Yesterday afternoon, my lovely wife generously said to me “Honey, why don’t you run to the gym now? I’ll stay with the kids.” She nows I’ve been trying to get back in shape (a shape that isn’t round) and the hardest part for me is finding the time to get away for the hour and a half it usually takes me. How thoughtful of her, though! 90 minutes later I walked into the house feeling refreshed, renewed, joyful. I don’t know that I’m losing any weight (which I desperately need to do for the sake of my spine) but I did feel better.
It turns out her magnanimity was for a greater purpose. She wanted to run some errands when I got home so I got the joy (truly) of hanging with the kittens for the evening. “Find something fun to do with them,” she said as she booked out the door. As if. I AM Mr. Fun when it comes to our kids. First up? Bath time! I’m usually the one to give them their baths and this is one of my favorite aspects of fatherhood. It gives me time to bond daily with my kids and they (usually) have a fun time — unless they’re in a foul mood and don’t want to bathe. In that case it’s a lot like bathing a cat. So I let them play in the tub tonight for an extra long time. Usually it’s utilitarian. Get in. Get clean. Get out. Get dressed. But tonight they had a ball. But it was only now 7PM.
In our laundry room, the same room we pass through every time we head to the car, next to the dryer, is a large box. The box, a Trivial Pursuit coffee-table collector’s edition, was a gift from one of my sisters a few Christmases ago. Since I am the only one in these parts who enjoys this game, it never sees the light of day. But my son has seen it and always begs me to play it with him. OK, let’s get something straight. He’s four. There’s not a whole lot he’s going to know even if he is a genius. Tonight, though, I used it as bait to keep them with me on the same page. “Kids, if you get out of the bath and if you don’t scream, fight, cry, or try to kill me, we can play… the GAME!”
I modified the rules a bit. OK, I modified the rules a whole lot. I placed the board on the ottoman and then placed all the question cards to the side. My objective was to let them roll the die, move their pieces, enjoy the wonderful colors of the board, and gain pie-pieces by answering simple, made-up questions I thought they’d know the answers to. You know what they say about the best laid plans?
First I had to teach them how to roll the die without taking out Daddy’s eye. After we got past that, it was on to question time! My daughter, as ever obsessed with the color pink, only wanted pink pie-pieces. My son didn’t care too much either way. First question was for her. “Rita?” I thought hard for a minute. “Rita, what is the name of Mommy’s sister?” Surely, I thought she’d get this one but perhaps my wording through her off. Here’s where it got fun. My two and a half year-old baby girl stood before me, actually scratched her scalp, and did her best impression of a game show contestant. She repeated the question aloud to herself. I laughed. For the record, the answer is Kris, as in the same sister-in-law who lives with us. My son, seeing that she was having trouble and eager to answer some of his own questions, started ducking behind the ottoman. At one point he popped up in dramatic fashion and whispered: “Kwis” which was followed by Rita yelling out “Kwis!” OK, sweetheart, a pink pie for you.
Benny got some tough ones, too. But my favorite was this. “Ben, what is the name of Jesus’ mommy?” Again, I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t think he’d respond “Mary” but I was more than mildly amused when he looked straight at me with a “duh” look on his face and deadpanned “Uh, Mommy.” “What?” I asked him. “Jesus called his mommy, “Mommy”. I guess you got me on that one, sonny. OK, a blue pie for you. “NO!” screamed my son. “Wait, what is it?” I replied. Silence for a moment. “I wanted orange.”
And like that, the most mundane of fatherly tasks (watching my kids for the night) turned into a family game night of the first order. I love these two.