An Average Day in the Neighborhood
Award-winning writer, professional marriage and parenting coach, and Cavemen in Babyland author, Kindred Howard, shares about an average day as a suburban dad.
The other day, I was working at home by myself. Needing a break, I decided to take a few moments to play with my lunatic dog, Zoe, in the backyard. That’s when Mae came over for a visit.
Mae is a sweet, strong-willed little five-year-old who lives next door. Not only does Mae continually demonstrate her ability to ask 122 questions per minute, she also insists on standing less than six inches away from any adult with whom she is having a conversation.
While in the backyard with Zoe, I turned to see Mae climbing over the fence to join us. Afraid she might fall, I rushed over to help her. I didn't make it more than a few steps before I stepped in a big pile of dog poop. Slipping and sliding the last couple of feet, I reached the fence and helped Mae down.
Irritated that the crevices of my shoe were now filled with doggie doo, I sat down on a step, grabbed a stick, and proceeded to clean my shoe as best I could. All the while, Mae stood less than a foot from my nose asking me questions: Mr. Howard, why are you rubbing your shoe with a stick? Mr. Howard, why does your shoe smell like that? Mr. Howard, is that dog poop on your shoe? Mr. Howard, did you know I have a hula-hoop? Would you like to see me hula hoop right now, Mr. Howard?
Finally, having survived an interrogation the Obama administration would have labeled as torture, I turned and hopped up the stairs with my poop-covered shoe in hand—my lovable little visitor right behind me. On entering the house, I discovered that the door to the garage was wide open and that my dog was gone!
Rushing outside, I saw my energetic boxer gleefully leaping from yard to yard as if mocking me and screaming the words "I'm free! I’m free!" through interpretive dance. For over fifteen minutes I pursued Zoe back and forth through the neighborhood as passing drivers turned to get a look at the crazy dog chaser wearing only one shoe.
Having lost any ounce of dignity I may have previously possessed, I finally managed to grab Zoe by her collar and limped back to the house. With every step, little Mae kept pace—asking more questions: Mr. Howard, how come you let Zoe run around the neighborhood? Don’t you know that you are supposed to keep your dog on a leash, Mr. Howard? Mr. Howard, when we get inside, can I have a snack? Did you mean it when you told Zoe you were going to sell her to a Chinese restaurant, Mr. Howard?
Returning to the garage, I discovered that I had locked myself out of the house. I led my dog around to the backyard, picked up all sixty-five pounds of her, and gently dropped her over the fence. Then I climbed over.
Jumping from the top of the fence to the ground, my shoeless foot landed on a pine cone. Conscious of Mae's presence and not wanting to yell any words that could be used against me later, I simply grimaced and bit my lip. Why are you making that funny face, Mr. Howard? Did it hurt when you landed on that pime comb? Did you know that I can paint a pime comb to make it look like a Christmas tree, Mr. Howard? What's your favorite part of Christmas, Mr. Howard?
Making my way up the stairs of the deck, I was relieved to find that the backdoor was, indeed, open. I unlocked the door to the garage, let Mae in, and fixed her that snack. (Why wouldn’t I? It's hard for a five-year-old to ask questions with cookies in her mouth).
And so goes life. What started as a seemingly simple plan to take a break from work to play with my dog for ten minutes ended in one poop-plastered shoe, a mud-stained sock, a briefly escaped dog, and a barrage of questions from an inquisitive, albeit, loveable little person. No biggie, I guess. Just an average day in the neighborhood.