Monday, September 27, 2010

Some Assembly Required... Noooooooo!

It's been a while since my last dadlosophy; over a month in fact. My apologies to anyone who regularly reads my blog. I should have at least posted something to let you know what was going on.

The truth is, there's been a lot of activity in the Howard household over the last 6weeks. We've experienced sick kids, the start of a new school year, the arrival and departure of two foster children, a slew of deadlines for my writing business, and a wave of paperwork associated with our pending adoption from Ethiopia. In short, I've taken a few weeks off from writing Dadlosophies with one simple objective in mind: to maintain a shred of sanity.

But now I'm back! Yes, I can hear the sighs of relief and shouts of joy ringing across the blogisphere from the parental masses who wait anxiously every Monday for my words of wisdom. Okay, maybe not. But still, whether you care or not, I'm back on task and ready to share what I'm experiencing (and hopefully learning) as a modern-day dad.

The highlight of this past week was my son William's 5th birthday. Since William naturally gravitates towards sports, I decided to get him a basketball goal. You know the kind; one of those adjustable goals you can lower to seven feet so that five-foot-eleven white guys can dunk the ball as they show off their 4 inch vertical leap. Anyway, Meredith did her research and found a good one online. We ordered it and, fortunately, it arrived in plenty of time for William's big day.

There was just one problem. Like most products you order online, this basketball goal came in a box labeled with three words that typically strike feelings of dread or overconfidence into the hearts of dads like myself: SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.

I'm not a natural assembler, so I definitely fall into the "dread" camp. Truth is, I have trouble putting a sandwich together without good instructions. I know that many dads are great at making things, assembling things, and fixing things. Not me. I take on building projects as a matter of necessity only. I find that my blood pressure, use of profanity, likelihood of throwing things, and tendency to threaten inanimate objects as if they were living beings, all increase significantly when I try to put things together. But, as a dad, you have little choice other than to occasionally construct things. Unless you've got enough money to buy everything pre-assembled or hire folks to do it for you, a young father quickly learns that it’s build or perish.

And so, I tackled putting together the basketball goal. Right away I knew I was in serious trouble. I emptied the box to find more bolts and screws than are normally kept in stock at your local Home Depot. It looked like R2 D2 had exploded in my garage. Remembering that you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time, I opened up the directions and got started. Only the directions didn't make much sense. The pictures weren't clear and the wording was slightly less understandable than the current U.S. tax code. Add the fact that I couldn't find half the tools I needed because they'd been commandeered by the children or my wife for purposes totally unrelated to their intended use, and you can imagine all the fun I was having.

As the evening progressed, my frustration grew more and more evident. Parts that wouldn't fit; steps I did wrong, then had to undo and redo; directions I couldn't understand; tools I didn't have... it was a regular fiesta. All that was missing was the tequila, a pinata, and a band of middle-aged Mexican guys doing their mariachi rendition of Olivia Newton John's "Let's Get Physical" to make the evening complete. (I would have settled for just the tequila.)

Despite my prayer to remain cool and in control, it wasn't long before curse words began to fill my mind and,eventually, my mouth. It started out mild; a few d-words, a couple of "hells." After about an hour, however, I had moved on to the more advanced levels of profanity. I'm ashamed to say it, but I'm pretty sure I broke the world's record for the number of F-bombs launched at a partially assembled basketball goal within a three-hour period. All the while, I continually threatened to hunt down and kill the manufacturer who thought it was a great idea to sell people a "some assembly required" basketball goal with 8,000 parts (most of which are smaller than your thumbnail and perfectly designed to roll away unnoticed while you're busy throwing your screw driver and yelling "Where the hell is the spring that looks like the one in the picture!")

Meanwhile, because it was definitely a two-person job, my wife had to help me once the kids were in bed. With every wrongly attached screw, misinterpreted reading of the instructions, and difficulty holding a backboard steady so that the next bolt could be tightened, the strain on our marriage increased exponentially. While Meredith grew tired of my profane outbursts and enraged tirades against a basketball goal that couldn't even hear me threaten it with physical harm, I became resentful of Meredith's correction and couldn't understand why she kept messing up by doing what I said instead of reading my mind and doing what I actually meant.

After hours of frustrated labor, marital friction, and enough cursing on my part to make Whoopi Goldberg uncomfortable, Meredith and I finally got William's goal put together. No, it wasn't my finest moment. I'm ashamed of many of the things I said and the way I acted. A dad needs to be more mature than that. Still, the work, struggles, and effort it took to put my son's basketball goal together were worth it. After all, when you're a dad, that's what you do. You do things you normally wouldn't do simply because you love your kids and you want them to have the best 5th birthday ever. Next time, however, I think I owe it to God and my wife to make sure I buy something already assembled. Then maybe I won't curse or have to wonder what all these extra parts are for.