“Dad, Nathan won’t stop hitting me.”
“Hit him back.”
“Dad, Addy’s feeding the baby dogfood.”
“But we don’t have a dog.”
“Maybe it’s that meatloaf you made. It sure looks like dogfood.”
“Dad, is it lunchtime yet?”
“It’s nine-thirty A.M.”
“Dad, what does A.M. mean?”
“Dad, Nathan’s still hitting me.”
“Dad, the television is fuzzy.”
“Dad, the baby is out front.”
At this point the househusband explodes: “Go to your rooms and do NOT come out until you’re eighteen!”
“But dad, we all won’t be eighteen at the same time. When the baby’s eighteen I’ll probably be almost forty,” said Danni.
Danni’s addition was a little off. When Elisa (the baby) is eighteen, she’ll be twenty-five. Rachel will be twenty-three. Addy will be twenty-two. Nathan (if he lives that long) will be twenty. That will be in 2001.
I can’t wait.
I’m the househusband,
My wife Lu works as a bookkeeper during the day. I’m a waiter who doesn’t have to be at work until 5:30 PM. The kids are all mine during the day, five days a week.
The oldest is Danielle Nichol, eight. Alias Danni or Danni-girl. When she was four she marched down the aisle as a flower girl in my sister-in-law’s wedding. After a long day of compliments and attention, it was time to drive home from the reception. It was after midnight but Danni couldn’t sleep. Lu sat in the backseat with Danni, Lu’s grandmother and an aunt. Lu’s grandfather was in the front seat with me. Danni leaned over the seat, “Dad?”
“I have a great idea.”
“When we get home, let’s make some popcorn and stay up all night watching movies!”
“Danni-girl I think you’d better go to bed when we get home.”
Danni sighed, sat down and said, “Son of a bitch.”
I stopped swearing (around the kids) shortly after that.
Next in line is Rachel Anne, six. Alias Rachie, Rocket, or Rocky. The kids and I were strolling by some road workers. One of the workers was 5’4” and close to 300 pounds. Addy said, “Look! It’s a baby whale!” Rachel, who is very considerate of other people’s feelings said (loudly enough for the baby whale to hear), “Addy, it’s not nice to tell fat people they’re fat!”
Adrienne Lee, the middle of the five, is five. Alias is Addy or Little Miss Blue Eyes. The first word she ever uttered was “armpit”. My father (gray-haired, 70+) was helping us move. The plan was to put up the swingset first, keeping the kids out of the way. The slide had been erected and the rest of the swings were being set up by dad and me. Addy was sitting on the slide and pointed her finger at me, “Hey you, work faster!” My dad stopped and laughed at her when she pointed to him and said, “What are you laughing at old man?”
Nathaniel James, three-and-a-half is the only boy. Alias Nathan or Nay-Nay. I’m certain he’s the only person in the history of the world to have worn out Velcro. One day he was out front fighting with a five-year-old who had pushed Addy. Since he was winning I didn’t break it up. Nathan had him down on the lawn and screamed into his face, “YOU PIG!”
“Nathan,” I said, “it’s not nice to call people pigs.”
Nathan turned to the vanquished bully and screamed, “YOU LAMB!”
The youngest is Elisa Rene, eighteen months. Alias Ellie or “The Baby”. She hasn’t been alive long enough to do anything funny. Her favorite word is “doggy”.
Every morning, Monday through Friday, my task is to dress, feed, play with, and scream at these little people. Danni and Rachel are in first and second grades so I don’t have to worry about them once their lunches are made and they’re out the door.
My morning usually starts with two or more children pulling me out of bed:
“Mom says it’s time to get up.”
“The baby has dirty diapers.”
“We want hot chocolate.”
But the other morning Rachel comes into my bedroom, “Dad?”
“There’s a big giant rat in our backyard.”
“That’s nice, Rachel.”
Next comes Addy, “Dad?”
