published Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Kennedy: Cabin fever hits families everywhere

Forget H1N1; the real epidemic this winter is cabin fever. Being cooped up with boy children on a cold day is a wild ride.

Somebody once said: "Boys are like dogs. They need to be run daily."

How true.

Our two little men, ages 8 and 3, will find a way to release energy indoors. Sometimes it's best to just to stand clear and remove your loose jewelry.

Our 3-year-old's favorite energy release is dancing -- specifically, gyrating to the G-rated version of "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas. When he cranks "Boom Boom Pow" on the stereo, his feet fly about like a clogger hopped up on Mountain Dew.

He even knows the lyrics to "Boom Boom Pow." I'm terrified he will stand up in church and shout (as he does at home): "People in the place, if you want to get down, put your hands in the air ..."

My older son's favorite indoor exercise is jumping rope. This is annoying for two reasons: It vibrates the whole house, and he makes me count the hops.

If he has any energy left after rope jumping, he punches me repeatedly in the biceps. Its a rite of passage for an 8-year-old to try to make his daddy wince. It infuriates him when he uncoils his whole body with a final roundhouse punch and I pretend not to notice. (I'm actually biting my tongue as the pain waves gather in my brain.)

"Did you need something?" I say, lowering my newspaper, as he massages his aching knuckles.

Hoping to even the playing field, he challenges me to a game of Wii, which he knows he will win. His idea of a level field is to plug in a college football game. He picks the teams. Typically he will choose Florida for himself and force me to be, like, Western Idaho State.

Immediately, he zones into a hypnotic trance and becomes one with the game. I hop around as if being stung by bees. He's up 180-0 at the half. I quit.

The best thing about cabin fever is that it eventually dissolves into something more civil: bath and pajama time.

After bath, the 3-year-old will pull on his PJs, curl up in my lap like a warm puppy and watch a favorite Barney episode.

The 8-year-old -- not fully aware he is now 70 pounds of elbows, kneecaps and gristle -- comes along 30 minutes later and tries to climb up in the Catnapper with me, too. I do my best to cradle my older son, although it's like trying to hug a 10-speed bicycle. Bless his heart.

The best part of the day is tucking them both into bed and watching their faces transform gently into sleeping angels.

Instantly, my cabin fever breaks, and I say a silent prayer of gratitude for rambunctious boys, new memories and the sweet release of a quiet house.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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rdecredico said...

Thanks for sharing the tips on lousy parenting.

It was insightful, though, on why so many males in this area are dysfunctional and myopic as adults: early exposure to football, Wii, Barney, teaching violence, lousy pop music, parents that cannot wait to get them to bed instead of spending time with them teaching them.

January 17, 2010 at 11:57 a.m.
PStriper said...

Interesting perspective, rdecredico. I've know the Kennedy family for years now, since The Boy was an infant. In my professional life I'm privy to a lot of families' dynamics, and I'd be hard-pressed to find more loving, involved, or conscientious parents than Mark and his wife or more loved and well-nurtured children than The Boy and his little brother. "Dysfunctional" and "myopic"? Hardly. Committed to parenting and doing it well? Absolutely. And able to write about it with humor and discretion? Uh, yeah. Try not to be so...literal and judgmental and a bit more "insightful."

January 22, 2010 at 9:22 p.m.
rolando said...

Don't be too hard on rdecredico, PStriper, she doesn't know boys or man-things.

I am in process of teaching my 33-yr old daughter that her two boys are as normal as bread pudding...she whined [lovingly] today about the 3-yr old's pounding on the 5-yr old's back and, as with Scarlett, didn't know "Whatever shall I do". My advice, of course, was for her to leave them alone but watch for ball bats or whatever; they are playing at being boys while learning to become men.

I am e-mailing Mr Kennedy's timely column to her tonight.

January 22, 2010 at 10:10 p.m.
vbw2165 said...

Kenny Rogers was on Oprah a few years ago. He has twin boys who were around 5 or 6 at the time. He said he has learned that unless you keep boys busy, they will dismantle your house board by board. So true. Thanks for your great columns, Mark. Keep it up!

January 28, 2010 at 9:49 p.m.
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