It's not like I was surprised. I'd known for months that for one week during June my dear wife would head to church girls’ camp just as she did in 2010.
Last year my second-oldest daughter wasn’t old enough to attend, and she proved to be enormously helpful to me at home. This year, however, she bounded off to camp with her mom and her sister, and I was left to fend for myself with my two little guys.
The boys, Kason and Koleson, ages 7 and 4, woke up that first day with a list of things to accomplish during what they were already calling “Boys' Week.” Even our pooch Pilgrim seemed to sense exciting things were in store.
A road trip to my hometown of Charlottesville, Va., was first on the list. There we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch with my oldest brother.
While there, I saw into my future. I caught a glimpse of needing a second job, maybe even a third, to keep my refrigerator and pantry stocked when these boys are teenagers.
After lunch, the four of us braved 90-degree temperatures to play miniature golf at a place that’s been operating with the same layout, same holes and the same family ownership since the day it opened in 1969.
As my future Jack and Arnie made their way from hole to hole, I tried to recall how many times I’d played that same course with my father and brothers as a child.
We took a tour of the local Red Cross, an organization my family has had ties with for many years. Ann, one of my sisters-in-law, works as its marketing director, and she made her nephews feel like VIPs. At one point we passed an open storage area holding a life-like dummy used for CPR, and Kason looked at his younger brother and teased, “There’s a dead guy over there!”
One thought it was funny. One did not.
Later we visited my mother ,and she did precisely what is required of all grandmas by the International Grandmother Code of Conduct: She spoiled them. The boys loaded back into my car with so many crafts, snacks and glow sticks they could open their own dollar store.
I showed Kason and Koleson where I went to middle school, and at least they pretended to be interested in the useless fact that I remembered which locker was mine. As we walked through the main office Kason asked, “Did you ever get in trouble?”
Before leaving town we made a stop at my father’s grave site in the shadows of Thomas Jefferson’s gorgeous Monticello. The boys asked me about the grandpa they never met, and I assured them they’d get their chance. Sitting on the freshly cut grass Kason said, “I bet grandpa was cool.”
Then, true story, as we drove off Koleson yelled through his open car window, “See you in heaven!”
Just after 10 p.m. I tucked two tuckered kids into bed and flopped onto my own bed. Then I thought, "And that was just day one."
The rest of the week was spent playing the Wii, tag, Zombie tag on the Wii, and spending their allowance at the fireworks stand. We did laundry and dishes but not enough of either. We had pasta and doughnuts for lunches, Gummy Bears for snacks, and leftovers of all three.
Toward the end of the week, we drove 40 miles north and met up with three other dads whose wives and older daughters were attending the same camp. The four of us swapped stories while our eight children planned and executed a coup d'etat on the Chick-fil-A play area.
After lunch the four dads attempted something even braver: bowling. When we limped out after 90 minutes, the woman working the counter wanted to give us a hug — or a Purple Heart.
That same night is fuzzy, but I know we watched a movie, and I think there were Milk Duds and a blanket fort involved. I also vaguely recall letting them sleep in their clothes and knowing that I was so tired, I’d let them sleep in their swimsuits if they asked. Actually, one of them might have.
Mom and the girls returned from camp early the next afternoon and showered and collapsed in bed. So I took the boys out for dinner and one last adventure involving baseball, a live band, good friends and a bouncy house. When we crawled home, I was so exhausted I have no recollection of tucking them in. Actually, it’s highly probable they tucked me in.
Today I’m back at work thinking of the long week of catch-up ahead. As I sit alone at my desk, I'm thinking how I never fully appreciated the incredible work the women in our lives perform day in and day out. Even now, even after “Boys’ Week,” I know how much I still have to learn. I wonder if the other dads are thinking the same thing.
I’m also thinking how much I miss the boys.
Maybe I’ll head home early.
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Jason F. Wright is the New York Times best-selling author of eight books including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and his latest, "The Seventeen Second Miracle." He's also a political commentator whose editorials have appeared in newspapers nationwide. Jason has appeared on FoxNews, CNN, and dozens of local and national radio shows.
Jason is married to Kodi Erekson Wright. They have two girls and two boys and are members of the Woodstock Branch in the Winchester Virginia Stake. He can be reached at www.jasonfwright.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.