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July 29, 2013

The longer you’re a father the more you realize that your life is little more than a series of difficult decisions that you need to make on your child’s behalf. Sometimes what your kid wants and what they need are mutually exclusive. As their sage over-seer, you understand that, despite the tears, there are some things that simply have to be.

Such was my Saturday.

Meg worked a weekend shift at the hospital, leaving the boy and me to our own devices. The foul weather meant the park was out of the question and I’d have to find other ways to occupy our time. Owen’s hair was getting long and, likely stemming from my disdain for hippies, I’m not terribly fond of little boys with long hair. So, even though I knew he wouldn’t like it, I decided that we would spend our morning getting his hair cut. Such are the types of hard decisions a father needs to make for his son.

That sonic echo you heard around 10:30 am was my boy screaming.

He didn’t much care for my decision.

This marked Owen’s third cut. The first, at about a year old, went ok, primarily because he didn’t know what was happening. The second was more of a challenge as he recognized what was going on. It took both Megan and I to pacify him while he got a very quick trim. Owen left the poor stylist so frazzled that we ended up leaving her with a rather sizeable tip — both to calm her nerves and to allay the guilt we felt.

This time around, I took Owen to Melonhead — a salon dedicated exclusively to lopping off small children’s locks. I figured that trained Melonhead professionals, whose primary gig was dealing with unruly kids, would know how to handle Owen. The salon is filled with bright colours and the barber chairs are shaped as trains, planes, cars, horses, and other kid-pleasing things. It’s meant to distract the little ones as they get their hair cut. Sadly, Owen understood what was about to happen.

He didn’t much care for the train I sat him in.

Owen’s a touch people-shy, so the friendly lady with the scissors that greeted him wasn’t met with much adoration. The boy buried his face into my chest and feverishly clawed at the cape we tried to wrap him in. It became painfully clear the instant he threw a leg over the side of the train and began scaling his way to the floor that Owen had no intention of getting his hair cut, let alone sitting still.

As was the case with his second cut, I would need to hold him. I was draped in a protective cape as well and we made our way to a more traditional barber chair. (Apparently the race car chair was just for children and, regardless, my butt was too big to fit….. PFFT!!!) Once seated, I promptly put my son in a bear hug.

He began struggling to free himself from my grip almost immediately. The little dude’s strong for a toddler and he was wriggling his shoulders, trying to loose his hands from mine. His right shoe went flying as the stylist started cutting his hair with a set of electric clippers. Seemingly out of nowhere, my son showed the power of not one, but four freakishly-strong little boys. He thrashed about and screamed wildly, “NO! NO! NO!”

It took every ounce of my strength to hold him still. The woman had made two passes with the clippers and he was reacting like a caged animal. She paused for a moment and wondered whether she should retrieve his shoe. “Don’t stop, keep going,” I growled!

Owen didn’t much care for any of this.

I was already tired by time she finished with the clippers. The stylist wiped Owen’s runny nose and gave a reassuring smile. I’m not sure if it was for me or the boy or all three of us. Unfortunately, Owen thought his ordeal was over and was summarily unimpressed when she sprayed his hair with water. He began struggling again as his stylist, now with scissors, began evening out the top. While less violent than before, Owen nevertheless threw his head back, striking me square in the nose. Both of the Wormalds in Melonhead now had tears running down their cheeks. (Thankfully, there would be no black eye, despite how hard he popped me in on the nose; that would have made for quite the discussion the next day, “That’s right, my baby beat me up. What of it?”)

The boy settled for a spell. I told him how Mummy and Daddy both got their hair cut from time to time and that he was going to look so handsome when he was done. The stylist, meanwhile, continued on, unnerved by the violence my son was looking to perpetrate. I pointed to a little boy getting his hair trimmed beside us, and I noted how calm he was being. Owen didn’t seem to care, and the respite was short lived. Once he caught his breath, my son began thrashing about once again. I clasped both of his wrists with one hand and I wrapped my other arm firmly around his chest, straining with everything I had to keep him seated and as still as I could. “Daddy, NO,” he yelled!

His stylist dried his hair and, I must admit, even I thought it was over at this point. I loosened my grip ever so slightly, only to then realize that she was going to use the fine-toothed clippers to trim around his ears.

Owen didn’t care much for this. In fact, he was fully pissed now.

