Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 50

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Sasha, 9 and Caleb, 7 knock on mommy and daddy’s door.  Caleb: “Can we watch a tv?”  Mommy: “Yes.  It’s Sunday, you can watch one tv.”  Sasha: “Can we watch two tv’s?”  Mommy (knowing that it takes the kids 20 minutes to get dressed on a weekday morning): “We need to leave the house at 8:40 for tennis.  If you can get dressed quickly enough to eat before we have to leave, you can watch two tv’s”.



Sasha and Caleb sit fully dressed on the couch watching the first of two tv’s.  Daddy: (CALLING OFF)  “Okay, honey.  I’ll be back in around an hour, so you take the kids.”  Mommy: (O.S.): “Okay!”  Daddy: (to kids) “Bye.  Have fun.” Kids (transfixed by tv): Inaudible buzzing sound.



Mommy hurries downstairs, putting the last of her clothes on as she enters.  Mommy: “Come on, let’s go!  We have to go!”  Kids: (happy go lucky): Okay, mommy.  Just let me brush my teeth/Grab my racket.  Etc.



A dusty black Prius pulls up.  The car shuts off.  The door opens.  A yoga mat and water bottle fall out.  We HEAR a muffled expletive as Daddy exits the car, puts the water bottle and mat into it and closes the door.


Mommy checks her watch: (TO HERSELF): “Damn.  (THEN) Kids, LET’S GO!”  Kids: (CHEERFUL/DELIGHTED): “Okay, mummy.  Right away!”

Just then, Daddy ENTERS:

Daddy: “What’s going on?  Do you want me to take them to tennis?”  Sasha: “What?!  I”m going to tennis?!  I told you not to sign me up for tennis!”  Daddy: “JUST GO, OKAY!  We’ll see if we can get our money back!”  Sasha: “No, I’m staying home!” Daddy: “You can’t stay home, I’m going to be looking for Caleb’s baseball uniform!”  Caleb: “WHAT?!!?  I HATE BASEBALL!!  I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BASEBALL!!!”  Daddy: “YOU’RE GOING TO BASEBALL!  IT’S PICTURE DAY!!!”  Sasha/Caleb: “I never wanted to play tennis!/I never wanted to play baseball!”

FADE OUT.  End of Day 50 morning.

So, that’s how it began.  The peaceful glycerine of my wife and kids calmly getting ready for their day is disrupted by the nitrogen that is me.  The kids eventually left with Shawni, leaving me at home for the next hour to stew in an early-morning funk.  I can usually find an upside to situations like this one, or at least divert my attention towards work, but there was no place to run and hide this morning: my mere presence was so incendiary that it caused an otherwise peaceful morning to explode.  Now, lest you think the whole day was a disaster, I will tell you now that my day started off at the lowest point, so you can continue reading without calling child protective services.

Shawni came back with the kids an hour later after Caleb had a great time playing tennis and Sasha had a– well, Sasha watched.  Immediately upon seeing me, Caleb’s expression changed from being overjoyed to being sad and angry.  It wasn’t about me, it was about baseball.  If you recall, I had committed Caleb to playing baseball because I thought it would be good for him and because my father and I have an enduring bond over watching baseball together (sadly, we’re Mets fans, but it has given us something to talk about for over 40 years).  In fairness, Caleb never wanted to play, and only joined after I promised him ice cream after each game.  That allure quickly wore off after he figured out that he would get ice cream anyway.  The most frustrating thing for me is that he’s actually, miraculously, good at baseball and seems to have fun.  But as he cried to me this morning, “Baseball is BORING!  All you do is wait around!”  I responded, “Yes, but don’t you like getting a hit?”  “Yes.  But then you run to first base and wait.  I want to do things!”  He’s not wrong.  I once read that in a three hour baseball game there is around 12 minutes of action, not including time spent spitting and scratching privates.  I followed with: “But you’re good at it!”  Caleb then hit me with the hammer: “I beg of you not to make me go!  It turns my Sunday into a Cloudday.”  How could I respond?  Shawni took me aside, “don’t make him hate baseball.  He’s young.  Maybe eventually he’ll like it, but don’t make him hate baseball for the rest of his life.”  Me: “But he has to go.  It’s picture day!”

