As I sit here trying to write this, my two sons (who weigh probably sixty pounds apiece) are fulfilling the requirements to maintain their professional status as kids by chasing each other around and wailing like banshees. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, when you’re sitting in the basement, these two sets of feet sound like a herd of elephants, and the acoustics in the floor below them/ceiling above me make the wailing sound like fire trucks on their way to a three-alarm fire. Even my wife, as slight as she is, walking around upstairs sounds like a hammer pounding nails into two-by-fours. And to answer your question: No, I don’t have a hangover.
I have become accustomed to the “sounds of domesticity,” so the banshees/fire trucks are part of the normal soundtrack in my head. (Fortunately, we haven’t had occasion to have the need for any real fire trucks – or banshees for that matter – up to this point in our home.) However, the things that seem to invade the soundtrack in my head like the Chipmunks singing a Bob Dylan protest song are the constant off-the-wall questions and statements coming out of my sons’ mouths. Just when I think my world of reason is in perfect balance, one or both of my sons seem to find a way to push me off the beam with a zinger. Here’s a sampling:
1. Sitting in the bathroom, holding private court if you will, my youngest son bursts in to ask me to explain how Vaseline is made.
2. I awoke at 3:00 one fine morning to find of one my sons (I’m still a bit hazy about which one it was) hovering above me only to tell me that I look like a German Shepherd when I sleep. (I’ve always fancied myself more of a Jack Russell Terrier, personally.)
3. There is definitely an inverse relationship between how much of a hurry I’m in to get to work and the length of my sons’ latest story about the kid down the street who looks like a horse. (Orthodontia is something we should all take seriously, folks.)
4. My oldest son saw me with my shirt off and asked if he could connect the moles on my back with a ballpoint pen because he thought it would make the perfect silhouette of Grover from Sesame Street – or maybe it was Grover Cleveland, I can’t remember.
In a little more than a decade of fatherhood, I have come to learn that there’s a reason for this: it’s in our hardwiring. Somewhere deep in the cerebral cortex of every human being, from birth, is the knowledge that childhood will be the only time we’ll really be allowed to let our minds explore the universe around us and tell those around us what’s on our minds. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this simple question: Would the boss be keen on you kicking in the bathroom stall to ask her to clarify the spreadsheet she just e-mailed you?