He freed an arm and promptly took a swing at the lady, striking her on the upper shoulder — just missing the side of her face. I was, by this point, tallying in my head the colossal tip I would need to leave this poor woman. He lunged at her again, flailing at the clippers. His nose was running like a faucet. His eyes were wide open and focused. He fought ferociously to free himself from my grip. He again screamed maniacally, “NO! NO! NO!”

The trained Melonhead professional was frazzled. Owen was completely rabid. I was utterly exhausted. The stylist looked at me once I had wrestled Owen into a measure of submission. “So… Do you want me to style it a little.”

I stifled my normally fun-loving inner-Wormald, which was at this point ready to swear at her, and instead squeaked, “Ummm… No thank you. This is fine.” I couldn’t believe Owen still had the energy to fight. I was mystified that she was willing to keep working on the boy; others would have long ago run for the hills. She brushed the stray hair from his face and removed the cape. We found the boy’s stray shoe on the other side of the salon. The stylist seemed upset, “I hope you like it. I’m sorry. Is it ok?”

Actually, it was his best cut yet; she did a great job. I felt bad that she was so down and so forlorn. Of course, a lot of that might have been because Owen was panting like a dog at the time. I picked up the boy and we made our way to the front desk to pay. Even with gratuity, the total was still less than the cost of the second cut and the subsequent sympathy tip. I thanked everyone and we made our way to the door. Owen broke loose from my hand and ran to his stylist.

“Bye bye!”

She looked at me. I shrugged.

July 26, 2013

Have you ever been forced to pit your cheapness against your laziness? It’s just the sort of conflict I’m engendering at the moment — and the eventual confrontation could prove to be epic. Since taking possession of our house more than three years ago, our most anticipated renovation has been finishing the basement. We needed to wait a couple years, mostly for warranty reasons, before we could begin construction — but those issues have passed and we’re now free to bugger with the space however we want.

I’m really looking forward to a finished basement. I’ll finally have my man cave where I can retreat to watch the Leafs in the winter and auto racing in the summer. I’ll be able to perfectly position my surround speakers and, for the first time, truly immerse myself in deafening, all-encompassing sound when I watch the Indycars tear across the track. Speaking of which, a finished basement will afford me the requisite space to properly display my racing memorabilia! And, being completely untouched, it’s just the sort of blank canvass that I’ll be able to shape into the perfect space for my used car-parts, race suits and shirts, pictures and diecast replicas — it will be complete paradise for me.

Oh, Megan and the boy will probably go down there too.

In speaking with my wife recently, she thinks Owen will have a dedicated space to play in the finished basement and that we’re going to include a study area for him. This baffles me since we already have a shed and a cold cellar, each with more than enough space for him to read and bounce a small ball in. What more does he need? Megan also seems to believe she’ll have unfettered access to the basement and a say in its design.

“But then why are we calling it ‘Man Land’,” I typically ask.

Megan has even questioned the need for a beer fridge, thinking it better to have a full-sized fridge with a freezer that would better serve the entire family’s needs.

“But that would look terrible beside the couch,” I answer. I sometimes wonder where her head is.

Regardless of the specifics of who’s gonna get what and where in our finished basement, the key fact sitting before me is: We gotta actually, y’know, finish it.

Herein lies the issue: I really, really, really want the basement finished. And I really, really, really don’t want to pay a contractor to do it. But, I really, really, really don’t want to do it all myself.

See how this is shaping to be epic?

My father-in-law and I (with some help from Meg) built our deck last year. Frankly, we did a bang-up job of it too, and I’d have little doubt we’d do just as good a job in the basement. And, additionally, by doing the deck ourselves, we saved a LOT of money. Extrapolate that savings over the cost of a basement and, well, it’s a freaking lot of money. Were it that simple, of course, I’d be at Home Depot or Lowes buying Dricore, lumber, and nails as we speak. But I’m not.

It took us parts of five weekends to finish the deck. My neighbor had a dedicated, professional crew of five finish his basement for him this past spring. It took his guys nearly 11 12-hour-days to complete the job. So, with another extrapolation — factoring in me as the primary construction dude, adding the help I’d receive from my semi-retired father-in-law, subtracting whatever help my mostly alcoholic friends might offer — I figure it would take me 27 years to finish the basement (plus or minus a decade).

