Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pigeon spikes, and other parenting tools

As the fateful jogger approached, I smiled and asked, “How’s it going?”

He gave me a look that conveyed annoyance, as if I’d just asked how much money he made. He said nothing as he jogged past, and in a few moments his footsteps trailed off on the gravel behind us.

“What a jerk,” I thought, just for a second, and then my mind wandered to other things, like why are all the light bulbs in Outback Steakhouse pink? Do Australians like pink food? Do our minds make pink food taste better? And if so, would some pink light bulbs in our kitchen make my blend of Corn Pops and Special K seem more like something an adult should be eating for dinner?

As we continued along the loop trail under the nearly barren trees, my son Evan began complaining from the peanut gallery, which is the seat he occupies on my back.

Evan and I have been getting out in the woods pretty regularly this year, mostly because it’s easier to keep an eye on a toddler when he’s strapped into place. We haven’t figured out how to put this finding to use outside of the backpack, but if Babies R’ Us ever starts selling mini versions of the hand truck they used to wheel Hannibal Lecter around in the movies, I’d start digging through the trash to see if I’d recently thrown out any 20% off coupons.

When Evan’s riding in his backpack, he’s not climbing on top of our baseboards to give him just the extra height he needs for his head to loom over the picture frames on our end table like Godzilla’s head over the Tokyo skyline. As he gets taller, the items on our various household tables continue inching toward their respective walls, cowering in bunches for protection, just out of the behemoth’s reach. Perhaps installing pigeon spikes on the baseboards would buy us some time.

In any event, with my wife Kara out of town last weekend, I fled for the woods with the child on my back. Sometimes, I wonder if Henry David Thoreau, one of the few non-assassins who gets to be remembered with his middle name, also retreated into the woods because he was scared to have a toddler running loose all day in his living room.

Probably not. If he’d had a toddler with him in the woods, his quotes would read something more like: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, especially if they forget to pack a grilled cheese sandwich. Then the desperation gets really loud.”

About three-quarters of the way around the loop, I decided to give Evan and my shoulders a break. When I took him out of the pack and set him on the ground, he stood there with one foot up like a flamingo, grabbing onto my legs for support.

“Your foot fall asleep, Buddy?” I asked, then I saw the problem. He’d kicked off one of his shoes, a present from his grandparents, sometime in the last three miles.

I backtracked for ten minutes without finding anything. The thought of re-doing the entire hike was too much to bear, so I turned around and started plotting a course to the nearest children’s store, where Evan would get the cheapest replacements his daddy could find. It’s not like he’s trying to shave time off his 40-yard dash.

Just then, I heard someone yell “Hey!” from down the trail. The jogger was headed back my way, waving a small shoe over his head.

“When my kids were that age, my wife would have killed me if I’d have come home without their shoes,” he said with a smile.

I thanked him as many times as I could in the ten seconds before he headed back the way he came, then immediately felt terrible about judging him earlier. It’s true what they say: You can’t judge a look by its jogger.

You can enjoy some fava beans and a nice Chianti with Mike Todd at


  1. You ended that one in style!

  2. Fabulous writing! Will definitely come back for more! Great, great blog...

  3. Russ -- That's what we call "Bringin' it home" in the business. Or what I imagine we'd call it in the business, if the business didn't consist of a Word doc I email to someone I've never met once a week. Also, we'd high-five a lot, in the business.

    KAGEMUSHA -- I'm torn about whether you're a real person, but either way, I thank you for the compliment. Actually, it probably helps to enjoy my writing if you're not sentient.

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