That’s me, baby. All you other daddies out there who thought you were the worst? IN YOUR FACE! YEAH!
This distinction wasn’t bestowed upon me during an official awards ceremony, and, as far as I know, there isn’t actually a trophy or plaque or certificate that I can use to proudly display this honor, but it is a noteworthy accomplishment, nonetheless.
I had a hunch that I was a serious contender for Worst Daddy in the World, because, yesterday afternoon, while Wonder Woman was at a doctor’s appointment, I overheard Zan and Jayna having a candid discussion about me.
“And I’m crossing Daddy off,” said Zan, referring to some kind of list they were using as part of their pretend play, “because he’s mean.”
“Yeah,” said Jayna. “He’s a meanie.”
Yes! My plan was working! You see, just a moment or two prior, I had heard Zan yelling at Jayna because he was pretending he was going on a business trip, and the stairs leading down to the playroom were the airplane — and Jayna, who was pretending to be his wife, wanted to go on the business trip with him, so she had seated herself on the airplane as well.
“Jayna, go back down the stairs. I’m going on a business trip alone!”
“But wifes can come, Zan!” [Yes, she said “wifes,” not “wives”; she’s 3, and I’m going for realism here.]
“No, they can’t!” he told her with all the conviction of a beaten-down, 50-something salesman whose one joy in life is traveling solo to the annual beaten-down, 50-something salesmen’s convention in Vegas. “Now move! Move, Jayna!”
“Zan,” I said as I opened the bathroom door while still seated on the toilet, (I know: too much information … but I’m trying to make a point here, OK? You folks who don’t yet have children, take note: there is no break from parenting. You must continue to do it at even the most inconvenient and inopportune of moments.) “If you want to be alone, then you can go play in your room.”
“But Daddy, I’m going on a business trip and wifes can’t come!” [Again with the “wifes.”]
“You heard what I said, Zan. If you want to be alone, you can be alone in your room, but you can’t tell Jayna she’s not allowed to be on the stairs.”
“Yeah, well, you’re not in charge of me!”
“Actually, Zan, I am. You may not like that, but I’m your father and I am in charge of you! Now do as I say!,” I said, sounding like a complete dick whose brilliant plan for dealing with a belligerent 5-year-old was to act like a belligerent 5-year-old.
“Fine!” he replied. “Now just close the door! Close it, Daddy! You’re embarrassing me!”
Because our house is so small, opening the door to our closet-like bathroom while the kids were playing on the stairs that lead down to the playroom essentially placed them in the bathroom with me, and Zan—who, lately, is embarrassed by anything and everything Wonder Woman and/or I do, regardless of how innocuous that thing might be (granted, I can understand him not wanting to see me sitting on the toilet, but still)—was clearly uncomfortable with that arrangement.
So I closed the door, and, a moment later, heard the “because he’s a mean meanie” exchange outlined above.
A short while later, while the three of us were playing in Zan’s room, I just had to ask.
“So, guys, I heard you saying that you think I’m mean,” I said. “Is that really how you feel?”
“Mmmm no,” said Zan the Appeaser.
“Um, sometimes you’re mean, and sometimes you’re not mean, right?” said Jayna cheerfully.
Perfect. With the groundwork now laid, the Worst Daddy in the World award clearly was within reach.
The big moment came at dinner time this evening when the Wonder Twins started fighting over the cheese grater before Wonder Woman and I had even sat down.
“I want to put the cheese in!” yelled Zan.
“No, I want to!” countered Jayna as they played Tug of War with the grater.
“Stop,” I said. “Right now. Just stop.”
As I spoke, I placed my hand on the grater.
“I said ‘Stop.’ Both of you. Now let go,” I instructed them.
Pop quiz: Who here thinks they stopped and let go? Wow. Not too many of you. So, you folks with your hands up, you don’t have kids, right? OK, you’re excused.
Despite already having my hand on the item being fought over, and standing almost between the two of them, Jayna still managed to get her finger in the cheese-goes-in-here opening, and Zan still managed to subsequently pinch her finger badly with the hold-the-cheese-against-the-rotating-grater thingamajig, which, of course, caused The Screaming to begin. So I scooped the crying, screaming Jayna up in my left arm and grabbed the grater with my right hand, snatching it away from Zan as I scolded him.
“I told you to stop, and you didn’t listen! Now look what happened!” I said (yelled?) sternly, then turned away from the table, placed the grater on the counter and carried Jayna out of the room.
And then …
“OK, Worst Daddy in the World!” Zan hollered, his voice cracking and tears welling up in his eyes.
Yes! I did it! It took a little work, but in the end, I was the big winner! Yay, me!
But seriously, folks …
Part of why they’ve formed a sometimes not-entirely-glowing picture of me stems from me not being willing to put up with some of the shit that Wonder Woman is willing to tolerate, thus making me Bad Cop. I can live with that.
Some of it, however, stems from me working insane hours the past week-and-a-half while covering for my vacationing co-worker, and trying to keep up a world-class blog on top of it all, two endeavors that have completely eliminated my prospects for getting a good night’s sleep, or exercising, or spending any quality time with my wife or kids.
All of this has left me rather frazzled and short-fused, which does very little to enhance my parenting skills or my ability to tolerate screaming or crying or whining or fighting. Those things are a struggle for me under the best of circumstances, which this schedule I’m keeping clearly isn’t.
Time to get a little balance in my life.
Unfortunately, I don’t foresee striking that balance until, like, April, as my stint covering for my vacationing co-worker doesn’t end until a week from today, and my four-night stay in Austin, Texas, to cover the annual SXSW Music Festival begins a week from tomorrow.
But Saturday, Wonder Woman is presenting at a conference in Boston, so I’ll have the kids to myself for the day, and I plan to make the most of it. With any luck, they’ll strip me of my Worst Daddy in the World award.