A few weeks ago I started writing the first part of this piece. This one is essentially telling you about the snail-like pace of my emotional maturation, and my less than conventional parenting techniques. This could potentially be an ongoing piece, as I realized while writing Part 1 just how many examples there are. I also realized how many of these examples involve bodily functions.

Being a bartender in a seasonal beach resort town, I have some free time in the months of January through mid-March. Well, the truth is that with all of my kids and the three-ring circus I call home there’s no such thing as ‘free time’. I guess what I mean is that I’m around the house a lot more than I am at other times of the year. This time of year ends up being a joy to both me and my three daughters. As a result, I spend most of that time releasing my inner child. Though mine is not as “inner” as most, I do let it run more wild during this time.

About five years and two kids ago, I started an annual tradition in our home. It started with me and just one of my daughters but has grown with time to all three of them assisting me. We build a living room fort every January and keep it up as long as my wife will let me. Now, I can safely assume that there is not a single person amongst us who has never partaken in the age old art of living room fort building, at least to some extent. It may have been something as simple as turning the dining room chairs back to back and a few feet apart, draping them with a blanket and using sofa cushions for doors. Come on, admit it, we’ve all done it, and if you haven’t…then your childhood sucked.

Well, my crack team of interior architectural wizards and I take this practice to the next level. Each of the past five years we’ve raised the bar on the fort building process, making sure that last year’s model pales in comparison to the new one. My living room has vaulted ceilings that reach 20 feet at the apex. This gives us a good bit of room to work with.

It’s no secret that there are very few things in life that I take seriously. It’s also common knowledge that I’m a chronic underachiever, particularly as it pertains to matters of academics or finances. But when it comes to building our annual living room fort I am most definitely an overachiever. In fact, at the risk of sounding like a braggert, I like to think of myself as the Frank Lloyd Wright of sofa cushion structures. In the span of one day, the entire front half of the interior of my home is transformed from a stuffy room for watching Disney movies, to the Taj Mahal for little girls and their Dad.

I’ll now walk you through the design and construction of our Princess dwelling. First, I send my girls on a few missions while I go out to the shed. One princess sets about gathering every pillow in the house. Another works on collecting all of the sheets and blankets. And the third of my princess-daughters rounds up chair and sofa cushions.

My project starts with bringing in a tent from the shed. Yes, we use an actual tent as the foundation for our living room fort. I suppose in a technical and literal sense it’s really more of a canopy than a tent as it has no sides or bottom. It’s one of those you might use at the beach or an outdoor event. I start by anchoring the poles in the four corners of my living room making sure to somehow incorporate the spiral staircase into the structure. Then, up goes the canopy which is 10 feet by 10 feet and 7 feet tall, so I can stand up inside of it with ease. We then begin constructing the walls. These consist of several Disney Princess sheets that are affixed to the top of the canopy with safety pins and of course, duct tape. We extend the sheets out towards the wall making the already 10’ by 10’ structure expand even further. By the time the walls are anchored, the inside of the fort has 2 sofas, a love seat, 3 recliners, a fireplace, a 42 inch TV and a small child-sized collection of table and chairs. I know it sounds a bit ostentatious for a living room fort, but nothing is too good for my little girls. The floor is stacked so thick with cushions, blankets, beach towels and remaining sheets that you could toss eggs down from my second floor loft without cracking them. It’s actually more comfortable than my own bed. This year, with careful arrangement of the furniture and a little ingenuity we had a series of caves and tunnels and private sleeping quarters. For obvious reasons, we can’t have a fire pit in the middle, so instead I made a massive popcorn pit in the middle of the fort.

We of course had to build it, or at least start to, while Mommy was at work. That way by the time she got home, the damage was done, she saw how much fun we were all having, and she didn’t have the heart to make us tear it down. She’s a pretty good sport too, she usually let’s us keep it up for about 6 weeks. While it’s in tact, the girls and I sleep in it at least three times a week. Last year’s model slept nine people. I know this because I made the mistake of suggesting that my daughter have a slumber party for her 9th birthday and invite 8 friends. If you ever have the chance to do that, freakin’ don’t!

We have gotten to the point now where we even decorate the interior of the fort. We make different crafts and fun things and hang them from the canopy, often incorporating glow sticks into our artwork. I’m hoping that the memories of the fun we have in these forts will last their entire lives.

I’m reasonably certain that the average 45-year-old man is using his time more productively and with loftier goals than I am. But I guarantee none are enjoying more quality time with their kids than I am. I will continue to build an annual living room fort for as long as my kids want to. I’m kind of hoping they never outgrow it.

Thanks for playing along. Until next week, Syd Nichols.

Please share your thoughts with me at sydnichols@yahoo.com.