aaron punkI’m not sure what happened. I used to be a good dad – really great with the children. I actually used to get compliments. I used to know their routine, even be able to make breakfast once in a while to everyone’s satisfaction. Used to know what this one would eat and what this one wouldn’t. It seems that those days are gone. Mommy was away for the weekend for a much deserved birthday getaway for what most certainly is definitely not in any way a significant milestone year. So that leaves me, the other fully capable parent, to corral our three young mustangs into order and devise some semblance of a plan for the day/weekend.

This used to be fairly easy. At least that’s how I remember it. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m a little under the weather today. Maybe three with opinions is a lot harder than two with opinions. Maybe we’re all just not quite used to Mommy not being here.

This morning, in order to mow the grass, I employed the Puss n Boots strategy and set a movie on for them in the morning. That seemed to go pretty well, but I began to regret using my best piece of ammunition in the first round of the day. Afterwards, as if the movie had never existed or provided any happiness or pleasure to them at all, a squall broke out as one kid wanted to do one thing, another couldn’t dream of every wanting to do that same thing in a million years, and yet another kid wanted something entirely different and declared so with a particularly snotty attitude.

We finally managed to get out the door and agree to head to the county library. Upon departing I realized that I had a couple potential problems in that I wasn’t entirely sure where the library was and quite sure I didn’t have a library card. I prepped the boys on the way that we might just have to look and not borrow any books today, a statement that was quickly flung back in my face like a rotten tomato for being such a dumb idea to go there in the first place under such circumstances. Luckily, I discovered that the county library has seemingly embraced technology and no longer uses the pink punch card date stamp machine that always sounded like it could take a limb. I was provided with a new, free scanner card on the spot and invited to check books out at will. My tax dollars hard at work I suppose. As I instructed my flock that they could each check out one book, the kind lady proclaimed they could do as many as they like. I think it was my dark glare at her that quieted that suggestion.

I soon remembered that we were there right over the lunch hour and everyone was quickly losing both patience and energy. Our youngest was determined to find superhero books, of which none were apparent in the picture book stacks. Another was miraculously very happy with the sports book he found, but alas the third was distraught that he couldn’t find a Garfield book and sent me on a fool’s errand to understand the computer catalogue system. I eventually realized that I don’t know the names of the other county library branches and the locations of said Garfield book might as well be in Alaska for all I knew. “They’re out of that book,” I declared with hopeful conviction and told him to choose something else. I finally broke down and asked the librarian if she had any of the elusive superhero books. Miracle of miracles, the kind lady had several good ones sitting behind the counter, and we quickly made an exit to our car.

I figured we were in the clear until I tried to start negotiating where we’d stop for a quick lunch. Of course everyone’s opinions were different so we landed at the food court at the mall. By this time, my own blood sugar was running near empty and since I really was a bit ill to begin with, I wanted to quickly grab a bite and sit everyone down. Of course this was not to be. The older two did well, to their credit, with a single stop at Burger King, but the youngest was determined to run the other way and order his own food on the other side of the mall. As my energy faded by the second and my food order dragged on at the counter, I started getting woozy as I watched my son run down across the room and out of my grasp. Alas, I came to the conclusion that there is nothing in this world, short of cookies and ice cream, that my four-year-old believed was an acceptable lunch plan. So after making him sit without food while I finally ate a turkey sub, I caved and allowed him to spit an Auntie Ann’s cinnamon pretzel with his brothers and a water.

Now at this point, a normal (smart) dad would have given up. Thrown in the towel. Gone home. Not me, though. We trekked on and tackled a round of laser quest down the road. Which was actually fun, although by the end, a certain someone was definitely ready for a nap. And so was the four-year old. I have to give it to the guy at the laser quest, he was into it. He looked like he had just come back from a week at Comic Con and was ready to impart his wisdom to any nine-year-old that wanted to learn. The interesting thing is that I think the boys spent as much time analyzing their “scorecard” in the car in the way home as they did playing the game. They poured over every detail. Who shot who, where were the hits, what was their ranking. It was crazy. They could start a whole side business just creating tradable scorecards for the kids to look at with each other.

Eventually we did get home. I tried in vain to take a nap as that ever agreeable four-year-old of mine refused to go to sleep and screamed my name from his room. Hopefully tomorrow will be better, after everyone gets a good night sleep. Maybe they’ll all sleep in until 10. Maybe this dog of mine, the one that I just spent 20 minutes running all around the yard so he’d settle down, will stop jumping on my lap while I’m typing and go to sleep. Maybe I’ll wake up and Mommy will be here. Maybe everyone will wake up happy and be grateful for some quality daddy time. Hey, I can dream.

I should have known that the happiest the little one was all day was in the morning when he was dancing around to some music. I should have known that the words were a preview of things to come.

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