Sunday, May 17, 2009
Modern American Dad
.....and major league screw-up.
No one will ever accuse me of being like the fathers from the 1950’s family sitcoms. In most of those shows the dads floated on the outer edge of the family seemly god-like in their wisdom and aloofness. I do not even fit the bill in appearance with those fictional fathers, their wardrobe more often than not being a suit and tie and never getting more casual than a white dress shirt, open at the neck, and dress pants, and dress shoes. The only time I wear a suit is for funerals and weddings, my normal attire around the house is usually t-shirt, and cargo shorts.
Watching the various dads from “Father knows best”, “Leave it to Beaver”, or “Ozzy and Harriet” I was always puzzled how they seemed to be either at work or lounging in their private den smoking a seriously dignified pipe while reading the afternoon paper. Any appearance by the father in other parts of the house for interaction with his wife were short which I generally attributed to the inability of the story writers of finding a way of getting the mother out of the kitchen where she was always cooking or cleaning. However, the overriding assumption in those sitcoms was that no matter what the father’s wisdom was never to be questioned, his actions were never mistaken, and his decisions never wrong. Only the ridiculously foolish saw any reality in those early televisions shows but never the less I regularly find out how much I can fail in the true wisdom, correct decisions, and appropriate actions department in real life.
Yesterday was Miss Wiggles’, my daughter, spring ballet and tap recital culminating the nine months of practices she had attended with me waiting in the cramped and uncomfortable parent waiting area. During those practices I heard her and her classmates laugh and giggle as a twenty-something instructor did her best to herd the small group of kittens into some order. During those times, I usually read a book or steal Wi-Fi from neighboring deli and surfed the internet. Centered on the main wall in the waiting area was a rather large white board that the owner of the dance studio wrote down important updates or bulletins that the parents needed to know about. I was responsible enough to take notice of anything written on that white board before I started pursuing my own interests but, much to my chagrin, the notes posted beside the large board could and did slip my attention at times. Moreover, it was yesterday that such a slip jumped up and bit me in the ass.
As Saturdays go yesterday was, as usual, busy right from the start. With the big recital early that afternoon the normal weekend house cleaning was pressed into overdrive. Especially since the in-laws were driving down to see my daughter dance and one of Dragonwife’s, my wife, greatest fears is to hear her mother complain about how dirty our bathrooms look. Bathroom inspections is something my mother-in-law takes a huge enjoyment in with her giving unsolicited and very detailed reports of the restrooms in any public place we might accompany her and my father-in-law. Thankfully my in-laws stay home a lot.
While my wife, son, and daughter were busy cleaning I had to zip up to the local mega-hardware store to try and buy a new lifting spring for one of the garage doors that a few nights before had suddenly popped sounding like a blast form a large caliber handgun. Replacing the spring is easy but the issue is when I have to get everything back into place and tighten back down so nothing tangles and, heaven forbid, really tear something up once the garage door is back in service. Surprisingly this time everything fell right back into place and I was done so quick that Dragonwife did not have the chance to stick her head outside to offer up some snarky comments like the other times.
Returning to help inside I found the house without conflict and everyone working to clean the house up. The change to the usual chaos was because of my son’s girlfriend, who had arrived at the house earlier and was going with us to the recital. She was helping with the cleaning of Miss Wiggles' room who was quite happy to have something akin to a big sister that morning. Dragonwife was in a strangely good mood, maybe because I had finished my first task under her unspoken time limit. I did not argue, while she was not sleeping and not laying down I saw no need to do anything to disrupt her placid state. Yes, read what you want in that vague sentence.
A few hours later, after the arrival of the in-laws, we loaded up and made the short trip to the school auditorium in which the recital was being held. When we arrived I was quite surprised that the general good mood of everyone was still holding tight. My wife was agreeable and seemly unstressed. My daughter was holding the hand of Spoilboy’s girlfriend talking to her about something girlie. My son, Darth Spoilboy, had quickly drifted off to talk with a couple of friends in the auditorium there to see younger siblings perform in the recital themselves. And thankfully the in-laws had not spoiled the mood and started mouthing off about politics and their hero Sean Hannity as I talked with them in the hallway waiting for the doors to the auditorium to open.
