Parenting 2.0

After years of having my husband live away from our home, it's always a bit of a novelty when he finally walks through the front door.

And by novelty, I mean an annoyance, since he generally carries in a full duffle bag of dirty laundry and just drops it in front of the door.

After almost five years of my husband living away from us, we've managed to cultivate his homecoming into a bit of a science. There's an art to readjustment, really. The first night is always filled with hugs and snuggles, the next day is where we give each other a wide berth to re-acclimate to sharing our space and our responsibilities and by the third day we are operating like a well-oiled tandem machine. And then on the fourth day he generally has to leave again.


This time, however, Boo is home for longer than his usual three days. After several calls involving me screeching into the phone that if he doesn't come home soon to supervise these wolves he calls his children I'd be packing them up and shipping them off to live with him he decided it was time to come home and take care of some family business. There is a deck to be built so Jumby can enjoy outdoor time with us safely and routine yard maintenance just begging to be done.

While Boo and I easily slip into marital grace together after his absences, the children aren't readjusting so easily. This may have something to do with the fact their father is on a manual labour kick, intent on getting as much stuff done as he can while he's home. When dad is working, that means Fric and Frac are working too.

My children, bless their cotton socks, are like me. Often useless but always pretty. My husband grew up on a farm and isn't scared to get his hands dirty. Nor is he scared of getting his children's hands dirty. Much to their dismay.

I keep telling my kids to stop thinking about their new tasks as work and rather, to think of it as spending quality time with their father.

They keep giving me the stink eye while muttering under their breath. I figure it's best not to ask what it is they are mumbling about.

Boo, for the most part, just shakes his head and wonders how he managed to get yoked to a sack of such lazy potatoes for a family. It's right about then when he starts voicing this out loud that I bring him a beer and offer to rub his shoulders. I find the art of distraction very useful in avoiding joining in on the manual labour love fest.

What's interesting to me, besides how Fric and Frac actually manage to morph into industrious little work horses when their dad is home when I can't elevate either of them past lazy slobs on my own, is the dynamic between my husband and my children.

Boo, having been gone for the bulk of the last five years, hasn't quite honed the skills required in parenting teenaged children.

Fric and Frac bob between excitement and glee that their father is home to utter distain that yet another adult is bossing them around and stealing with him a smidge of their hard won independence.

I just happily ignore them all, thrilled I am not the only adult under this roof being held hostage to the whims of the badgers we call our children.

Last night, tension mounted between my daughter and my husband. Fric wanted permission to attend a party for older children this weekend and her father wanted to have a conversation with her without her rolling her eyes at him or breaking out the teenaged attitude.

Like the good wife and mom I am, I just sat back and watched the carnage unfold. Dad being home means I am OFF DUTY. I like to be helpful that way.

Like a tennis match, Frac and I stood back and watched the ping-ponging between his sister and his dad. She'd lob something at her dad and he'd volley it right back at her. I could see the two of them were growing increasingly frustrated with one another but I wasn't going to throw myself in the line of fire for either of them. Self-preservation and all.

Apparently this apple didn't fall far from my tree.

Boo finally had enough and growled that the discussion was over and it was time to get back to work. My daughter, not liking the final verdict nor the fact she couldn't twist her daddy around her finger like she normally is able to, stomped her foot and made her final mistake.

She sassed him.

My husband stood there, momentarily stunned by her cheekiness. I think he was filled with disbelief that one of his children had the gall to give him some lip. It was like he hasn't been listening to me for the past five years all those times I whined about their attitudes.

I could see the steam suddenly pour out of his ears as him and my daughter stood chest to chest, both equally puffed out like two birds ready to engage in battle.

I braced myself, figuring there would be tears as I expected him to lower the boom and discipline her by grounding her or taking away a privilege. Heck, I wouldn't have been surprised if he sentenced her to even more manual labour than she was already doing.

What I didn't expect was for him to suddenly put his hands on his hips and bellow:


Poor Boo. He was so flummoxed I almost felt sorry for him. Almost. My daughter was so stunned she forgot to roll her eyes at him. Again.

After everyone's temper cooled off and the kids had gone off to do whatever kids do when their annoying parents aren't forcing them into contributing to household duties, I sat next to Boo as he worked through his frustration by tearing apart our old, decaying back deck.

"I'm not married to you? You don't get to sass me? Really Boo? That was the best you could do?"

"Oh be quiet. I was angry. It's not funny. They don't listen! They roll their eyes! They argue about everything!"

Snicker. "Yes, it's called being a teenager. Welcome to parenting 2.0"

Boo ripped off another board, this time more savagely than the last board.

"Don't worry big guy. You'll find your sea legs yet. They are just pushing their boundaries with you. The same way they do with me. Consider it a badge of honor. It's kind of nice to know they can push your buttons too, and not just mine."

"Very funny. Quit laughing at me."

"I can't help it." Chuckle.

"Stop it."

"No. As you pointed out, you're MARRIED to me. You have to listen to me sass," I said as I burst out laughing.

And then I ran. Because I may be mouthy but I'm not stupid.

It's a wonder my husband comes home at all.