Well, not every “Guys Day” is one for the memory books and I thought I needed to convey that. I’m convinced it is not always the fault of the children either. Every Saturday I bring a lot of baggage to the table: Job-related issues from the previous week, upcoming job-related projects and, most importantly, feedback from my wife during the preceding week.
In some ways it is similar to being the fourth grade teacher at the start of the new year pumping the third grade teacher for the stats and box scores on each new student. (Oh come on we all know they did it. I’m convinced you establish your reputation in first grade and from then on you are labeled.) I know going in what to expect from each of my boys so maybe their actions, reactions and attitudes are a self-fulfilling prophecy based on my expectations.
But after a day like today, I am disappointed at the way they behaved and under-whelmed at my response. Every conversation was a confrontation and every action was an altercation. I did not enjoy the day, I survived it, and just barely at that. There were no medals given out today unless the purple heart was an option. We all went from one battle to the next.
WHO DOESN’T LIKE THE ZOO?
I had some fun things planned, too. We headed to the zoo first thing in the morning, it opens early for “members” (Since 1995, it’s like Visa!) because I knew they had not been in a while.
“I don’t want to go to the zoo!” was the enthusiastic response I received. Ahhh, the sweet sense of appreciation.
We arrived, double stroller in tow, to find a beautiful November day, short sleeve weather, only in San Francisco. The morning goes along relatively well, a cross word here, a time out there, but I promise I’ll be better. My older son asks for lunch at 10:30am right in front of the polar bears.
The polar bear that is always in a constant state of motion eyes my youngest, thinking he would make a good mid-morning snack, so we head for the more lethargic Kodiak bear. I break out the graham crackers and water while the Kodiak lounges in his rocky tub. In a flash my older son is off running on the wet grass heading towards a duck pond. Five calls to return are averted, so I begin pursuit. As we get older, one of us is really beginning to pick up speed, unfortunately it is not me.
I apprehend the culprit and read him his rights, all the while passersby stare with disapproval.
“Just, obey,” is all I want to say, but that wasn’t good enough for my parents and it won’t do for me. The lecture concludes with a brief overview of the Fall of Rome, Custer’s Last Stand and the reign of Louis XIV. Then we are on our way.
“Daddy, can we have lunch now?”
10:39am and all is well. Sea otters, penguins, more monkeys and then it is off to the petting zoo. This will be a big hit, I tell myself confidently, it never fails.
We arrive and the boys take off in all directions. If sheep could register an expression of fear this would be the time. My two-year-old chases sheep like they were going to be his next meal, laughing menacingly all the way.
My four year old’s favorite spot is an old water pump that spills into a trough inside a baby bull’s enclosure. Unfortunately, today he has pushed aside a little three-year girl, to the astonishment of her mother and some ducks. I gently inform him that the little girl was not finished and to move away. Again. And again. Finally, “Step away from the trough with your hands in the air,” I remove his hand from the pump and pull him aside. The little girl looks pleased but then it happens…
“I don’t like my daddy! I don’t like my daddy!” This is probably the first time in recorded history that a petting zoo was quiet because it was heard by all. Even two goats and a llama stopped what they were doing to watch. The most painful part was my son said these hurtful words and then went back about his business splashing with the ducks and petting the mule.
11:55AM AND ALL IS WELL
I, on the other hand, was devastated. I tried to regain my composure and tell myself that he did not really mean it, but the wound was there just the same. The relationship between words and the pain they can cause are not a reality at the age of four, so any coerced apology would ring hollow. I gather up my brood and we head for the car. I am like a beaten man and it is barely noon.
The afternoon consists of one confrontation after another. They want to watch television. They’re tired. Their wrestling is too rough. They take each other’s toys. The list goes on and on. My patience is below sea level, so it doesn’t take much to set me off.
Finally, my wife gets home from work and we are all relieved to see her. I try to express to her how bad the day was, but words do not suffice. Saturdays are my one day to connect with my boys and I have blown it. The good thing is they will not remember this day tomorrow. I, on the other hand, live with its memory for quite some time.