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Published on June 8th, 2014 | by Richard Black


Lawn Jarts, Disagreements on Parenting and Teaching Darcy the Value of Disappointment

Whenever two people gather one is destined to disagree. Wiser men than I have had the same sentiment and if I could muster up the interest to Google the matter I’d provide the author of the quip but I just can’t be bothered at the moment.

Assuming it’s a nuclear family, as mine is, one of the joys of parenthood is that certain differences of opinion between the spouses regarding how a child (or children) is to be raised.  Let’s face it, raising kids is a stressful endeavor, and an exhausting one to boot. 99% of the time Laura and I agree on whether or not to water board Darcy or let her play with a chainsaw but that 1% pops up ever so frequently.

It had been, to say the very least, a long day. I spent the bulk of the morning running errands with Darcy which is a delight as long as one views errands as more of a process than a goal.

Unfortunately I’m not one of those people.

There’s nothing integrally enjoyable about picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy or going to the grocery store and bringing a strong willed soon-to-be four year old in tow makes a run-of-the mill errand into a process of Herculean proportions.

After a late lunch back at home where Darcy ate a pint of blueberries and a full pound of mozzarella cheese we retired to the yard where my daughter ostensibly played with sidewalk chalk and I ostensibly tried to move a mountain of mulch into our plant beds. I use the term “ostensibly” as roughly half the time I was chasing Darcy out of the street.  The the other half she was nagging me to help her draw a castle or a flower or a castle made out of flowers in chalk on the sidewalk while I tried to spread a few cubic yards of mulch.

If I were a more patient man and, perhaps, a better father I would have spent more time drawing rainbows and horses on the concrete with my daughter but I’m not.  A better man would have used the opportunity to encourage his child in an artistic endeavor, enjoy the moment and then write a sonnet about the event.

Instead I focused on the giant pile of mulch I had to move and bribed my daughter with chocolate. I was weak and crabby and sweating like…well I’ve never seen anything that can soak through a pair of shorts and two t-shirts the way I do in any weather over 80 degrees. If perspiration were a superpower I’d be in the League of Justice and just below the Water Twins as far as worthless abilities are concerned.

I should also mention that I hate the act of perspiration. Not on others mind you. If I want to get wet I’ll take a shower or have an operation that transforms my dick into a vagina. Sweating make me crabby.

The weather wasn’t all that hot, maybe 85 degrees, but the humidity really does kill you here in the Midwest especially when it runs around 115 percent the way it usually does between June and October.

After I’d gone through some two and a half hours of work, four wheelbarrows full of mulch and a good ten pounds of water weight we called it a day. It was about four in the afternoon and I took thirty minutes to sit down and stop dripping all over the living room rug while Darcy watched a movie, something educational about mermaids if memory serves.

Laura called to see when I’d be picking her up, my car has been in the shop for the better part of a month which is a topic I can’t even consider without my blood pressure spiking to stroke-like levels. Suffice it to say that I jumped in the shower, shepherded Darcy into the car and was feeling pretty good about things when I picked up my wife at a quarter til six and she asked what we were having for dinner.

As I gave my wife a dull look I realized that I had forgotten something integral, namely one of my primary duties as a stay at home parent which is to keep everyone in the household fed. Laura kindly suggested we grab a bite to eat out, I sighed with relief and Darcy promptly lost her shit because she had to wear shoes.

Our meal commenced without any undue stress and by “undue” I mean anything out of the ordinary any family with a small child encounters during a meal out. Darcy’s head didn’t quite spin around when her cheese pizza arrived with diced pieces of parsley, I kept cursing and threats to a minimum when she screamed for desert and Laura did her best to keep a disapproving look off of her face during the entire ordeal.

Just before we asked for the check and Darcy was rocketing around the booth like Andy Dick on a coke binge, Laura suggested that I borrow the car tomorrow to take our daughter out for an adventure.

And things had been going so well.

