Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis haven’t seen a thing until they get a load of my two boys during the later part of the night.
You think stopping an enormous meteor hurling towards earth is a challenge? Try surviving the hours between 5pm and 8pm in my house, and then we will talk. You think you have the stamina and bravery to drill to the center of giant space rock; rotating around and around, hurling through space while Steve Buscemi constantly distracts you with his hilarity? Try getting dinner ready with two hungry boys pulling at your pants and screaming in your ear.
“The Witching Hour,” as we affectionately call it, is the prelude to Armageddon and probably starts around 4pm. There is a certain crackle in the air, an invisible electricity if you will, that slowly builds in intensity as it gets closer to 5pm. It’s a bit like that feeling before a big game or final exam where you know the event is coming, know you will be fine once it starts, but just waiting for it to begin is by far the worst part.
Except in this case, when it actually begins, that is in fact the worst part. That and the following 3 hours.
It usually begins with a request for a snack. We kindly give them a pass on their forgetfulness in consideration of their still developing brains and ignore the fact that they just had a snack 30 minutes earlier. (You know those bottomless pits? We have two.) Usually there is then an attempt at distraction with cars or trains to try and leap-frog this crucial time period so that the snacks don’t spoil their dinners. These attempts are always good for a laugh later in the evening.
Honestly, you try and tell The Train he can’t have his “bah berries” (strawberries) when he wants them and let me know how that works out. Is he standing on the table yet? I thought so.
The Brain (4-year-old) is worse because he is cunning. He is kind of like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park. You spend all your focus and energy on the raptor directly in front of you, but it’s the one hiding in the bushes to your left that will be your demise. My oldest will wait and wait and wait until the little one wears us down, then bam, he strikes.
“Daaaaaaddy? Can I have some grapes?”
“Dinner is almost ready buddy, just 10 more minutes.”
“Daaaaaaddy? My belly hurts.”
“I know buddy, but you just had a snack and like I said dinner is almost read…. hey, what’s your brother doing up there? Get down. No, not head first. Oh no, watch out for that cup of milk you’re about to spill it on the… “
“Grapes you said? Grab me those paper towels and it’s a deal.”
Now here is the riddle of the century – how can two hungry boys who devour everything in sight at all times suddenly lose their appetite once they sit down at the dinner table? It’s amazing how meatloaf is a crowd favorite one night, but just a week later it’s like I’m handing them a plate of rocks. French fries, the scourge of the earth and bane of health nuts everywhere, are suddenly on their “Do Not Eat” list? Give me a break.
To the world at large – this is why parents desperately grasp at any opportunity for a night out by themselves. The joy of dinner has been stolen from us and not even Ben Affleck and his casual good looks can get it back.
Well, dinner time usually ends abruptly in a “throwing hands up in the air” type of fashion and off we move to bath and jammie time. Stalling, thy name is my children.
Running away down the hallway, a last minute poopy diaper, the oldest putting his bottoms on backwards, the youngest requiring two of us to change him, the dog clawing at the gate of the bottom of the stairs in a desperate plea for escape, toys being stepped on at every turn, another request for a snack, kicking, screaming, crying and finally crashing.
If there is one thing I know with absolutely certainty, it’s that the people who invited the video monitor are absolute geniuses. Nothing recharges my battery and gives me the energy to do it all over again the next day like looking at my children sleeping peacefully in their beds from the safety of my living room. One with his bum in the air and thumb in his mouth, the other with his Curious George doll lovingly tucked under his arm.
Both asleep, both fed, and both the absolute best things that ever happened to my wife and I.
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 3/3/12.