Another evening. Eliot has offered more than I know to handle. I don't think I can channel it all, I worry, before realizing I don't have to. But I have to try. It's the job of a parent, I think.
I say she has a nice dress and she reminds me her dress isn't a dress but a tutu. I'm impressed. She had the noun. Sometimes she disagrees but doesn't have a solid counter. Tutu. The tutu argument will have to be filed away for an early and obvious victory. War propaganda. So terse in it's reply. Often people deny one thing without coming up with something else (and I'm sorry, we live in a world that needs something, but if its going to be someone who can get away with nothing, it'd be a kid. Because we want them to. We want them to be able to say NO and then pause quietly. A respite for all the something we need to conjure.)
Quin is the guy who'd most likely have the gumption to drop a whole lot of nothing. I'll state an adult truism and he smacks it down; not so much to smack it down (although it feels like that to the presumed older and wiser) but to wedge his slim presence into this place you never though existed. Lumps all over the couch that you can't even feel anymore. He occupies the pockets of the forgotten. I'll tell you an example.
"Dad," Otto shouts about his homework. "I need words with U in the middle!"
"Uhhh, I don't know, 'pup', 'cup,' um..."
"What about soups?" suggests Quin.
"Uh, yeah, that has a U in it," I agree, wondering how long I would have been stuck on the short U sound. Oh please, god, don't let me kill that creativity. That institution-be-damned, untamed jungle of--christ, soup. I would have never thought of that.
I know every parent claims their kids are geniuses but that's not me. I'm just happy when they get their socks on. But there is somehting, some thing, that can be tendered as brilliant and I'm caught between a college bowl game and kid's voices and straining one last tiny inkling of evening energy to figure out how to invest in the latter.
"Let's go to the park." That's always my goto. Still, I have this quick shot of comparison living where I wonder what actual cool shit other parents are doing with their kids. Goddamn Facebook. You come back from a hot air balloon ride and an afternoon learning long division with Stephen Hawking and your friend post pics of their family circling Mars on a hovercraft they made at Spanish immersion camp in Costa Rica. Fuck. Am I doing this right?
"Guys," I orate unto the mixed gender audience, "we're going to the park." The dogs are on it. Paco owns the park. Based on attendance and overall urine expenditure, it should be his. My conservative math has calculated that, in his 11 years, we've gone across the street to the Englewood P&R property 6800 times. We used to go twice a day but he grew a loathing for Siberian Huskies and German Shepherds, so he had to become a night dog. Fewer of either (often rather cocky dogs, if you ask me) are present. Our new pup, Cho Cho, which we found means cunt in Spain, is beside herself. She's figured out the routine. She leaps from the couch, soaring over Paco and runs to the edge of the rug. She turns and looks at me as if to say, "you sure about this because it's the greatest moment ever."
And she's right. Her enthusiasm moves us all to the door. And I've written about the park before. A lot. As my old neighbor once asked, "Is that your entire social life?" Well, perhaps, unless you count going to the vet.
The kids and their warm clothes could be the title of a dissertation on patience, or lack thereof. If you'd like a tutorial on kids and immersing them in their warm garments, get really day drunk and wake up a few hours later, confused to whether it's morning or night and with very little interest in either, spend half an hour sifting through gloves trying to find a match while one or more children have a panic attack getting into snow pants. It's a painful and infuriating process that's sprinkled with the light ballerina touch of grandmothers everywhere reminding you to be patient and endure.
There are angry bulls, balls freshly electrocuted, bursting out of rodeo gates less disruptive than the three kids, two dogs and me assaulting our screen door to get into the night. The neighborhood is so quiet and we cannonball the placidity. Riding ripples we get across the street. Quin stopping Eliot at the sidewalk and Otto comforting the dogs. (I'd crossed the street with Paco leashless for years but what we believe is failing hearing and overall old-guy-doesn't-give-a-shitness is having us restrain his stubborn, park-bound mutt butt.) Eliot is super cautious. She sees headlights down the street across another intersection and at least two stop signs away and refuses to go. I'm proud but also kind of worried she'll miss a lifetime of opportunities standing on the side of the road. It's never too early to project.
I really want to stop writing right now and take a shower and throw away some of my kids toys, but I must be stronger than these distractions. And I'm back in the park having been scolded for not paying attention. "He was texting on his phone," shouts Otto. I've missed something. Eliot is mad. She wants off the swing. Nope, wait, she didn't want off the swing. Quin interjects: "She's mad because her butt is sliding off the swing!" Oh, yes. I only got part of it. I put her back on. Twenty-degrees and gloveless she grabs the metal chains and hangs on for a ride in the winter wind. Maybe she's not all that cautious, I wonder. I mean this was a good balance. A wild night ride on a freezing swing but with concern over the security of the vehicle. Nice.
Otto and Quin had required being chased. It was great. We ran and ran. Paco looked like a puppy again. Quin noted that he was running more than he'd seen. Cho Cho ran outside the bubble of understanding. Were we yelling because we were in trouble? Should she take me out again? She's laid some vicious hits and it's hard to fault a dog who can only see a large dude in a hoodie chasing these puppies. I get the bird's eye view and love the massive swaths we're cutting in the quiet. Big circles and lazy 8s under a half moon.
Otto and Quin both agree we should go home. Eliot's hands are red and freezing. We'll have to cross the street again. And there's much confusion as the boys try and coax their sister off the sidewalk. I'm tethered to the dogs and shouting at Eliot that it's OK. As far as I know, getting across that road is our only way back home.