Posted by: laughs4dads | February 10, 2010

Escape Routes

It is accepted as fact that food, clothing and shelter are the primary necessities for the human race.  And some psychologists will tell you that sex is the motivating factor behind most human behavior (and then they will send you a bill).  This may all be true for humanity as a whole, but it is not true for fathers of young children.

For fathers, the primary necessity, the single most motivating factor, is escape.

Escape from the house.  Escape from the baby.

This does not mean that the father does not like his house.  Or his baby.  It simply means that his threshold for enduring consecutive hours of being with the baby, in the house, is much lower than the corresponding mother’s.

The house is jail.  The baby is the warden.  The sentence is one full day.

It can seem like life.

And so the father begins to plot his escape.  This does not involve the digging of tunnels or the bribing of guards.  Instead, it entails the search for things, little things, anything, that will locate the father anywhere but inside the house.

Outside the house, even a few inches outside the house, is just fine.  Lawns that were previously neglected for weeks at a time now get mowed every week.  And thoroughly.

Leaves get raked up almost before they hit the ground.  I mean this.  Father will be sitting around playing with baby and he’ll suddenly leap up, shouting frantically.  “Oh my God!” he’ll yell, running to the window.  “A leaf!”  And he’ll scoot right on out to rake it up.

Father will no longer need to be asked twice to paint the fence, or the entire house, or the neighbor’s house.  He may even do the job and find he does not care for the color and do it all over again.  He will use two or more coats.  He will use a toothbrush on the trim.

Errands that used to be put off until after the football game are now taken care of immediately.  And joyfully.  Mom may wonder why, when she asks her husband to go to the store for milk, a smile appears on his face.  It is because he will get to go out.  He may even ask if there’s anything else he can get while he’s out, something, perhaps, that can only be found in another state.  He hopes the shopping list is extensive enough to warrant a trip to the supermarket, rather than the 7-11, because at the supermarket he can choose a nice, long line to stand on while he reads headlines in the tabloids (“Farmer Breeds Six-Legged Pig for More Pork Chops!”)

Here’s a tip for you fathers out there.  Say your wife asks you to go out for milk and Pampers.  Bring back the milk and then, an hour later, slap your forehead and say, “Whoops, forgot the Pampers!” and go out again.  That way, you get two trips from one errand.

Some fathers escape by taking up hobbies or special interests.  A group of fathers may get a poker game going, even though none of them knows how to play poker, even though they all have to keep little charts that show them which hands are highest.  Maybe dad will buy an expensive camera and get really serious about photography so (he says) he can take beautiful pictures of the baby.  Ah, but digital photography is not good enough; only the rich, deep tones of “real” film photos will do.  You know, the kind that require many hours spent in a darkroom, preferably a darkroom that is in someone else’s house.

I started playing tennis.  I played every week with my friend, Jan, who, not coincidentally, had a baby himself.  If you didn’t actually watch us play, you’d think we were really good.  We always used new balls, for one thing.  I wore a glove and Jan wore a visor.  We brought Gatorade to the court.  I even bought a new racquet that didn’t come with the strings already on it.  That’s right–custom strung.  You should have seen how far into the adjacent court I could hit the ball with that baby!

The truth is, obviously, that we were not great players.  Our rankings went from “Barely Getting the Ball Over the Net” to “Able to Hit the Ball More Than Two Times in a Row,” but did not progress much past that.  But, of course, the quality of our game was not what mattered.  What mattered was that tennis is a game that is ideally played on a court specifically designed for that purpose, and that such a court did not exist inside our homes.

Jan and I enjoyed our matches very much.  Because we were equally awful, our games tended to be very close, and they took a long time because we were constantly having to go out and fetch balls that we hit over the fence.

Sometimes I won.  Sometimes Jan won.  But that wasn’t the point.  As any father will tell you, it’s not whether you win or lose that counts, it’s where you play the game.

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