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Lets Build a Fort

“Let’s build a fort!” my kids chirp. It was reading time and we like to mix up the location. Sometimes it's in the hammocks, sometimes on picnic blankets, sometimes snuggled on the couch. But today we were building a fort to read in. We scooted the table to the side of the room, brought in all the cushions from the deck furniture, and pulled out all the spare blankets. We draped the blankets over the table and used the cushions as walls. We pushed up chairs to help keep the whole contraption together. Once it was completed, the kids ran off in search of flashlights and electric lanturns, while I made hot chocolate with marshmallows. Once inside, we sat on pillows, sipping our cocoa and reading The Mysterious Benedict Society. It was one of those 'great mom' memories. The next weekend, the kids were recounting to my husband all the things they’d done that week during school. When they got to the fort reading. I was expecting my husband to comment on how we combined fun with reading, but instead my husband says “I used to build forts with my brothers when I was a kid too. You guys wanna go up to the mountains and build a fort?” An hour later we were in the mountains with armed with axes, saws, and gloves. We collected fallen branches and wove them together to build a 3-sided fort complete with a mossy roof. The kids had a blast. I thought a lot about those two forts. Mom's fort had pillows, cushions, and cocoa. Dad’s was cold and wet, but it had saws and branches with a big fun factor. In most families I know there are two different types of parents: the serious, nurturing ones, and the goofy, fun ones. Usually the mom falls into the first category and the dad the second. I thought about teaching our oldest to ride his dirt bike. I had him all geared up, training wheels on the bike, walking along side holding it, while I talked him timidly through each step. He gribbed the handles tight and didn't want to try alone. Then my husband walks over, lifts him off of it, and says, “here, I’ll show ya, how it works,” and climbs onto that little 50cc bike, resulting in a wheelie and and sitting down on the ground. Everyone laughed, and then suddenly my son is ready to try by himself. When teaching the kids how to drive tractor, I sat in the buddy sit, hovering and watching each action they made. My husband meanwhile plopped them in the seat, tells them what gear to keep it in, then says “Call if you have a problem.” When the kids ask if they can go riding with friends, I want to know who they’re going with, where they are going to, what adults will be there, and how long until they’re home. Theyir dad just says “will ya be back in time to finish stacking the hay?” I carried the kids carefully all over creation when they were little, and as they got heavier and my arms would get tired, I’d pass them off to my husband for a bit. He would immediately turn them upside down and shake them by their feet or swing them by their ankles. At the end of the day, I’d draw a nice hot bath with tear-free soap, and time after time, one of the kids would say “we don’t need a bath, daddy already cleaned us up with the air compressor.” Reading time as toddlers would see the kids and I snuggled into a blanket sounding out words—but with daddy it would be sitting in his lap eating candy bars and checking out the prices in the Fastline. The kids are constantly asking moms questions: where are their clothes, shoes, socks, games, or toys? The only question they seem to ask dad regularly is “where is mom?” It isn’t just “fun” that moms and dads differ on. I think it’s everything—especially discipline. Mom raise their voice. Dads lowers theirs 3 octaves. Moms say “go to your room” in a scary voice. Dads says “listen to your mother.” Moms set a timer for a 5 minute time-out. Dads time-outs last until he realizes he hasn’t seen the kids all evening. The differences don’t stop even after the kids are finally tucked in bed. My thoughts tumble together: It’s so cold tonight, I hope no one lambs. We didn’t finish To Kill a Mockingbird this week, I hope it doesn't put him behind in literature. I really should get our youngest in guitar lessons. I could stand to lose 10 pounds. The rooster didn’t get penned up tonight, hope nothing gets him. The kids had to make their own supper tonight—I’m such a failure at farm-wife and mother... Meanwhile my husband is half-smiling to himself thinking “What a great fort. I’m so awesome.”

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