Friday, May 16, 2008

Don't Drop the Baby Down the Muskrat Hole: Parenting Tips From My Father

My parents have been married for 45 years- they must be doing something right...

That, or Mom is afraid that if left alone my father would simply wander out into traffic.

It's a tossup.

The man is either an unsung genius, or a cousin to Forrest Gump.

At work, he was brilliant. A design engineer for a multinational company.

At home, well, he could find his sock if it was on his foot.

I don't think Mom suspected that she was marrying the possibly impaired at first, though when he went scuba diving in their apartment pool she may have suspected.

It takes children to really reveal a man's character- and eventually there we were.

I first suspected Dad was a few eggs short of a carton when Mom asked him to see if my then diaper-wearing baby sister was "dirty".

The engineer, the man who exactingly designed bits that made big dangerous machines run without inconvenient fires and explosions, STUCK HIS HAND DOWN THE BACK OF THE BABY'S DIAPER TO CHECK.

He brought his hand back out, covered in baby throughput.

For a minute I thought a new dance craze had overtaken him as he deftly deposited the baby in her basket, and ran screaming straight up one wall. I believe I actually applauded at he did a half twist off the ceiling.

Granted near-Messianic abilities in the presence of poo, he then dashed across the top of the open fish tank, bounced off the couch, and did a one-rail slalom down the basement steps to the work sink.

Due to the speed at which he was moving, this part is a blur, but I think in the haze I saw Lava soap, Mom's washing bleach, and a pad of steel wool. My mother managed to wrestle him to the ground when he pulled out the hacksaw.

In just a few short months he was ready to return to the parenting fray. He had even begun to approach my sister wearing nothing more than a welding mask, hip waders, and flack jacket. The barbecue tongs and leather gloves were slowly put away.

Mom decided it was time. He was ready to move on to the big leagues.

He was going to take the kid fishing.

As I was the kid, and the pond was next door, how much trouble could he get in?

Need you ask?

Armed with cane pole, worm can, and packed lunch, I happily set out.

Unfortunately, Dad had not yet learned the First and Great Commandment known to all mothers, everywhere- if the little booger can outrun you, slow em down. Large rocks and chain can often be employed for this purpose, if no dog, wagon, or smaller sibling is available.

No one told Dad.

Mannerly to a fault, he took my can, bag, and pole so that I might proceed unencumbered to the pond. He stopped to adjust his new red fishing hat.

He realized his mistake in the 1.2 seconds it took me to climb the barbed wire fence, reach the bank, ... and disappear.

Into a muskrat hole.

From Dad's perspective the situation was startling, to say the least:

"Well, one minute I had a kid, and then next I had a head, sticking out of a mud bank. All the screaming and crying was pretty bad too- glad no one was around to see me. Wouldn't have been so bad if the muskrat hadn't actually been in the hole."

The next few minutes got a little confused, as all three of us fought to re-establish our proper places in the natural order of things. I stood on the muskrat and Dad pulled. Dad stood on the muskrat and I pulled. I stood on Dad and the muskrat took a few casts with my cane pole.

Eventually order was restored, and Dad and I stood on the bank. Muttering something about "Geez, what a couple of weirdos" and still munching on my chicken sandwich, the muskrat wandered off.

Hosing off the mud in the back yard, we plotted out a cover story. Hush money was obtained, and pocketed with glee (hey, a buck was a lot for an hours work back then!).

We would have gotten away with it, but that woman has interogation instincts that would make the KGB proud. She pointed out the window, towards the pond.

Who else would have noticed a smirking muskrat, wearing a red fishing hat? Some of his casts weren't even that good.

I think he had inside help.

Dad agrees.

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