When the doors did open Dragonwife and Miss Wiggles left to join the other little girls and mothers in the dressing room. The rest of us took seats inside and began enjoying the many performances. I did not know it but the brief era of good feelings had just ended and the fault rested squarely on me.
Miss Wiggles’ first performance was a tap number with her and the other little girls dancing to the tune of “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch”. Wiggles’ and her fellow performers pranced around the stage in a fairly organized manner and clearly enjoying being the center of attention for the moment. As soon as it ended and the doors to the auditorium were reopened to allow people to enter and leave briefly before the next act. During that time Dragonwife came storming back in clearly in a very bad mood. While Wiggles’ had been performing I had been taking pictures on the far side of the auditorium away from most people and it was clear that I was the destination and target of my wife’s irritation. With her mouth pressed together in a very thin line and her eyes wide, her mean face, I knew from past experience I had really stepped in the poop.
“You did sign Wiggles’ up for her three year trophy?” She asked, and with her being a lawyer I knew full well she already knew the answer to that question.
“What three year trophy?” I asked back. I quickly ran through the past few weeks trying to remember if anything was said to me about a trophy. Truth be told nothing had, and that was the problem I was about to learn.
“At the dance studio was a sign-up sheet for trophies to be given out after the recital. Wiggle’s was due her three year trophy.” My wife said to me.
“Where was the sign-up sheet?” I asked again knowing now that I had screwed up someplace along the line, I just needed my wife to confirm it.
She told me that the instructor had hung it next to the large white board used to relay messages to parents in the waiting area of the studio. Now this is where I could claim some extenuating circumstances but I knew right then it would not help. Not only was my wife not in the mood to hear any excuses, I could not deny that I had simply screwed up.
The dance studio my daughter attends is not a full-time job to the owner. Not only is it a part-time job for her but also for the young instructors she employs. So while they do have the white board in the studio to relay messages they do not make use of a website or email to pass along messages that might not be written on the board by hurried part-time instructors eager to finish up herding their class of kittens and get home. Let us not forget about dumbass dads that might not have enough sense to look closely at the various pieces of paper taped alongside it. There is no telling how long that sign-up sheet might have hung next the white board with me not noticing it among the other pieces of paper. The fact that during those times I was either reading or surfing the internet, failing to do my fatherly duty, pretty much ruined the rest of the day for me with Dragonwife never failing to mention my inattention to my her parents, the dance studio staff, and any passerby unlucky enough to come within her reach.
My father-in-law saw fit to grab me by the shoulder and quickly say not to worry too much about it. “Shit happens”, he said as we walked to pick up Wiggles’ at the end of the recital after her classmates walked up on stage to receive their trophies, except her.
My daughter came running up to me with a few lingering tears on her face. I did not need to ask what was wrong, that thousand-pound weight was resting squarely on my shoulders. “Daddy, I didn’t get a trophy”, was all she could say as we walked out. My wife and mother-in-law were up ahead whispering something to each other and clearly mad, my father-in-law seemed preoccupied wanting to be someplace else, and my son and his girlfriend had long since skipped out before the end of the recital.
Hours later most of my sins had either been forgiven of at least filed away for future blackmail in the case of my daughter or emotional torture by Dragonwife. However, the kicker was that as I was surfing the satellite channels trying to forget my mistakes, I stumbled upon one of the channels that plays old 1950’s sitcoms. “Leave it to Beaver” just happen to be playing and for reasons I do not know I sat and watched the rest of that episode.
The Beaver’s dad, Old Ward Cleaver, did not show up until the last five minutes of the episode solving whatever problem the Beaver had gotten himself into. Of course the Beaver had to exclaim his undying love and gratitude saying he had the perfect dad with his older brother and mother, June Cleaver, looking on happily smiling. This is completely stupid but I swear right then I hated that bastard Ward Cleaver.