March Column Glo Magazine: Let’s annoy Dad!

bro5        Once upon a time, before weeklong day camps were established by every local organization, centered around every possible interest and available en masse throughout every school holiday, two paycheck families scrambled to find short-term care for their offspring wherever they could without expecting an enriching experience in return. Because Spring Break was a shorter recess than our Christmas or Summer Vacations, it was the one time of the year that my father used some of his paid-time-off so that he could spend some “quality time” with his kids.

Translation: Our regular sitter was unavailable and Mom couldn’t get the time off so Dad was stuck with us.

This arrangement was fine with my brother and me. In fact, it was perfect. If Spring Break happened to be warm and sunny, the two of us would hop on our bikes and head over to our friends’ houses for the day; something we couldn’t do when we had a babysitter. We’d give dad a vague notion of where we were going, he would pretend to hear us and we would make it home before 5 p.m. There was an unspoken understanding among us that if Mom got home before we did, we’d all be busted (Dad included) and no one wanted that to happen. However, if Spring Break proved to be cold, rainy or subject to a late-season snow, my brother and I resorted to Plan B; fallback diversion known as “Let’s Annoy Dad.”

Now don’t misunderstand me. My father was a wonderful and caring man who loved us very much, but he was Old School and took a hands-off approach to raising children. He prided himself on the fact that he only changed one dirty diaper per child. He was physically incapable of being around anyone who was sick because it triggered his gag reflex and he answered every question with a standard, “What did your mom say?”

A few days prior to Spring Break, my father would lay down some official ground rules about our time together. Number One: He was not going to entertain us all week. Number Two: He couldn’t cook so we were expected to make our own lunches and clean up after ourselves. Number Three: We were not to bother him if he was in his workshop, the bathroom, garage or Ham radio. (Note: he was always in one of these places.) Number Four: We knew the house rules better than he did, so we were not to get him in any trouble with Mom. And of course Rule Number Five: Don’t forget Rules 1-4.

With the rules in place, the object of “Let’s Annoy Dad” was to get him to do some fun things during Spring Break without breaching any of his commandments. It wasn’t easy. You had to catch him at the right time and balance the wheedling, coaxing and cajoling in order to convince him without pressing your advantage. The winner was the child or children that could talk dad into at least one trip to the bowling alley, park or video arcade and bonus points were awarded for scoring all three in a single week.

Despite my father’s supposed aversion to parent/child bonding, deep down I think he enjoyed “Let’s Annoy Dad” as much as we did. He got to be a kid again and I learned how to get to the fourth level of Ms. Pac-Man, bowl a strike and do a back flip off of the monkey bars. Sure I may have missed out on the educational aspect of a structured program, but I ended up with memories…and if you ask me, that’s priceless.

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