Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Bitching Hour

Years ago, when Ethan was a toddler and attended preschool, I used to really dread the hours between 4-6 pm each day; for this was the time that he returned home from school famished and hyper-stimulated. With babies, this time of day is commonly referred to as the 'witching hour' as babies tend to get cranky and no matter how much cooing, swaddling, or comforting you do, they still scream their heads off. Our son Ethan, entered this stage and never left. I now call that time of day 'The Bitching Hour' because my son does nothing but complain, whine and make cunning observations.

"Daddy, I don't like this snack."

"Daddy, I want a play date."

"Daddy, you're too old to wear that outfit - it's embarrassing."

In the old days, when George and I first brought Ethan home from the hospital and the 'witching hour' would approach, did we soften the lights, turn on the Mozart, and try to create a restful, relaxing atmosphere? Of course not. We handled that unpleasantness the old fashioned way - we got fucked up. With Ethan stashed securely in the Baby Bjorn, George got incredibly adept at mixing Apple-tinis (remember them?) and we would get properly hammered. To further combat the tedium of our circumstances, we would invite a different gaggle of friends over each night and host rousing cocktail parties in Ethan's makeshift 'nursery' which coincidentally turned out to be our wet bar. I believe that Ethan's first words were 'jigger,' 'extra shot' and 'Grey Goose.'

In addition to the 'witching hour' cocktail parties, to pass the time Baby Ethan and I developed a series of bizarre, semi-sadistic games that for some reason kept him incredibly entertained. I once read in that frightening 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' book new parents should play Peek-A-Boo and talk baby-talk with their newborns because it somehow helps with their speech and face recognition development. I don't know what developmental skills my son acquired while we played 'push-daddy-off-the-really-high-king-sized-bed,' or 'hit-daddy-in-the-head-with-a-Playskool-mallet,' as well as 'pull-daddy's-hair-until-his-eyes-water' but our son certainly seemed to enjoy himself.

Now, that our son is six year's old, 4-6 PM has become his 'enrichment' time. Like all the well turned-out young children in our neighborhood, Ethan enthusiastically participates in the standard
tennis, gymnastics, soccer, and Taikwondo lessons. In fact, Ethan has more resume enhancing 'appointments,' 'lessons,' and 'tutoring,' than a third year medical student. Despite this hectic schedule, Ethan still sets aside one day each week (Wednesday) to play a new and improved version of the 'Bitching Hour.' The latest game we've developed is called 'Runway Rampage.'

In this particular game, Daddy is a famous fashion model (Either Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, or Heidi Klum - they're all equally deplorable) and my son is a well known and respected fashion show producer/director. Ethan commands me to 'set the mood' by turning up the lights in my bedroom and blasting Beyonce's 'SINGLE LADIES' as loudly as possible on my stereo system. Donned in his STAR WARS headset, Ethan first checks his clipboard, consults his stopwatch and then silently motions for me to make my pass on our makeshift catwalk. Like a drill Sargent, he shouts orders at me like 'strut' and 'work it' and as I pass him, dissatisfied, he punches me in the stomach as hard as he can.

"You call that modeling?" he cries "You're not even trying! Again!"

I make at least 20 passes down the catwalk and have in turn endured 20 gut punches. I try not to think about the psycho-sexual connotations of my young son pretending his father is Heidi Klum and punching Heidi in the stomach because her strut isn't up to snuff.

After a while, I get tired of working the runway and tell Ethan that this super model is super in need of a drink. Like any good producer/director who is dissatisfied with his 'star's' performance, Ethan yells, cajoles, pleads, and eventually begs me to return to the catwalk so that he can continue his assault. I become terribly conflicted and think about other little boys whose fathers are pursuing 'manly' pursuits with their sons such as throwing baseballs, building model airplanes, and collecting stamps while I'm sashaying down an imaginary catwalk while my son sucker punches me. Am I doing the right thing?

I need a new agent.

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