That’s a mighty long time, even in drunken basement time. BUT — and I can’t stress this enough — I’d save a whack of cash. Compounding things is, at this point, I haven’t even factored in my propensity to want to sit on my butt when confronted with hard labour.

That’s right, completely epic.

My butt-sitting tendencies do push me in the “get someone else to do it” direction… but then I think about the added costs for manly beer fridges, manly recliners, and manly custom-designed side tables (each at the perfect height for me to reach bowls of Cheetos) and it all does give me pause. Since Meg and the boy aren’t likely to stop needing to eat, this additional money will have to come from somewhere. A troubling dilemma since I don’t see Megan taking on a second job to help pay for my new ottomans. Perhaps I should add a “Donate to Wormald’s Man Land” button here on the blog somewhere. Hmmm…. I must further investigate the legalities and efficacies of this.

At any rate, I was given a “How to Finish Your Basement” book for Christmas and, now that the task is potentially at hand, I’ve been giving it a read. It has tended to confirm what I thought — constructing a basement is, indeed, a butt-load of work.

A butt-load!

Which, again, pushes me towards hiring a crew. But the money… I can’t forget about the money. And then there’s the boy. He isn’t exactly dainty. It’s only a matter of time before he off and destroys something of value somewhere. And let’s face it, the owner of whatever it is he busts is going to look to me to pay for it. So whatever I save on basements could go straight to “Owen’s Rainy Day, ‘I did an Uh-oh,’ Compensation Fund.” No, the more I think about it, I should do it myself. Wait! I forgot about the time! It’ll take forever to do, and let’s not forget about my abhorrence of “hard work” thing again.


I’m gonna have to get me some Cheetos and think this over some more. In the meantime, keep an eye out for that donation button. Please give generously.

July 24, 2013

Owen’s bath last night was, if nothing else, testament to just how loud he can scream. By and large, the boy’s tantrums tend to be somewhat muted (at least in a “damn, that’s loud, but it could be worse” sort of way). We’ve been lucky as, even when he’s been royally cheesed at Megan and I, Owen tends to get more whinny than yell-ish — I’m almost moderately confident, for example, that Owen has never given neighbours pause to consider moving somewhere quieter.

Still, last night proved he at least has the capacity to holler with the best of them. Apparently, Owen discovered that skinned knees and warn bath water make for an unhappy marriage. I must admit, however, a lot of the carrying-on was likely more from the soap I rubbed along the cut. Funnily enough, you’d have thought from his buggy-eyed expression that I’d rubbed salt into the wound. At least we know, proof positive, that he can’t yet swear.

Owen, it seems, is always cutting, skinning, bumping, or generally hurting some part of his body. Grandma thinks this is part and parcel with being a little boy — she feels that all boys his age are rough and tumble and the odd bruise simply comes with the territory. A skinned knee is, therefore, some sort of bloody badge-of-honour.

I’m not so sure. Case in point: Daycare.

While dropping Owen off at daycare has long been one of the more interesting points of my day (where else, for example, can half-a-dozen toddlers, each of differing races and religions, upon your arrival, say “Hi Daddy” to you in unison?), it more importantly bears daily witness to just how pristine all the other children are. Whereas Owen is traditionally covered in scrapes and bruises, most of the other kids are surprisingly bereft of and such marks. There are alot of little boys in his class and they aren't all marked up. This, of course, begs the question: What’s the deal with Owen then?!?!

Perhaps the following will offer an explanation. Megan and I took the boy to the park a couple nights ago. Finally, after days of crippling heat, the weather broke and the crisp, evening air was perfect for a walk to the playground. Owen loves the park. He loves the swings and the slides. He absolutely adores the other kids.

The park was bustling. Tots of all ages were teeter-tottering, swinging on the swings and sliding down the slides. A girls’ soccer match was being contested on the adjoining pitch and everyone, everywhere, it seemed, was having a great time. Owen was in his element. He didn’t know where to go first. The swing? The slide? Perhaps the soccer pitch? Maybe just run around in circles? The choices were endless and, the boy, in his confused excitement, fell somewhat abruptly and seemingly out of nowhere. It was as if his head said “run left,” but his legs were thinking “no, dart right, you fool!” Regardless, down he went with a thump on to the concrete pavement. [CUT #1; BUMP #1]

While such a tumble might be cause for tears in other children, Owen's made of far sterner stuff and, after quickly righting himself, he was off again, this time to the swings. As we followed behind, Megan saw a friend of hers who, with her husband and son, were also out soaking in the wonderful night air. While Megan and I offered some cordial pleasantries to her friends, Owen decided he’d had his fill of the swing.

