Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nine Days of Summer - Day 3 - Kids in the Attic?

This is the third in a nine-part series, one part for each consecutive day I'll be home on a vacation from work. "Vacation" in a corporate American-ish sense means I'll still be checking in, checking e-mails, and doing all sorts of work-related things, except without having to put pants on, but with small people draped on me. The following is on our list of things to do for the week plus before school starts back up again, my wife goes back to teaching kindergarten, and all Hell breaks loose:

Day 1 is here.
Day 2 can be found here.
And the entire 1979 Major League Baseball All Star game can be found here.

One day when I was 26 years old, I overheard a conversation at work between two thirty-somethings who between them had about 6-7 kids. The man told the woman that he and his wife were finishing some major home project and that they would be dropping the kids off at Day Care to complete the task.

How cold and heartless, I thought, to ship the kids off to Day Care so you could finish some menial house errand. Don't you want to spend every last minute you can with your little cherubs? The moments are fleeting, the memories are fond, and Harry Chapin is out back warming up his pipes, preparing to serenade you outside your window tonight as you throw away a chance to spend another day at home with your precious little ones...I will never send my kids to some strange place when they have all the comforts I can provide. We'll laugh, we'll bond, we'll share lemonade.

Well how quaint.

Forget Day Care, today we would have hired gypsies to babysit.

It's our fault, really, but we had quite a bit of inside work to do on what turned out to be a beautiful day when the kids by all rights should have been playing outside. Someday soon they will reach the ages where we'll force them out of the house and command them not to return before dark unless they are missing a limb or multiple fingers. But at ages 6, 4 and 1, today was not the day.

The dangers are still too great. We live in a decent enough neighborhood, so we don't think anyone would come after them. Plus, our kids have been so programmed to detect Stranger Danger that they initially shy away from many of their older relatives. But you never know. And lately there is an idiot 10-year-old out riding his bike flipping people off as he goes past. I don't want him showing my kids that gesture; I want them to learn that from me someday -- when the time is right. Besides, even if no stranger accosts our kids, I can't trust any of them to run once up the driveway and back without tripping and splitting their lip open. So no.

We held them inside against their will and then asked, and then demanded, that they not play anything that would create a mess as we tried to quite literally get our house in order. We even asked, and then demanded, that they help us. We tried in vain to use the Golden Child technique. We offered blatant favoritism not to the child who helped our cause, but to any that didn't hurt it.

Nothing worked. As soon as one room got clean, a school of Pepperidge Farm goldfish swam out of the bag onto the floor. When those got picked up, an entire easel full of art supplies cam crashing down. All 108 Uno cards made an appearance on the floor today. Welch's Fruit Snacks were tramped into carpeting.

Per usual, the only help offered was when we had to load two 750-pound tubs full of old kids' clothes into the attic.

Ah, the unfinished attic. Known for its two distinct climates, sub-Arctic or super-Saharan, the never-started attic acts an unglorified dumpster. Everything that we should throw or give away goes up there, in the hopes that it will just melt away into the Owens Corning. (Everything except the Christmas ornaments. There's an angel made from a dollar bill as well as a Mario Lemieux Starting Lineup-ish looking ornament that I'd like to rescue.) Because the temperature is never conducive to anything but swearing, there is no time or desire to organize. As a result, the entire back 85% has gone unused, because who wants to bend over to avoid the roof's eaves while carrying a bowling ball and an Apple IIc monitor in 172-degree heat.
According to bpghome.com, this is an example of a poorly planned attic. Compared to ours it still looks like Valhalla.

But the attic is the New World to the kids. They seek approval and funding from the King and Queen of their respective countries to explore it. (If they don't get their acts together and help us, we may make them colonize it, too.) Maybe because the rungs of the ladder are exactly the width of the one-year-old's foot do they feel empowered to climb all 8 steps to see a bunch of unmarked boxes. My mom always told me the boogie man lives in our attic, and I'm convinced he still lives in mine today.

I turned down the offered help, then, on the two tubs of clothes and within five minutes needed a shower. My kids thought we had a sprinkler system installed when I came down. I told them nobody ever should have to go up there again as long as we live here. Then they knocked a cup full of milk to the floor.

Lesson learned: Parents, if you want anything done efficiently, ship the kids to day Care. Secondary lesson that probably nobody learned: Things go quicker when we all work together as a team.

There is a trip to Sesame Place in our near future, though. All will be well then, when we slap hands with Elmo and forget that some days were never meant to go the way you planned them.

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