Unfit Father

Published on October 9th, 2015 | by Richard Black

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Where Does the Time Go? Volunteered (Part III of IV)

UF_Volunteer_100815I’d always planned on discouraging Darcy from taking part in extracurricular activities of any sort. It’s not that I’m against them per se. Every child needs to have the opportunity to train for hours, compete in a public setting and fail miserably. My parents held steadfast to that very belief and I’ve always thought their adherence to those ideals did me well. Then again this is the man who spends four hours every night writing about the “joys” of parenthood.

My angst with extracurricular activities isn’t the amount of time it takes me away from my daughter. It’s the amount of time that I have to devote to them as a parent. I did my stint in Cub Scouts, swimming and soccer as a child and slowly developed a deep and unwavering hatred for all three activities. Twenty young boys with minimal adult supervision on an overnight camp out is a recipe for childhood emotional trauma and swimming in a Speedo four sizes too small (to reduce drag, not to show off my gigantic balls) in front of hundreds of one’s peers and parents isn’t much better.

One or both of my parents always showed up for a swim meet or soccer game for reasons I’m still unsure of to this day. Deep in the back of my mind, when I wasn’t trying to hide an unsolicited erection or curled over in a ball after having taken a knee to the testicles, I wondered what force compelled my mother or father to spend hours of their time in a humid pool or driving rain to watch their son put on a remarkably mediocre performance.

The obvious answer is that my parents were sadists but I suspect that love had something to do with their regular attendance as well. Then again they didn’t get out much.

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After school childcare in the 1980s.

When I was a lad there were only a few options when it came to organized activities that took place after school. Organized of course being a relative term for something that involves an activity with five and six year old children. I started playing soccer when I was in kindergarten and was swimming in a decidedly non competitive fashion around the same time. Other than Little League, working at the local quarry or learning how to huff paint those were the options available to a young boy growing up in rural Indiana during the 1980s.

It seems that times have changed. I’ve religiously kept Darcy away from the pool with a fervor that would impress a sleazy tent revival born again hallelujah minister. The same is true for soccer. Even though we live less than a mile away from a facility that has leagues for children as young as three.

It’s the devil you know however that you prepare to meet. It’s the devil you don’t that always bites you in the ass.

Before I’d even dropped Darcy off for her first day of kindergarten I was bombarded with requests for her, and most importantly my own, time. If I’ve learned one thing during my tenure as a stay at home father it’s that a four year old should not be left alone with a nail gun.

If I’ve learned two things it’s to never engage in a land war in Asia and if I’ve learned three things it’s that a school, apparently, cannot survive without a constant influx of fresh meat i.e. volunteers. To say that I was ill prepared for the barrage of requests is a gross understatement. The indigenous population of the Americas was better suited fend off smallpox than I was prepared to deal with the various solicitations for my time.

Here’s an example of one of the four hundred fifteen thousand emails I received in the span of three days:

“WELCOME NEW PARENTS!!! We have a number of volunteer opportunities and need your help (unless of course you don’t really love your child or believe in public education)!!!

We’re currently looking for fourteen people to bring in gluten, nut, and soy free snacks to the class three times every day.

SIGNUPS FOR OUR FIRST FIELD TRIP began two days ago. Please help us shepherd twenty unruly five year old children to the meat packing facility on October 10th. Every fourth parent WILL RECEIVE A COMPLETE GUIDE TO MAKING YOUR OWN SAUSAGE!!!

Last BUT NOT LEAST we need three room mothers to check lunches and be certain that they don’t contain allergens, organize more volunteers for an as yet undisclosed purpose, tend to Timmy when his parents forget his insulin and take Rachel “The Biter’s” victims to the nurse and then to the ER for a rabies and tetanus shot.”

Note that these requests are almost solely geared towards women. Other than watching my wife give birth I’ve never been so happy to not have a vagina.

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The annual kindergarten trip to the local meatpacking facility.

If that was the end of the matter I’d be all right. I’d ignore these queries and absolve my guilt by drinking heavily in the morning and discourage further queries by showering a few times a month. Unfortunately requests for volunteers don’t end with the classroom and no one can smell my pungent musk when our communication is relegated to email.

