When the kids are away, the Dad will play.
Last July, as my wife and I dropped both of our kids off at sleep-away camp, we talked about how we would spend the next twenty-six kidless days. Without a second thought, my wife suggested doing it in every room in the house, except for the kitchen. And by “it,” I mean, of course, painting.
As a schoolteacher and mom par excellence, my wife had earned her right to the three-plus weeks of unmitigated leisure. What she chose instead was to undertake an exhausting, messy project in the middle of the kind of stifling Missouri heat and humidity that makes the inhalation of paint fumes the preferred option over opening a window.
And while I am engaged in the kind of work that comes with no summer vacation, this is not to say that I didn’t take advantage of my time off from on-site fatherhood. I enrolled myself in what I like to call Dad Camp. Dad Camp is a journey within oneself, an opportunity to indulge more fully in those activities which so often must yield to the responsibilities of any respectable parent.
At Dad Camp, one’s usual, frenetic morning routine simply doesn’t exist because there are no protesting kids to extricate from their beds.
Five extra minutes on the treadmill? Fine! Good for you, as a matter of fact!
Some extra shower time? Okay! That just helps soften up the whiskers for a slower, more fastidious shave.
And breakfast! Majestic breakfast! This isn’t the time to be shoving an under-toasted bagel down one’s gullet. Dad camp serves hand-crafted omelets! Fry up some mushrooms! Snip some fresh herbs! Slice up some goat cheese! Griddle up some Canadian bacon, for crying out loud! How about a side of freshly grated hash browns with that? And, yes, there’s even time for a second cup of coffee while you enjoy the opportunity to read beyond the front page of the morning paper. Prepare your breakfast and eat hearty. This is Dad Camp!
Does one still have to go to work while attending Dad Camp? Well, yes, but one makes the commute alone – no school drop-offs, and that means no complaining about “why we always have to listen to Dad’s music in the car.” Want to enjoy Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown” at full volume, Pops? Knock yourself out!
Evenings are unencumbered by the strain of serving on Homework Patrol. There is oftentimes unfettered access to the family room television, and one has the luxury to enjoy a fine cigar on the patio without youthful, mock coughing from the other side of the sliding glass door (however, the author makes no promises regarding the odds of spousal mock coughing.)
Shortly after our dog of nearly fifteen years passed away, family and friends started asking when I thought I would be ready for another one. My answer to them was – and remains – “I love and miss my dog. But I do not miss having a dog.” Much of the same can be said for my kids. I love my kids and miss my kids when they are off at camp, but I know that they are in a good place, frolicking and playing with the other camp kids. And, unlike our poor, beloved pooch, the kids will be back soon enough.
Summer has returned, the kids will be leaving for their camp once again, and I will be back at mine. Seeing as how the house now sports a fresh and well-executed paint job, I’m hoping my wife is coming up with some more, ahem, exciting plans. Nobody ever said Dad Camp excluded co-ed activities.