It wouldn’t be Father’s Day without the kids

by Brian Clarey

I’m writing this on Father’s Day, with late-afternoon sun cutting through the window lace and, on the television set behind me, SpongeBob bemoaning the destruction of his pineapple under the sea.

I once had to write in silence – the delicacy of my personal genius required… demanded… no less. Or so I thought.

Now that absorbent and yellow and porous fellow gives way to baths. And pizza. And popsicles. And more baths. The house is abuzz, and I’ll peck out my little piece in fits and spurts as befits a man for whom delicate genius is a luxury that a house full of children simply does not afford.

We’ve been fishing with nightcrawlers off the pier at Lake Brandt, and it was interesting to see the kids’ reaction to the squiggly-squirmies. My first-born son will only touch them with a towel over his fingers and under no circumstances will he deign to pierce one with a fishhook. His younger brother lacks the motor skills to properly wend the worms around the barb – to my mind, anyway – but he’s fascinated by the filthy little creatures nonetheless, and he prefers propping his pole on the dock and watching the bait knot up around the hook to casting it out on the water.

Babygirl, who sometimes cries when she even thinks she sees a spider, goes wrist-deep into the bait bucket and traps worms between her chubby, mud-caked fingers, dangles them in the air for my inspection and then, I don’t know, kind of plays with them there on the dock.

“They don’t have any sleeves!” she says.

We don’t make a huge deal out of Father’s Day in my house. I sleep in a bit; my wife makes coffee and I get to watch whatever I want on television. Sometimes we do brunch. Sometimes we go to a movie. Sometimes we go fishing, like we did today.

We’ve never caught a fish in two years of trying, which is just as well. We wouldn’t know what to do with one if we did. But it’s nice to sip Gatorade and watch the water and fling casts out as far as we can. Fishing, like writing, is an entirely different matter when there are young children involved.

In fact, they touch just about everything in my life. Because of my children I have different attitudes than I once did about work, family, teeth brushing, patience, silence, television violence and the importance of doing homework.

I also mean that literally: They touch everything. They’ve loosened the screws on my lawnmower, gotten nosebleeds on my pillow and, recently, made my very last pair of disposable contact lenses disappear.

I’ll tell you this: They’re lucky they’re so damn cute, and that they give me so much free fodder for my weekly column, or I swear I would have sold them off for gas money after that one.

I exaggerate. A bit.

But truly, I do owe my lackadaisical Sunday to their existence. A man cannot be a father without children. And I owe them more than that. The best things in my life have happened since they came along, ironic because upon news of my impending fatherhood all those years ago the first though that crossed my mind was, “It’s over.” This was followed by a prolonged panic attack that has yet to fully abate.

My kids have changed my concept of relaxation, as well.

Take today. What’s more relaxing than a little pier fishing on a hot Sunday afternoon, you ask? We’ve got three kids, none of them strong swimmers, out there on water’s edge. There are openings in the deck slats to crawl through, nightcrawlers to eat and there are hooks flying everywhere.

It’s about as relaxing as crystal meth.

And yet… and yet.

The qualities fatherhood has given me far outerweigh all of which it’s stripped me. No matter how many things in my house they destroy, no matter how many impositions they make on my time, my money, my marriage, my career, my sanity… I’m still getting a sweetheart deal, emphasis on the “sweetheart.”

It’s quiet in my house now, except for an occasional stray cough from babygirl’s bedroom in back. She’s balled up under a pink blanket with princesses on it – despite my feelings on the matter I fear I will never expunge the princesses from my house – and her mother’s rubbing her feet. The Brothers Clarey kneel on their bedroom carpet, a wall made of Legos between them and a deployment of the Yu-Gi-Oh cards. One last battle will rage before lights-out.

When I know they’re asleep, and not a minute before, I’ll sink a little deeper into the couch and try to keep my eyes open long enough to relax for an hour.

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at