OUR HOUSE

 

Raising four sons and reflecting on my youth, offers a stark contrast between our shared experiences. In some ways it is remarkably similar; two parent home, go to school, dinners as a family, juggling the demands of a multi-person household.

 

GENERATIONAL DIVIDES

 

In other ways the generational divide is a chasm greater than Prince Harry’s with the Royal Family. After much contemplation (and iced tea) what follows are my top ten generational divides.

 

  1. When we had friends over, we would put a favorite album on the turntable and then everyone vied for who could pick the next vinyl. Today, they put on an episode of The Office or Arrested Development and laugh like they’ve never seen it before.
  2. In grammar school we learned how to write cursive, compose formal letters, and address an envelope. Today, these well-honed skills are going the way of the VCR, wine coolers, and public tolerance.
  3. If a movie were airing on TV, we knew it would probably be another two to three years before we would have the opportunity to watch it again. Today, well, virtually everything is available for viewing at any time of the day or night. Even stuff you don’t want to see, like Adam Sandler films!
  4. Typing was a class we took in high school. Granted, it was taught by the JV football coach who utilized the two-finger-hunt-and-peck method himself, but it was a required class. Today a three-year-old is master of the TV remote and tablet before they are even potty-trained.
  5. Our superheroes flew off the comic book page or were relegated to Saturday morning cartoons. Today, thanks to special effects wizardry, their prodigious skills are illuminated on the big screen with remarkable frequency.
  6. Quisp, Quake, Apple Jacks, Fruity Pebbles, Boo-Berry, Crunchy Nuggets, Corn Snaps, Honey Snaps, Kaboom… this was breakfast! Today, your ten-year-old wants to become a vegan after viewing a documentary about the beef industry in school.
  7. Dinners were overshadowed by Walter Cronkite reporting, with his usual gravitas, the daily count of fallen military in Viet Nam. Today, dinner is just a brief interlude between League of Legends games.
  8. If you were going to be late getting home and there were no payphones close by, there was going to be hell to pay when you walked in the door. Today, they can just ignore your texts and phone calls and allege there was no service in the area. “But you were downtown?”
  9. Commercials were a part of our everyday life. It was the price we paid for music on the radio and our favorite television programs. Today, bootlegging allows you to listen and watch unencumbered by those annoying interruptions.
  10. When we were getting married, our parents encouraged us to select a fine china pattern and silver to go with it. If you bring this up today, they have difficulty even grasping the concept of why you would need such frivolous utensils. “The sporks that come with the takeout work just fine for us.”

WHAT GOES UP…

 

As I sit here today, my head is spinning. Our abode has been a revolving door of sons rotating in and out of the house. I’m tempted to put a Wendy’s sign out front. Except when you go to Wendy’s you typically pay some money!

 

With that in mind, I started ruminating on the meaning of it all. At times joyous, stressful, sorrowful, laughable, and chaotic. Occasionally all at once. I determined the only answer can be, God has a sense of humor. To that end, here is irrefutable evidence God has a sense of humor.

 

  • Kids move out, kids move back in, move out, move back in, out in. When does it end?
  • Dishes are in the sink, on the counter, on the table, in their room, and on top of the six-foot bookcase. What are they doing up there? How did they get up there?
  • There are three drops of milk in the carton in the refrigerator. Three drops! But there is plenty of Oat Milk. Seriously, Oat Milk?
  • For 18 years your life revolves around your children then they head off to college. Now what are you supposed to do?
  • Unrelated: Why would anybody wanna go on up to Greasy Lake?
  • Your kids pick up some of your wife’s good traits and ALL of your bad ones!
  • You are at a restaurant with your disheveled son. His hair hasn’t seen a comb since the Obama administration, he has seven days of beard growth and his t-shirt has more holes than swiss cheese, but you love him and are enjoying the meal. You introduce your son to a friend at an adjoining table and they remark, “He looks just like you!”
  • Our dog barks like there is a home invasion when a four-year-old neighbor rides her tricycle by our house. But when the Amazon delivery guy opens our front gate, drops the package on the porch, and announces “Amazon” she barely stirs.
  • Videogames!
  • I can be carrying in 17 grocery bags from the car and no one pays any attention, but if I casually mention I’m thinking of ordering pizza for dinner, everyone begins to list their favorite toppings.
Here’s the daily calendar of a man without.

 

Here’s the daily calendar of a man with.

 

Here’s a man without’s prize possession.

 

Here’s a man with’s prize possession.

