Look Under the Bed!
“Look under the bed! Monsters!” Moms and dads dutifully kneel and peek under the bed to make sure the monsters have vacated. After the bed check, we walk to the closet, open the door and perform another search to make sure the monsters haven’t relocated.
Jessie, now 12, hasn’t asked me to look for monsters in years. Since I’m 6-foot-5-inches tall, monsters know better than to mess with me. However, a recent visit Jessie had with her 7-year-old cousin reminded me of the importance of the under-bed check. Not for monsters. Not for dust bunnies either. For fun!
Last year, we moved from a house to a small apartment near my wife’s new job. To maximize storage, we bought Jessie a bedframe that creates 18 inches of space below her mattress where she stashes games and puzzles. Even if we had monsters, there wouldn’t be any space for them under her bed — or in her closet.
Jessie and her cousin dug under her bed for toys and had a fun time playing together. After Jessie’s cousin left, she went through the rest of the boxes under her bed, many of which hadn’t been opened since the move. Before I knew it, my soon-to-be teenager had amassed two big boxes of belongings she wanted to donate. This sentimental dad would rather take on a monster, or three, than to part with games, puzzles and toys — memories of fun times playing with his girl.
I glanced at the pile now cluttering the living room, but decided it was my bedtime. Maybe a monster would jump out from under my bed during the night and I wouldn’t have to deal with it in the morning.
Monster-free throughout the night, I tackled the pile the next day. “No, Jessie, not your plastic tennis racquet,” I argued, but then agreed to part with her toddler racquet, only because I have the smaller one I put in her hand when she was 2 weeks old.
“Not your floor puzzles, Jessie.” Memories of dad and daughter lying on the floor, tackling the United States of America, 48 pieces, rushed to my mind. She graduated to puzzles with 100 or more pieces years ago, yet I didn’t want to let go of these.
“Jessie, we can’t give away Chutes and Ladders.” The description, “The Classic Up and Down Game for Preschoolers,” didn’t help my argument, as we slid past preschool nearly a decade ago. I should have pointed to the suggested “3+” age printed on the bottom right corner of the box. The plus covers 57-year-old dads. I made my best sales pitch to convince her to keep it, but it was like I hit a chute and lost all the headway I had made. She won. Where’s a ladder when a dad needs one?
Maybe it’s good to hit a chute sometimes, even though we’d all prefer to climb ladders. This chute reminded me of the big, bad monster that even a 6-foot-5-inch dad can’t beat: time. The time monster turns babies into toddlers, then little girls or boys, then tweens … and before you know it, friends and smartphones replace games and puzzles with Mom and Dad.
The next day, Jessie’s excitement warmed my heart when she said, “Let’s play.” She raced to her bed and pulled out the first game. Did I have a lengthy to-do list? Always. Could the book project I’m working on take a backseat to quality time spent with my daughter. Most definitely. Did she select Chutes and Ladders? Not a chance.
First, we played Mastermind. Then we played chess. As her three queens surrounded my king, the only piece I had left on the board, she couldn’t wait to call her Uncle Gary to say, “I just beat Daddy.”
My conclusion is simple. Life is filled with ladders to climb and chutes to skip over. But as we’re climbing and sliding, we must not forget about the time monster. One day, you’re checking for monsters; the next day, you’re donating puzzles and games.
Look under the bed!
Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of “MoMENts: A Dad Holds On,” available at amazon.com. Follow him at facebook.com/patricklhempfing and on Twitter @patrickhempfing.