I wish I could say that I politely declined her offer as I considered all of the chores I had to complete around the yard, digging bed edges in back, transferring the aforementioned mountain of mulch from our driveway to the back beds, prepping dinner, lunch maybe cleaning the one bathroom we have before the CDC shuts it down…the usual sorts of tasks a stay at home parent is supposed to perform.

Instead I handled the situation…a bit differently. I did, in fact politely decline the offer and even managed to put together a semi cogent response regarding all of the shit I had to take care of at which point Laura suggested that Darcy and I take the day off and go to the zoo.

And this my friends is the crux of the matter, the bone of contention between Laura and I ver since Darcy was born. Not the zoo mind you, the zoo is lovely if you’re into oppressively hot weather, huge crowds and swarms of snot nosed kids hopped up on dipping dots. No our disagreement spawns from what my “job” is as a parent.

For my part I believe that my role as a stay at home parent is to feed and clothe my daughter, keep the house from looking like it’s been overrun by a throng of hoarders, tend to the yard and then play a game or two of Candyland with Darcy under severe duress in between the time I’m doing laundry and cleaning dishes.

Laura feels that my priorities are reversed and that I should be playing more Candyland with our daughter and even take her out of the house every once in a while and, in all honesty, I can’t really argue with her point. One of the reasons we decided to have a parent stay at home, aside from my not infrequent bouts of unemployment, was to be able to raise and tend to our daughter in the manner we saw fit.

Unfortunately daily trips to the zoo does not put risotto on the kitchen table after a busy afternoon or even a rotisserie chicken during particularly challenging times.

The dichotomy of our beliefs stems from our background and how we were raised

Laura had a wonderful mother who doted upon her and her brother and tended to some, if not most of their whims, whereas I and my sister were left largely to our own devices for entertainment.  During the summer my sister Cheryl and I roved the woods adjacent to our home, climbed trees, rode bikes and for a brief period, through lawn jarts at one another until I ended up with one firmly planted in my foot.

For those of you unfamiliar with the idea of lawn jarts I encourage you to Google the subject. I’m not kidding. Give “lawn jarts” a search right now take a look at what the game entailed, the equipment involved and then imagine how far that idea would float in this day and age.

I can wait really.  Take a look and then just for shits and giggles type in the word “injuries”. If memory serves one could still buy lawn jarts well into the 90’s on the open market. I couldn’t say because my long term recall took a nosedive when my sister landed a lawn jart in my head back in ’87.

Enough of that however and back to my bucolic and unsophisticated youth.  As long as everyone came home around 5:00 in the afternoon without a concussion or a sucking chest wound it was a good day.  in reality there wasn’t a lot to do.

I recall one summer in grade school when my sister and I decided to dig a hole in the middle of our back yard to reach the earth’s mantle after reading a primer about geology. We didn’t make it of course but I found the four by six by six foot space to be a refuge of sorts when my parents were quarreling in the inevitable downward spiral of their marriage.

As far as trips were concerned we visited my grandparents a few times a year, swung by the zoo in Indianapolis a handful of times before I was an adolescent, vacationed in a hotel in Cincinnati twice for a weekend, endured a monumental road trip to San Diego and back and that was about it as far as entertainment was concerned.

Until I hit puberty, I spent the bulk of my time throwing dirt clods at the neighborhood children and setting brush fires in the vacant fields adjacent to my home just because I’d scored a book of matches.

I can’t say it was the happiest of times but I think that’s par for the course during the 1980’s as far as children are concerned.

Do I want the best for my daughter? Certainly and without a doubt. I would be remiss if I did not mention that a portion of my parental responsibilities involve teaching her that sometimes, life isn’t fair.

The act of living involves disappointment, on my part as well as Darcy’s. At the age she is now it’s going to be easier to tell her that she can’t have a cupcake and listen to a 15 minute screamathon than whatever hell comes later, most likely  in the form of a 28 year old biker.

At best I can hope that she’ll reach for the cupcake instated of the biker.

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