When we left off, I was the host, court jester, party favor, test dummy, and entertainment for a sleepover party of nine-year-old girls, with my little ones also in the mix. It was Friday night of MLK weekend and I was outnumbered 9-1 by female beings in my own house. That three-day weekend, with a little help from Ma Nature, and some subpar forecasts ended up being an 11-day weekend. I keep referring to this party as if I were the only adult there, which is not at all the case. My wife was with me every step of the way. It’s just that intellectually, it’s easier to pass me off as nine years old, so I found myself a little more hands on involved with the party events. And by involved, I mean victimized, or used as a Guinea pig. Whether or not my nails were painted shall remain a mystery for the purposes of this column.

Needless to say, since it was a sleepover for my Princess and it fell in January when I happen to be on a little work hiatus, one of my now legendary living room forts had to be constructed. This is year three of the January transformation of my living room into a giant fort. A couple of years ago, my daughter who was then six or seven asked if we could make a fort using blankets, sofa cushions, etc. I had no decent reason to say no, and what child, be they seven or 40 doesn’t love a good living room fort. It gets a little more elaborate each year, and this year it was hosting an overnight shindig.

There was a time, not so long ago that I would have used the word epic to describe this fort, but I’m going to use legendary this time. I’m sticking to my new year’s resolution to not use epic any more since every D-bag with a Twitter account has made it his new favorite word and completely diluted its meaning to the point where it holds about as much value as dude.

In almost every aspect of my life I’m a chronic underachiever. Living room fort building is the one exception. I go at it with the passion and vigor of that weird guy on Treehouse Masters. The front half of my house has 20-foot vaulted ceilings with a spiral staircase that goes up to a loft where some of the kids’ bedrooms are. So I have a lot of space with which to be creative. My worthy assistant is a nine-year-old visionary whom I’m convinced is going to be a structural engineer someday.

We start by bringing in an actual tent. Not the Disney Princess tent either, that comes into play later on. This is one of those canopy tents you might use at the beach or a tailgate event. It has no sides, but its roof is 10 feet by 10 feet, and about nine feet tall at its apex. The four support poles were strategically anchored in corners of my living room. You never realize just how many sheets, blankets, pillows, beach towels, and cushions you have until you send your three daughters on a mission to find all of them. It was like we were opening a shelter as I assessed what the girls came up with.

Next, the walls were constructed using safety pins, thumb tacks, and multiple bed sheets, most of which were adorned with Disney characters. The sheets went from the tent top to the walls and were secured so that no one could see in or out. Then the floor was built using multiple quilts, blankets, and cushions. By the end, it was roughly 10 inches thick. You could fall straight backwards into it and not feel a thing. This awesome campsite could comfortably sleep eight.

When it was complete, the fort had inside of it: a fireplace, a 52-inch TV, two sofas, a love seat, a recliner, a tandem recliner, a series of tunnels and small private caves, and a popcorn pit. The girls did have to leave the fort to go to the bathroom, but other than that it was pretty self sufficient. And my Cool Dad stock continues to rise.

I opted not to break out my red penguin footie pajamas during the party. It wasn’t so much for fear of embarrassing my daughter, hell, that’s kind of my job and will be for the next decade. It was more out of fear of how that would be received in 2014 when a little girl goes home and tells her folks that her friend’s Dad was hanging out with them in footie’s. So I opted to leave any potential creepiness off the table. But since that fort was staying up for awhile, and we got a whole week of snow days, they went on the next night when the overnight occupants of the fort all shared my DNA or at least my last name. My two toddlers had never seen me in the footie’s before and they thought it was hysterical. Goal achieved.

The following week brought with it four more snow days for my daughter and temperatures far too low for us to enjoy the outdoors. Though my wife still had to go to nursing school most of the days, I and my three little girls were spending an almost unhealthy amount of time hunkered down together. My perpetually childlike mindset was: better than school or work; but I think the girls were getting a bit squirrely.

I’ve been telling my wife for the past two years that my absolute dream would be employed as a stay-at-home Dad, and write full time for a living. I can’t tell you how wonderful that would be. But in the past couple of weeks I discovered two fatal flaws in that plan. The first is that in all reality, there’s virtually no chance that my writing will ever be my sole income. It turns out, there’s only a limited target audience for a guy who writes about how he morphed from an idiot drinking like a rock star and lighting his own farts to a middle aged curmudgeonly drink slinger and adoring father. That’s a pretty specific demographic, so I guess I’ll have to keep tending bar for awhile.

The other glitch in my master plan to not leave my home was an even bigger reality check. After basically being trapped in a house with three little girls who I’m completely responsible for the whole month, and viewing the reaction of their mom each day when she came home, I had to give a self-evaluation. After review, it seems that I’m outstanding as a play date, but a bit lacking as a stay-at-home dad. By that I mean that we had an absolute blast every day, but nothing else got accomplished. It doesn’t exactly endear you to your wife when she comes home from a long day and your greatest feat was building a castle out of Mega Blocks and soup cans.

This same amazing and eternally tolerant woman looked at me earlier this week and said the following words which I will do my best to get verbatim. “Baby you really have to go back to work soon. Short of the long fingernails, unlimited financial resources, and pissing in milk jugs, you’re about three days away from being Howard Hughes.”
That’s my soul mate. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols