The swing set challenge

This column first ran in the paper in June 2001 

As a male person and the parent of a 3-year-old, I know nothing matches the sacrifice and pain women go through during the miracle of childbirth.

I mean miracle, of course, in the sense a human being blows up to roughly the size of Rush Limbaugh and develops strange cravings for sardine and Malox sandwiches and retains the warmth and sensitivity of Barry Bonds.

Buy, hey, we men have our own burden.

I’m talking, of course, about the burden of having to put together one of those large wooden swing sets that come with attached forts.

My wife and I recently bought such a swing set at our local Toys Cost and Arm and a Leg for our daughter Emma.

I have mentioned Emma once or twice before in this column and I will probably drop her name occasionally in the future.

At least until she gets to that awkward age where that kind of stuff embarrasses her.

Then I’ll do it all the time.

But back to the swing set.

I should have suspected I was in over my head when the sales guy refused to look at me when I asked how long it would take to put the swing set together.

He kind of looked at his shoes and mumbled something that sounded like “six hours”.

I discovered later he meant six hours in dog years.

I don’t want to say that the swing set and fort we bought is big, but my first college dorm room was smaller than this thing.

We had to get permission from the FAA to put it in our backyard.

The swing set and fort is big, is what I’m saying.

Complicating matters is the fact I’m not exactly Bob Villa when it comes to working around the house.

To say that I’m not good with tools is like saying Gary Condit is not good with relationships.

My wife once actually stopped in the middle of a phone conversation with her mother because she saw me walking through the kitchen with a screwdriver.

Her exact words were “Mom, I’ll have to call you back. Mike has a screwdriver.”

But I am a man not without a certain amount of pride so this time I was determined to do what normal dads do.

Walk around the house in boxer shorts making rude and unexplainable noises.

Hah! I joke. I’ve been doing that for years.

No, what I was determined to do was get out in the backyard and build something with my own two hands, damn it.

So, armed with an impressive array of tools (all borrowed from my brother-in-law) I stepped outside on Sunday afternoon ready to build Emma a swing set.

This is how the day went.

Noon-Open box. Began reading directions.

12:15-Develop headache go lay down.

1:15-Begin reading directions again.

3:00-Discover the directions are in French. Should have figured that out when each sentence began with the words “L’American d’idiot”.

3:05-Begin reading the directions in English.

3:10-Go back to the French directions.

5:00-Mange to get two sides of the fort frame together.

5:05-My wife comes out. Takes one look and tells me frame is upside down. I utter a long series of bad words.

8:00-Finally get fort frame together and go inside.

8:01-Fort frame falls over. Apparently, a nearby squirrel sneezed.

8:15-My wife calls our friend Craig. Offers him food and all the beer he can drink if he will come and help me.

The following Saturday

Noon-Craig shows up.

12:05-Craig discovers problem. Takes everything I have done apart.

12:06-Fort frame done.

12:30-Fort done.

1:00-Ladder and swing set frame done. Craig and I take a break to have a beer.

6:00-Back to work.

6:30-Finish swing set. Ask Craig how much I owe him.

6:31-Call Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. They agree to step up production.

7:00-I stand in the backyard and look with pride at the swing set. My wife comes out and puts her arm around me and says, “There is a house for sale that would be perfect for us. I think we should move.”

7:01-I utter a long series of unbelievably bad words.