ahead of time, they are likely to show up at school or daycare wearing wrinkled Dora the Explorer t-shirts, camouflauge pants (backwards!), and mismatched socks. I am convinced that an evil sock troll lives in my utility room whose only purpose in the grand scheme of things is to torment Ol' Ron by devouring one sock and leaving the matching one behind. I hope he dies horribly and long-sufferingly of a lint tumor. Anyway, both Ryan and Makenna must go to their respective places clean (or so my wife insists!). This involves the assembly-line washing of faces, armpits, and butts. If it looks clean, I take it as such. I ain't about to go sniffing around to make sure everyone's bodily crevices are minty-fresh.

Then when hair is combed, teeth are brushed, and winter coats are donned, we have to make sure that backpacks (with homework included) are in the car and the kids are properly restrained... using seat belts, of course. Then we're off! I'm backing the Nissan out of the driveway, slinging gravel, scaring squirrels into coronaries and sending every bird in sight South for the winter... and I mean to Antarctica, so furious is my exit from the Kelly property. The school doors open at 7:20 and I usually make it there around that time. Then it's off to daycare another four miles further on. There I kiss Ryan goodbye, pass him to the babyroom worker like a Tennessee Titans quarterback launching a pigskin in the last five seconds of the game, then its back in the car and heading for home. This drive along tranquil and picturesque country roads is always a therapeutic time of day for me; full of numbing relief and an almost dream-like euphoria, with great hopes and expectations for what may be accomplished within the "Ron Time" of 8AM and 1:45 PM. Oh joy and endless rapture!

The funny thing is (and I mean funny strange, not funny humorous) that, prior to my lay-off, Joyce has been doing the entire mad morning ritual by herself... and getting to work on time.
And this includes taking Ryan to daycare first, doubling back to school four miles, then heading onward to her bank job at Carthage eight miles away

I've lately had the strong suspicion that my wife is Wonder Woman. She has just neglected to reveal her true identity to me during these past 18 years of marriage. I knew there was something more to that magic lasso bit than some kinky... uh, well, let's not open that can of worms right now.

My wife... I think I'll keep her! That is, if she'll return the favor.

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