My Wife, Our Son’s Pinata and Me


My son's pinata for Spanish class. Depending on when you grew up, it either looks like Woody the Woodpecker or an Angry Bird.

My son’s pinata for Spanish class. Depending on when you grew up, it either looks like Woody the Woodpecker or an Angry Bird.

It’s not often that my wife leaves me totally in charge of anything, but she did last week when she left for her annual trip to the beach with a group of friends.

In her absence, I had to make sure the kids rolled out of bed (they did), that they were presentable in time for school (they were) and that dinner was on the table at a decent hour (we ate out – a lot).

I also had to make sure the garbage didn’t stink up the garage, the dishes didn’t pile up in the sink, our excitable dog Rodney didn’t have to cross his legs too much, our insatiable cat Skitty didn’t starve, and that the carpets were vacuumed, the bathrooms left sparkling, the laundry cleaned, folded and put away, and that the kids got into bed in time to get up the next day so we could do it all over, again.

Despite the pressure, I was reasonably confident that everything would be fine. That’s because my wife’s beach trip usually doesn’t catch me flat-footed. It’s an annual thing, after all; the one time of the year when she gets to abandon us in favor of friends and salt air. And, just in case I’m not paying attention, she gives me plenty of advance warning – repeatedly.

But this year was different. This time, her trip coincided with a school project that was due upon her return home and, therefore, needed to be completed while she was gone.

My wife seems to delight in school projects. So much so, I sometimes think she actually looks forward to helping our kids prepare for their science and social studies fairs. But this time, her attitude about our 14-year-old son’s latest project leaned more toward hostility than enthusiasm. In fact, I think she was secretly pleased to avoid helping our son with the pinata he was making for his Spanish class after spending a sloppy couple of days ensuring he plastered a balloon with paper mache.

The problem was she didn’t entirely trust me to follow his project through to completion.

Her lack of confidence showed in her phone calls home. She kept asking if I had watched the Youtube video on how to make a pinata. I kept reassuring her that I would, but that’s like urging a guy to stop at a gas station to ask for directions.

I never did watch that video. But I knew we had better be able to show some headway before she arrived back home. So, a couple of hours before she was due, our son and I got to work.

As it turns out, at least one of us watched the video. After showing me how to cut and fringe strips of tissue paper, our son glued them to the giant bird’s head he was making.

We got most of the head covered in red paper and had just knocked off for the day when my wife arrived. I was pleased with our progress, and while she was obviously happy to be back home, I could tell she wasn’t.

I usually grumble about snow days, but it’s a good thing the kids got one on Monday. It gave us an opportunity to make it up to her. We had plenty of time to finish the bird’s beak in yellow tissue paper and glue its bulging white Styrofoam eyes in place before it was due earlier this week.

My wife seemed happy after I texted a picture to her. But I suspect her approval was more of an expression of relief that a school project left in my hands was actually completed.

I’ve heard it said that “you’re only as good as your last project.” Since this one appears to have been a reasonable success, I prefer my record to stand as it is.

So, if you’re a teacher who has one of our children in class, please take note before requiring a project to be due in the spring. My wife is usually out-of-town for one week in March. Call me for the exact dates. I don’t want to be held responsible for whatever is or isn’t turned in.

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