 

 

ALMOST THERE…

By the fall of this year my wife and I will be empty nesters, see image for a virtual representation. You see, this year our two youngest sons will be heading off to college… or Katmandu, doesn’t matter. The important thing is there will only be two of us in this small three-bedroom two-bath that was clearly intended for a husband and wife and possibly a dog. Yes, definitely a dog!

 

After raising four sons to various heights and weights the next phase of our marriage is just beginning. Time to pull out the old tennis racket, start swinging those clubs again (9-irons, not disco. Do they still have disco clubs?), organize a weekly poker night, and travel… travel… travel.

 

TIME WILL BE ON MY SIDE

But before all that can begin, I need to dust off the to-do list that I began writing all those years ago when I thought this day would never come. Those “someday I’m going to…” chores that won’t really feel like chores anymore because they will not be crammed in between basketball practice and a parent-teacher meeting. Here it is for your reading pleasure, at least I hope it’s a pleasure. The top ten things I will do when the nest is empty:

 

  1. Find the floor in my son’s room. Hey, there are my golf clubs!
  2. Air out my son’s room… fumigate the room… oh, heck, let’s try a controlled burn!
  3. Leave the remote where I know I can find it.
  4. Find all my socks, belts, headphones, chargers, razors…
  5. Cook a meal for two, rather than seven because teens eat so much.
  6. Dry out the boy’s bathroom. Paint the boy’s bathroom. Let’s see contractors, bathroom remodel.
  7. Reclaim the family room TV.
  8. Learn to speak at a normal volume because not everyone wears headphones 24:7.
  9. Stop singlehandedly supporting the cereal industry.
  10. Try not to miss them. I’m not crying, it’s the pollen!

 

A TWOFER

 

This Fall, my wife and I are preparing for the rare parental double-double. Well, I’m preparing while my spouse is sad about the upcoming prospect. As far as I’m concerned, this is the highly coveted and rarely achieved parental twofer! My guess is this is how the parents of twins feel.

 

You see our last two sons are preparing to head off to college in the fall. One son spent two years studying at a junior college while the youngest is graduating from high school. By September of this year our house will include myself, my wife and our dog. I think that bears repeating; by September of this year our house will include myself, my wife and our dog. This is the culmination of our twenty-six year journey that began in our modest three bedroom home when our first of four sons was born. 

 

PREPARATIONS ARE UNDERWAY!

 

In their younger days

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to miss them in an inexplicable, confounding way. For all their inherent teen-ness, there will be a void in the house. But at least there will be two less rooms in the house I will need to avoid!

 

As I prepare for their impending departure, I have begun to compile a list of all that I will miss when they are off studying in some far distant county or state. To that end, here are the 10 reasons why I’m going to miss my teens:

 

  1. No one to blame for the gassy smell. Oh wait, I still have the dog. Scratch this one.
  2. Looking for the remote. Why is it in the kitchen cabinet?
  3. Always having the bathroom occupied when I need it.
  4. Cleaning up dishes scattered throughout the house. See #2.
  5. Taking a cold shower after the teens have showered for 20 minutes each. 
  6. Doors slamming and feet stomping at 2am.
  7. Hearing those heartening words, “Dad may I borrow your _______?” Fill in the blank: belt, car keys, socks, sweatshirt, credit card, raincoat, laptop, 401K…
  8. The overall teen odor. Seriously, what is that smell?
  9. That heartwarming response to the simple query, how was your day? “Fine.”
  10. The non-response to the text “Where are you?”
  11. I know I said ten, but this is not for me. Costco and Safeway will miss the teens not being at home anymore. Profits will plummet!

 

Last week’s blog focused on the top ten joys of being a teen,  see link below. The information was based on my years of raising four sons, the youngest having just turned seventeen. Granted it was not a firsthand account from an actual teen, but a well-researched compendium culled from over twenty-six cumulative years of observation. I felt it was a thorough and genuinely sound record.

 

Well, my second son (the outdoors-man on the right) has apparently taken umbrage at my list because, even though he has always claimed to never read my blogs, he sent me an email yesterday offering a counter-list of his own. My first reaction was, someone read my blog! Then my wife suggested I am obligated to offer equal time to my son.

 

So, without further ado, here is a teen rebuttal. The 10 Worst Things About Being A Teen according to my twenty-four-year-old son. (Note: #4 I find especially painful.)

 

  1. Parents nagging
  2. No food in the fridge
  3. The internet is down
  4. Family outings and gatherings
  5. Curfews
  6. You forgot your headphones
  7. You have to take your brothers with you everywhere
  8. Your teacher calls on you when you didn’t even raise your hand
  9. Being asked the same three questions by every adult ever
  10. More Nagging!

