(Risk management, food chains, neurotic rabbits, and evil sea aliens)
I’m a single guy. But I do have married friends. And some of those friends have children. And this week, I waded across that border, into a birthday party for the daughter of a couple I know. A lovely couple, with two lovely children named Tierney and Kit, several pets, a high deductible, and nerves of hammered steel.
I had no idea.
Amazingly, nobody died. And by evening’s end I’d gathered some critical intelligence:
1. I’m not ready for a family.
2. On Planet Children, one plus one does not equal two. The energy envelope generated by two children is affected by some kind of mystical energy multiplier.
3. You simply cannot trust magic sea-monkeys.
Living alone, I’m used to a state of quiet. In my house, there are almost never any altercations involving fauna eating other fauna. I seldom invest in bags of what look like dirt particles, expecting them to magically morph into underwater primates. Sugar ingestion rarely results in psychotic behavior, undersized humans don’t don TRON outfits and wheels to break indoor speed limits, and I can’t even recall the last food fight. True, there are weekend poker games that sometimes present some unexpected surprises, but I own a broom and a gun. Problem solved.
When viewed with Single Guy eyes, a home with kids and pets in it is a black-diamond slope, navigated in the dark. An extreme theme park ride, sans seat belts. A Marx Brothers finale, but with live ammo.
As someone clever once said, “Same planet, different worlds.”
I drove over, parked, ran through sheets of rain to the front door, and rang the doorbell. A large, moist dog materialized out of some alternate dimension and attempted to smell areas of me that I don’t generally present for public inspection.
After the dog and I agreed to an annulment, I tuned to a growing rumble inside the house. One of the children answered the door, wearing pajamas, a helmet, knee- and elbow-pads, and inline roller skates. He looked like a psychotic Munchkin.
“Is that for me?”
“No, Kit, this is Tierney’s birthday present.”
Kit reversed and rolled away. I stepped into the hall and tripped over a real rabbit.
In my house, I almost never collide with small forest animals.
The damp dog shot through the door and, in a tender protective gesture, attempted to hide the whole rabbit in its mouth.
“KIT!” a voice boomed from the kitchen. “THE DOG!”
Kit glared at me with that “wonder if he’ll leave soon” look, grabbed the dog, wrenched it back outside, and shut the door.
Over the next few hours, I learned a great deal about kids, pets, and perpetual motion. I learned that food fights can get really interesting when the ordnance is birthday cake squares, with the candles still lit.
I learned that parents have an acutely-attuned sense of hearing. During the evening, we’d all hear thuds, howls, and other oral effects straight out of the Spanish Inquisition. Sometimes the parents would leap into action, sometimes not.
In my house, one blood-curdling shriek sounds pretty much like any other.
Eventually, Tierney completed her excavation of Gift Mountain, unearthing her own pair of inline roller skates, assorted books, clothing, jewelry, some fish, an arcane-looking Magic Sea-Monkeys Castle kit, and another live rabbit. The dog, observing from outside, grinned at the new rabbit, mouthed “make your peace, lunch-meat” and then went back to picking the lock.
I spent the rest of the evening edgily watching kids on wheels race from room to room, caroming off countertops and other sharp objects. Every few seconds I would instinctively leap up to steady a skewing skater, or to dodge a dog, or to extract a rabbit. Occasionally, I’d hear faint chanting, and thick green smoke would boil out of the sea-monkeys’ magic castle.
After a time, the kids deserted the house to skate outside. In their pajamas. In the dark. In the rain. And, no doubt, armed with scissors and cake-square firebombs.
Some 87 lifetimes later, the cavalry finally arrived. Bedtime.
I shot up to find a towel, but suddenly my Single Guy ears adjusted. “Oh. Sorry. I thought you yelled ‘tourniquet.'”
And parents do this every day.
I had no idea. Before crossing the border, I should have sent in drones. As someone clever once said, “When you’re in enemy territory, never get out of the boat.”
Especially when there are sea-monkeys.