“All done! Daddy, all done!”

I unharnessed the boy and, the moment his feet touched the ground, he was off again, like a rabbit. He hurdled the smaller children and made a bee-line to the bigger-kids' portion of the park.

Our local park has a section specifically alloted to where kids can do jumps and tricks on their bikes and skateboards. Owen loves watching them ride the rails and hop over the concrete obstacles. While other children watched from the relative safety of the sidelines, Owen was having none of that and ran straight to the center of skatepad. I darted after the boy and, just as I was about to snatch him from harm’s way, calamity struck. Despite his near heroic efforts to avoid my son, a ten-year-old on a scooter plowed squarely into Owen. BLAM-O. The scooter went cart-wheeling into the air and Owen was knocked, once again, to the ground. [CUT #2; BUMP #2 & #3]

I felt bad for the kid as he was genuinely concerned for Owen. My son, however, popped up, looked around and was off again, this time to the slide. I spent some time assuring scooter-boy that my son was, in fact, ok and that he didn’t need to worry. Whereas Owen was frantically running from the accident scene, this poor kid looked on the verge of tears. Owen has that effect on people.

While I was trying desperately to calm this poor kid, Megan took over the chase for the boy — it was like one prowl car passing off its pursuit of a reputed bandit to another as they hit county lines. Owen was running like he was on the lam and was dertermined the fuzz weren't gonna take him back to the clink (i.e., home to bed).

Owen hit the slide before Megan could get there and he ambled his way to the top. Owen loves the slide. There’s usually lots of kids on the slide. He can do a lot of damage there. As I left the skatepad, the husband of Megan’s friend made his way over to me. I’d never met him before, but he seemed nice enough. While his kid was a bit younger than Owen, he was a lot smaller and a lot more docile than my son. As has become a recurring theme among those meeting Owen for the first time, he felt it necessary to ask me, “Your son doesn’t really sit still much, does he?”

I looked back to Owen. He had made his way down the slide and had abruptly decided that he wanted to watch the girls playing soccer. He was on the run again. “No, he doesn’t. Sorry, I gotta go!”

Flick the siren, the chase was on again.

Owen typically gets a little possessive of the slide and has been known to push kids that are patiently waiting their turn out of the way. So it was actually with a measure of relief that he decided he instead wanted to run. As he slashed past Megan and I and toward the pitch, he began to lose his balance. The wooden mulch that formed the foundation of the playground, sadly, proved slippery for the boy and, again, he found himself tumbling head-first to the ground. As always, never one to let a simple face-plant deter him, Owen was up and off again. We noticed Meg’s friend urgently motioning for our attention from the other side of the playground, “He has wood stuck to his mouth and face!” [Bump #4]

We’d been at the park some 25 minutes by this point and he looked already like he’d done a couple rounds in the ring. This was shapping to be a typical trip to the park. After 45 minutes, I honestly lost count of the number of new bumps and bruises Owen had. They begin to blur together after a while. The only time he slowed was to watch a woman blowing bubbles into the wind. And even then, he didn’t actually “stop,” — otherwise winded, he still found the energy to chase after them... he just didn’t happen to fall while he "rested."

By evening’s end, the bumps were likely approaching double digits. I think he topped out at three cuts. A good night. He’d need some Polysporin on his knee and, after a quick visual inspection, I took note of the bumps I hoped would go away by time we got to daycare the next morning. Fortunately, the boy's a quick healer because daycare does an inventory of each kid’s cuts and bruises every morning. This helps them determine which bumps, if any, might be incurred under their watch. Owen’s daily “once over,” can take a while, especially the mornings after park visits.

I tend to think the bigger bumps, especially the ones on his head or face, reflect poorly on my parenting. Both “Umm, yeah, that one I think he fell," and "Uhhh, I think that one was when he got run over by a scooter,” sound suspicious after a while. Fortunately, I have a park-full of witnesses that’ll back me up.

I should have gotten scooter-boy’s name. I might need him to testify on my behalf.