It was early in the morning and since Mommy had just left for work, it was time for Daddy to take the stage for my daily variety show. Although I’ve been known to perform intimate acoustic Disney-song concerts, reproduce Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” on the Magna Doodle, and even regularly scare the robotic tigers my son has imagined into existence back into “other houses, but not this house,” I was feeling especially wiped out on this particular morning. The Twins had just gotten over a nasty cold, and had so generously shared it with me, so as I sleepily hacked up a lung, I decided I needed a power-up and fired up our Keurig (arguably the best purchase we have made as new parents). And yes, I realize that coffee is not a fantastic idea when one has a cold, as it discourages hydration, but when one is accustomed to caffeine every morning, one is inclined to not pile the withdrawal headache on top of fiery sinuses and a gravelly throat. So there.
“Daddy?” my daughter half-whined. “You come play in my room?”
This is a new fun game I play with my daughter. She recently has become enamored with the novelty of playing with all of her toys with Daddy in her room. So much so, in fact, that every moment of every day I am home with them, my presence is requested in her room.
This, of course, would be fine if I didn’t have another child who expects an equal amount of Daddy’s attention. But I do, and there are times when I’m in the middle of building a perfectly-scaled replica of Mount Rushmore with Duplos with my son, or helping him line up his beloved “sea treatures” on the floor by species, and can’t just drop everything to “go play in her room.”
And so I tell her “No,” invariably triggering a hissy fit which lasts way longer than it needs to. In fact, just the other day, I was rocking The Beatles’ Help! on vinyl at my son’s request (yeah, he’s pretty awesome), and in the middle of the opening title track, my little girl invited me to play in her room. After I explained that Daddy and Brother were busy doing Awesome Things, she staged a very vocal protest spanning almost all of Side A. On a side-note, my resilient son didn’t let the screaming infringe upon his Beatlemania, and he just kept literally dancing circles around his sister as she kicked and punched the floor.
I was already mourning the morning walk.
Before we’d even traveled a block my dog had decided to lead the caravan, walking directly in front of the jogging stroller, her hindquarters mere inches from the front wheel. I don’t know why she insists upon this walking arrangement–maybe she likes to think she’s in charge–but(t) it never “ends” well for her, typically culminating in me literally running her ass over. It begins when she looks back at the stroller and decides she is terrified of it, so terrified that she freezes in place, causing the usually-taut leash to slack and wrap around the stroller’s back axle, putting us at a dead stop just after the tire bumps her square on the cheeks. I do my best to stop before the butt-bump, but she forces me to tailgate her at an unsafe following distance.
On this particular day, she had jumped to deer-in-headlights mode so abruptly and forcibly that it had pulled her harness clean off. (We attach the leash to her harness and not her collar because after years of scientific research, we have determined she would rather be choked to death than respond to leash tugs.) And because my dog just barely qualifies as obedient, I knew I had to act quickly on this leashless freedom unless I wanted to choose between:
1) chasing her around the neighborhood, loudly cussing her out while she thinks its a game, waking the Twins from their stroller catnaps and yielding a sterophonic meltdown; or
2) tritely employing the if-you-love-her-set-her-free-and-if-she-never-returns-she-was-never-yours axiom, which would most likely mean never seeing my beloved canine again, as she would surely make a grand exit from this life in Harry Houdini fashion while performing her famous freezing-in-front-of-an-oncoming vehicle trick.
It was in that moment that I remembered I am a ninja, as my keen, subconscious reflexes sprang into action, one-handedly snagging her by the tail, keeping the other hand firmly planted on the stroller.
She turned her head towards me, dumbly panting with glee, as if to say. “That was fun, Dad!”