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Doug Routt:

My youngest son had an opportunity to take part in a big Pacific air war exercise and fly an F-15 out of Hawaii in January. Hearing this, my wife of many years and I magnanimously offered to tend his children and household in order that his wife could accompany him for a well-deserved vacation. This was a huge mistake on our part, but we were confident they wouldn’t accept our gracious offer. Unfortunately, they jumped at the chance.

As we packed the car with the dog and ourselves for the trip to the Washington, D.C., area, we naively thought how nice it would be to do something relevant again. My son’s family consists of two teenage girls, both in high school, and a 10-year-old boy. In addition, there is an 8-year-old small dog and an 8-month-old lab puppy. It should be noted that their house does not have a fenced yard or any boundaries that might constrain a hyperactive young canine.

The days started early, since we had to get up before 6 and make lunches for the teens and feed them a nourishing breakfast. The boy was a bit easier because his school started later. The three dogs had to be fed and then let outside to relieve themselves, which necessitated a grandparent watching them to ensure they didn’t run off. Naturally, the temperature was freezing and required full arctic gear for observing the beasts. The two small dogs came when called, but the pup recognized that we were not his usual authority figures and would wander around until we gave chase. In spite of our corpulence and advanced age, we would usually retrieve the wayward animal within a half-hour and consider our workout done for the day.

After school was a re-education. The house was a mecca for all of the neighborhood 10-year-olds and they would politely ring the bell and waltz in to head for the basement to play. Naturally the kids in the basement couldn’t hear the doorbell, so our workout continued with numerous trips to the door and shouts downstairs about leaving the place clean.

Once the teenage girls got home, the hormonally gifted boyfriends would start showing up and we would be obligated to chaperone. The boyfriends seemed nice, but I’m sure it was a subterfuge because I knew they weren’t there to enjoy small talk with the old people.

On day two, the puppy had diarrhea all over the front room and the kitchen. The freshman girl came downstairs, made a small gurgling sound and went upstairs to hide in her room. The older child helped somewhat, but grew tired of the task as the anomaly lasted for the entire week and necessitated lots of air freshener, paper towels and rug cleaner.

I awoke one morning with my wife poking me to tell me that the power was out. My immediate response was, “It’s still dark; let’s go back to sleep.” Wrong answer. OK, I got up and ascertained that the entire neighborhood was out, so it was breakfast by candlelight.

Another morning was greeted with cheers from the kids as an ice storm had delayed school openings. That was great for them but required us to chase the dogs on a frozen rink with lots of slipping and sliding. I chauffeured to softball and soccer practice and learned how to navigate to Washington National Airport amidst more traffic than I ever imagined.

The two weeks seemed like two months and we now know why God lets only young people have kids.