 

SORRY TO SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD

 

The next time your eleven-year-old says they are sorry, treasure that moment because it is the last time you will hear it for nine years. The reason is simple. In their clouded, visually impaired, reality-skewed mind, they are never wrong.

 

It must be a joyous experience to be seventeen… it has been too long for me to properly recall. But imagine, the entire world is before you, dangling on a string. Unfortunately, your parents are the ones holding that damn string. If it weren’t for them the world, and all who inhabit it, would be so much better off.

 

THE WISDOM OF SAMUEL CLEMONS

 

Samuel Clemens circa 1907

Whenever I suffer from TMTT (too much teen time) I am reminded of my favorite quote of all time attributed to Mark Twain, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in 7 years.” 

 

I believe that is how every teen perceives the world. They view parents exactly the way the Disney Channel portrays us in every teenage sitcom; brain addled, befuddled, incapable of coherent thought and depending entirely on the knowledge and wisdom of our teenage children to survive. So, without any additional preamble, here are the top ten joys of being a teen.

 

  1. You are never wrong! You are profoundly confident in every assertion you make and believe wholeheartedly in your unequivocal infallibility.
  2. Life is perfect when you are with your friends, without any parental interaction.
  3. Protein Bars – an instant meal!
  4. School is an unnecessary hindrance on my way to my first million $ before I turn thirty.
  5. Earbuds – “I can’t hear you, I’ve got the earbuds in.”
  6. See #1.
  7. twitch.com – if you don’t know what it is, you are in a worse situation than I am.
  8. Chores are for parents or people not as busy as I am. Yep, that would be parents.
  9. Magic – food magically appears in the refrigerator, my clothes are always washed and folded, there is always gas in the car, cable-Netflix-wi-fi are continuously up and running. If I knew who to thank for all this I would.
  10. You only remember the bad times with your parents (Remember when we ran out of gas on the way to Christmas Eve dinner?), never the good times!

 

TEEN CURE 

 

When our older sons hit teendom, my wife and I decided we had two options. We quickly ruled out secretly moving to a new location. That left us with the second alternative, getting a dog. We determined that to survive this new challenge we needed to call in the cuddle cavalry.

 

Since we could not find any direwolves at our local pet store, we went with the next best possibility, a Saint Bernard. Meet Scout, see blog photos. One hundred and fifty pounds of love, Scout was just the cure for whatever they could throw at us. He was a gentle giant with a mammoth heart and slobber to spare.

 

Awwwwww!

 

Whenever tensions mounted and anxiety hit its apex, there was solace to be found in Scout’s incredibly soft fur and calming presence. Even though they weren’t meant for us, it could have been the pheromones, but regardless, just having Scout nearby guaranteed some much-needed respite.

 

Sadly, our bond was all-to-brief, as our Scoutie succumbed to lymphoma after only 4 ½ years, but his presence in the neighborhood and beyond is the stuff of legend. It was not unusual for cars to pull over while we were walking Scout and have the driver come over just to say hello to our Saint. Whenever a young child or older person approached us during a walk, our gentle soul would get down on all fours so as not to intimidate. No one told him to, he just instinctively knew this would help alleviate their fears. (Excuse me for one minute, something is in my eye.)

 

As I write, the vivid memories come flooding back: the tattoo-laden truck driver who parked in front of our house and snapped a photo of Scout; the plastic bat Scout would grab in his mouth and swing as if he was batting cleanup (he was able to connect on a few pitches I threw); the swish of that amazing tail of his that resembled a feather duster; cleaning slobber off the walls after a particularly intense shake; the earth-rattling “harrumph” as he laid down by my bed in the middle of the night; and the way he rested his hefty paw on top of my hand.

 

IN THIS CORNER…

 

In a battle of teen versus adult, there was comfort in knowing that we always had Scout in our corner. Actually he was in his corner, but we could go over to him and get some much needed comfort and fur whenever we desired. The beauty was the teens took advantage of his warmth and solace as well, knowing he would not judge, but freely give his love to whomever was in need. He was like Mother Teresa on all fours (no disrespect intended).

 

In the end we all benefited from his presence in our lives. He brought joy (and epic amounts of fur) into our home. He became a part of our family in a more intense way than we expected. He cured one of our sons of his fear of dogs and converted us all to “big dog people” for the rest of our lives. We provided Scout with food and lodging and in return he bestowed upon us so much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scout at 12 weeks.