“There’s a guinea pig in our backyard.”
“That’s nice, Addy.”
Next comes Nathan, “Dad?”
“There’s a kangaroo in our backyard.”
Next comes Elisa, “Doggy-doggy-doggy.”
I decided to find out exactly what was in our backyard. I noticed Danni was calmly eating Cheerios in the kitchen. The rest of the kids were hovering around my legs (for protection I suppose) as I walked out into the backyard. A possum was sniffing around the yard. Looking for possum food. (Maybe it would like my meatloaf?)
I guess a possum does look remotely like a giant rat, a guinea pig, a kangaroo or a doggy-doggy-doggy. “It’s a possum,” I said.
“I told them that,” said Danni, “but they wouldn’t believe me. We learned all about them at school. They’re not even poisonous.”
Second graders are just too cool.
After all the strange creatures are identified and the eldest two are off to school I sit down at the typewriter while the remaining three watch cartoons, color, or play. Addy stood very still and quiet one day, watching me type for almost fifteen minutes. “Addy,” I said, “what are you doing?”
“I’m waiting for you to make a mistake.”
“I need some paper.”
If the weather is nice, a morning walk is included on our agenda. On these walks I tell Nathan the Latin names of all the plants and we laugh when he tries to say Juniperus procumbens or Chamecyperis psifera nana. One day when I denied Addy a privilege that her mother generally grants her, she said, “Boys are dumb. Girls are better. The only thing boys are good for is naming trees.”
Househusbands are used to sarcasm.
After breakfast and a walk it’s usually time for the kids to start fighting. If they don’t have anything to fight about, they’ll fight about who has less to fight about. The other day I was eavesdropping at the door of the TV room. Nathan was playing with his cars while Addy was clubbing him on the head with her doll. Elisa was laughing. Nathan tried to stand up, but couldn’t because the blows were coming too rapidly. Now, Addy was laughing. Nathan wasn’t crying, but tried crawling away from Addy. She kept bopping him, to Elisa’s delight. Finally, Nathan ripped the doll away from Addy. Immediately Addy’s eyes filled with tears and she screamed, “Nathan took my doll!”
“That’s because you were whipping him with it,” I said.
“Oh well,” her smile seemed to say, “you can’t blame me for trying.” She helped Nathan to his feet and they ran outside to swing. The baby started crying.
That kid loves action.
After lunch it’s naptime for Elisa. Nathan and Addy help me mow the lawn or do laundry or vacuum. Addy and I have been teaching Nathan how to dress himself and what colors match. (My wife says as soon as Addy teaches me, I should show Nathan.) He continually puts his shoes on the wrong feet. The other day I flew into a rage, “How many times do I have to show you how to put your shoes on! They are on the wrong feet! The wrong feet! You have your shoes on the wrong feet! Those are the wrong feet!”
Nathan started crying. (An unusual circumstance. He has fallen off tables and sliced himself on rain gutters without so much as an “Ow”.)
“What’s the matter, Nathan?”
He wiped his nose on his sleeve, “These are the only feet I have.”
Sometimes three year olds act just like children.
Househusbands like to go for walks. LONG walks. After Danni and Rachel get home we usually walk up to Sonoma State University to feed the ducks and play on the monkey bars.
Househusbands love monkey bars.
When Lu finally comes home I’m usually ready to go to work. A seven hour shift in a restaurant is nothing compared to caring for five little people.
But I wouldn’t trade these long hectic days for anything. Even the days when Addy and Nathan jump through the window screen playing “A-Team”. Even when Danni rips the antenna off my Volkswagen as she skates by. There are days when gallons of milk are spilled, quarts of blood flow from skinned knees and knuckles, and a truckload of Kleenex is needed to wipe all the runny noses. But I wouldn’t trade these long hectic days for anything.
Because househusbands are about three bricks shy of a load.
Rob’s latest book The Smartest Kid in Petaluma is available at: