Do You Want Me to Take Your Toys to Goodwill or Are You Going to CLEAN THE [BLEEP] PLAYROOM?!?!


Do you sometimes wonder if Samuel L. Jackson ever had to repeat himself more than once to his daughter Zoë?  I’d like to think that if he — if I — went Full Jules Winnfield just one time, I’d never have to repeat myself to the boys again.

But instead, my adult conversations with my lovely bride are frequently interrupted with:

“Boys, clean the playroom.”

“Boys, have you cleaned the playroom?”

“Boys, do I have to go up there and pick out toys for Goodwill?”

“Boys, is that playroom clean yet?”

“CLEAN THE M***** F****** PLAYROOM M*****F******!”

But of course it never goes quite that far, because everybody knows you never go Full Jules Winnfield.

It’s a big deal, worrying if the kids are listening, when you have two dogs, a fence, and a tricky gate which won’t always stay shut unless you close it just right, and remember to look back over your shoulder at it, sternly, for at least three extra seconds. The big deal gets even bigger when one of your dogs — we’ll call her Remy, because that’s her name — happens to be an escape artist who enjoys little things like long walks on the beach.

And we live about a thousand miles from the nearest beach.

Plus, there are a lot of cars, many driven by teenage boys who have the focusing skills of teenage boys. So you worry. And I don’t play favorites with my animals, but out of the two dogs, one cat, one ball python, and numerous Mason jars filled with assortments of rolly pollies, spiders, and daddy longlegs, Remy is so my favorite.  When she’s happy to see me, she wags her tail all the way up to the middle of her back — and she’s always happy to see me.

When she escapes, I put the entire family on Red Alert until we get her home.

Or at least I used to.

I’ve lost track of the number of conversations I’ve had with the nine year old (we’ll call him “Nine”) which went like this:

“Nine, did you close the gate?”

“Nine, did you make sure the gate stayed closed?”

“Nine, did the dogs get out of the gate?”

“Nine, are you sure the gate latched?”

“Nine, seriously, where are the dogs?”

“DID YOU CLOSE THE M*****F***** GATE M*****F*****???”

It’s at that point that I want a martini the size of the foot-tall Lego R2-D2 we’ve been working on all summer, preferably one made personally for me by Samuel L. Jackson.

But I really wanted that martini because the last time Remy escaped, it was my fault — it was me, Dad, who didn’t double-check the gate.


Nine immediately volunteered to go find her, which is no easy task.  Inside the fence, Remy comes when she’s called. Outside the fence, she loves nothing more than to play keepaway from you until she’s so exhausted that she just has to come in for water.

Well, of course, I told Nine it would be wonderful if he could get Remy to come in, but then things got more complicated.  Younger son, Five, chirped up with, “And I’m going to help!”

Please note Five did not phrase his answer in the form of a question.  Five always speaks in imperatives.  Always.

Five isn’t old enough to be wandering around the streets to Lord-Knows-Where without adult supervision, especially so close to nightfall — but what, you’re going to tell him he can’t help find the dog?  No.  So we had to set some rules:

  • No leaving the cul-de-sac.
  • Come in when it’s dark.
  • If you don’t get her, leave the gate open so she can come in.

Nine grabbed a leash — Remy loves her bright red leash — and the two of them headed down to the end of our long driveway to take up their sentry positions.

Melissa and I tried not to peek out at them too often, and they never caught us at it.  Parenting is sometimes done best on the sly.

Remy tried to lure them away, but the boys never did leave the perimeter.  Twilight was ending though, so I stepped out to refill the outside water bowl while Melissa made a trail of kibble up from the gate to the front door.  That’s we saw Five and Nine using the last of the light, exactly as instructed, to make their way into the garage — with Remy in tow.

And they’d remembered to latch the gate.  Securely.

“YOU CLOSED THE M*****F***** GATE M*****F*****S!!!” is exactly what I didn’t say, although I sure wanted to.

Our kids, they do listen — we just don’t always hear it when they do.