I have a weird thing about picture day.  I don’t know why, I think it’s this weird feeling that the picture will replace the actual memory of the event when you’re older.  I also want my kid to be part of something so when people look back they’ll say, “Oh, yeah.  I remember Caleb.  He was funny and had that weird dad.”  Two years ago, Caleb wind up being sick for picture day at school.  He had a bad fever, if I recall.  I told Shawni to send him.  Shawni: “But he’s sick.”  Me: “I don’t care!  It’s picture day!  Send him for the picture and then he can come home!”  Shawni: “He’s REALLY sick. I won’t do that to him or the other kids.”  Now, I don’t know why Shawni prevailed in that decision, but she did.  I then called the school’s office manager and told her that my son had to miss picture day because he was sick.  The office manager replied, “Oh, well I’m sorry.  I hope he feels better.”  “Yeah, yeah, fine.  When can he take a makeup?”  “Well, they’re doing individual redos next Thursday for the kids who missed picture day or want to take another picture.”  Me: “Oh, thank God.  So he’ll take the picture again with his class?”  Office Manager: “Well, no.  Only individual pictures will be retaken.”  And this is when I become Captain A-hole. Avenger of the Slight Injustice Brought About By Myself: “Well, that’s not good enough.”  Office Manager: “What do you mean?”  Captain A-hole: “My son is in the class, so I want him to be in the class picture.”  OM: “We can’t do that.  If I did that for you, I’d have to do that for everyone.” CA: “I don’t care about everyone, I care about my son.”  OM: “You expect me to disrupt his class and have every kid in his class come in dressed up for another picture day just because your son missed it?”  CA: “Yes, I do.”  OM: “That’s not our policy. I can’t do it.”  This is where Captain A-hole uses his secret weapon: The Promise or Threat He Can’t Keep: “I will make a $10,000 donation to the school.”  OM: “That’s very nice, but that’s not how it–” CA: “I will make a $24,000 donation to the school.” OM: “I’m sorry, I can’t change policy for one person.  Plus it’s a different photographer who does the class pictures.”  CA: “So you are going to keep the school from getting $24,000 just because you’re so stubborn?”  OM: “I’m sorry.”

Once I hit that brick wall, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I called the company that does the school pictures and offered to pay for them to come back and retake the class picture ($700- a savings to me of $23,300), plus I emailed my kid’s teacher and told them what I was doing and she said it was okay.  I then emailed the Office Manager triumphantly: “Good news!  I got the photographer to come back to take a picture of the whole class.  I knew you’d be okay with it so I arranged it with his teacher who said it was fine.  Phew.  Thanks for your help!”  The Office Manager called me back immediately with a compromise: they would take Caleb’s individual picture and Photoshop it into his class.  My wife, who found out about my antics at this point was so humiliated that she told me I better take this offer and apologize profusely or I would be Captain Single.  I graciously accepted the offer and now have my favorite class picture ever taken of our kid: Caleb is one and a half sizes bigger than the rest of his class and is facing a different direction.  Just another victory for Captain A-hole.

Anyway, today I hung up my cape.  I took Caleb to get his picture taken, hoping against hope that he would change his mind and decide to stay and play.  I told him if he didn’t want to, we would leave, but if we didn’t have 8 guys, that means our team would forfeit.  At the time Caleb was the eighth guy.  I said, “if you really want to go, I’ll keep my word and we can go.”  He said he wanted to leave.  I took a deep breath, held out my hand and we walked back to my car.  Thankfully, two other kids came so we didn’t have to forfeit our game, but it didn’t matter to Caleb.  He had forfeited the game a long time ago, it was up to me whether or not I got on board.

A short while after I took Caleb home, there was a knock at the door and three of his friends came in for a play date.  His eyes lit up as he ran outside to jump on the trampoline.  As I watched them, I wondered how I would replace baseball as a bonding experience for us. Then, when the kids came inside, they were talking about the great April Fool’s Day jokes they had told– no doubt around the same I would have been cheering on Caleb during his at bat in the second game of his double header.  Caleb told his friends how his sister had played a joke on him by putting oil in his orange juice.  The kids laughed.  I followed this by saying how his sister gave me a candy bar that turned out to be poop.  It was a huge hit!  The kids were hysterical.  Caleb was beaming.  Cloudday had become Sunday.


Written by 100daysoff

April 3, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Really? No mention of your halfway point. It’s all downhill from here.


    April 3, 2011 at 9:18 pm

  2. I started to say, “great story Jeff”, but it’s not a story. I was reminded of the dance lessons, softball games, baseball games, piano recitals, basketball games and the many other activities my kids have been involved in. Today I walked into my oldest daughters apartment…at college, to take her to dinner. After dinner I Gave her hug and drove home for two hours. The activities are but fleeting moments in time. The relationships you so accurately describe are what matter. Thanks for sharing!

    Steve Schultz

    April 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm

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