Bedtime at our house is a relative thing, like the arrival of spring. Sure, there is an official time it is supposed to occur, but itâ€™s really more of a process. A slow process.
Itâ€™s 8 p.m. and I say to the 8-year-old: â€œOK, girl. Time to hit the showers.â€
â€œBut I wanted a snack,â€ she says from the couch, not looking up from her copy of â€œAnimorphs No. 19,â€ which to me seems not all that different from â€œAnimorphs No. 18,â€ which looks a lot like â€œAnimorphs No. 17.â€
â€œOK, what do you want?â€ I ask.
Then her 12-year-old brother lifts his head from the kitchen table where he is endlessly solving for â€œX.â€ Thatâ€™s the problem with â€œXâ€ in math. It never stays solved. Thatâ€™s why I went into words instead of numbers. You put an â€œXâ€ on a page, it stays right there.
â€œHow come sheâ€™s getting a snack?â€ he asks, mildly indignant.
â€œBecause she asked for one.â€
â€œWell, I want a snack, too.â€
â€œYou already brushed your teeth.â€
â€œNo, I didnâ€™t.â€
â€œI thought I told you to brush your teeth!â€
â€œYou told me to finish my homework.â€
This is entirely plausible. I turn back to the girl. Now sheâ€™s on the computer.
â€œI thought you wanted a snack?â€
â€œWhat do we have?â€
I send the girl to ask her mother, the keeper of snacks, who is slaving over a hot sink of dinner dishes.
Now back to the brother, or where the brother should be, doing his homework, which he is not. He is brushing his teeth.
â€œI thought you wanted a snack?â€
â€œDo hold knee to bush by teeth!â€ he says, mumbling through a mouthful of bubble gum flavor Crest.
Heâ€™s got me there. I go look for the girl again. Sheâ€™s in the kitchen at the homework table, placidly crunching through a cup of croutons, garlic-flavor.
â€œCroutons?â€ I ask, gritting my teeth.
â€œTheyâ€™re good,â€ she says, shrugging.
Her brother comes into the kitchen.
â€œIâ€™m hungry,â€ he says. â€œCan I have a snack?â€
Itâ€™s been approximately 15 minutes since I put out the call to bedtime. There have been no showers, no PJs. Iâ€™ve got one child with bubble gum breath, one with garlic breath, and â€œXâ€ is still not solved. Itâ€™s like a little nightly game show, which I always seem to lose.
Finally, about an hour later, I am tucking them in. Like all fathers, I believe in a good solid tucking, a tucking that stays tucked. When I tuck a kid in, you could bounce a quarter off the bedspread and get 10 cents change. My plan is to tuck them in so they canâ€™t get out.
â€œDad, I canâ€™t move!â€ says the boy.
â€œThatâ€™s the idea,â€ I say.
I try to tiptoe quietly through the upstairs hall and down the steps, which, in an old house, is impossible. Itâ€™s like walking across a balloon-covered floor wearing stiletto heels.
Or so I would imagine, of course.
Every floorboard is a potential minefield of creaks and squeaks, a bowl of Rice Krispies and my feet are the milk. The children read this Morse Code perfectly, waiting until I am exactly halfway down the steep farmhouse steps before calling for something. Or, more precisely, a whole series of somethings.
â€œHey, Dad? Can you get me some water?â€
â€œHey, Dad? Can you get me a tissue?â€
â€œHey, Dad? Can you leave the hall light on?â€
â€œHey, Dad? Can you get Mom?â€
Good question. I actually had been wondering this myself.
â€œHey, Dad? Can you turn on my CD player?â€
â€œHey, Dad? Can you turn the hall light off?â€
â€œHey, Dad? You forgot to turn on my nightlight.â€
At last, the little â€œXâ€ and â€œYâ€ chromosomes are solved and tucked in tight. All in a nightâ€™s work.
I need a snack.
The jokeâ€™s on you
Here are a few of the jokes that floated in over the transom following last weekâ€™s column in honor of April Fools Day.
Question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Answer: He wanted to see his friend, Gregory, Peck.
Question: What did Washington say to his men before they crossed the Delaware?
Answer: â€œGet in the boat.â€
Question: Where do generals keep their armies?
Answer: Up their sleevies.
Question: How do you fix a broken tomato?
Answer: Tomato paste.
Thanks to all.
Contact John Gladden at email@example.com.