School’s these days, apparently, have more fundraisers than the annual cake walk I was used to back when Reagan was in office. In this brave new world there are now festivals (COMING SOON!!! We need volunteers for gourd bowling, the chili cook off or our ANNUAL which dad has the most body hair SHAVE OFF!!!) and a bunch of other shit that I, quite frankly, never anticipated. In a moment of what I can only imagine was extreme duress my wife Laura volunteered me to cook a batch of chili and then oversee the aforementioned gourd bowling activity.

Because I’m a good father and a decent husband who is not at all financially dependent upon his wife I dutifully cooked a vat of chili. I even gave it a name (I Can Never Remember if I’m Supposed to Wash My Hands Before or After I Use the Bathroom Chili) and then completely forgot to show up for gourd bowling.

These solicitations however, these requests for my time, pale in comparison when it comes to the pressure I and my wife have faced when it comes to activities that don’t involve the school. Despite my objections my daughter is currently enrolled in three extracurricular endeavors. One involves Irish dancing and it is everything I have every wanted in an after school activity. Other than forking over a check every month the class puts on a show at a local pub where my wife and I drink for three hours, watch our daughter and her peers dance and then flag down a cab to take us home. It’s a win/win for everyone involved.

Darcy’s second after school activity involves Legos. The class takes place for an hour or so once a week and its demands of my time are minimal. Other than the fact that Darcy hates Legos it’s a wonderful opportunity to teach my daughter the benefit of perseverance which, now that I think about it, eats up about three hours of my time after every class.

The real time suck is the abomination known as Daisy Scouts. If you’ve never heard of Daisy Scouts it’s because you’re probably older than dirt. When I was a youngster there were Brownies, Girl Scouts and that was it. Daisy Scouts are like the pre k version of Brownies and it turns out that Daisy Scout Troops, like the PTO, Uncle Sam and the Russian Army, also need a lot of volunteers.

My wife Laura attended the first meeting, strictly for parents, to learn the ropes of what it means to be a Daisy Scout mom or dad.  It all began innocuously enough. There was talk of dues and uniforms and then somewhere around the halfway point when everyone had six or seven glasses of wine the call went out.

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Uncle Sam wants YOU to sell five hundred fifteen thousand boxes of Thin Mints.

“We’re looking for volunteers…” one of the mothers addressed the crowd. Her request was met by a thundering silence. Now I didn’t have the pleasure of attending the meeting. I was at home tending to my daughter but my wife claims that no one made eye contact for a full fifteen minutes. Slowly but surely some of the women began to crack and, in much the same way that World War Two Russian foot soldiers “volunteered” for duty in Siberia, a few brave women marched into the breach.

After another vat of wine was consumed there were only two positions left. One involved the logistics surrounding the sale, transport and accounting for delicious Thin Mints, Samoas, and other Girl Scout cookies that have contributed to obesity and the epidemic of Type Two diabetes since their creation. Some poor half soused woman reluctantly raised her hand and then broke down in sobs once she was accepted for the job.

The final position entailed ironing patches onto a few hundred Daisy Scout vests the theory being that if one person were to do the job then all of the uniforms would look, more or less, the same. Laura, ever stoic, a woman who does what needs to be done regardless of the consequences to herself or her marriage promptly volunteered me for the job.

It could be my imagination but I believe I know the precise time I was pressed into duty like some poor Irish immigrant coming off the boat in New York and enlisted to fight the Confederacy. By forgoing the meeting I thought I was safe. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. At 9:18 in the evening, after having read Darcy half of a Bernstein Bears Cook Methamphetamine I had fallen asleep only to wake in a cold sweat as a bolt of pure terror ripped through my gut. Something was horribly amiss.

I consoled myself with the thoughts rational people think, that I didn’t believe in ESP or a sixth sense, that I was just having a run of the mill nightmare before hauling myself into my bedroom and falling into a restless sleep. I dreamed that I was a young boy in a sweat shop in Myanmar ironing a mountain of patches onto a continent’s worth of Daisy Scout vests.

It was a remarkably prescient vision but one I wouldn’t realize until the next day. This however dear readers is where we must part. I’ve got to iron a thousand or so patches onto a few hundred tiny blue vests and only a few days to do the job poorly.

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