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John Engel: Their Wednesdays are made of wrestling, chores

Wednesdays are for male bonding. Lori leaves early for work and after coaching our kids, Adam and Zoe, through eating, brushing, combing and dressing, the three of us scurry down the street to get big sister on the morning school bus.

Returning home, I defer to Adam about what the day holds for us. Predictably, Adam says, “Let’s do something in my room.”

I play along and say, “Oh, what would you like to do in your room?” Grinning he says, “Let’s do something rough.”

“Like what?” I respond.

And in a voice that belies his 3½-year-old stature he roars, “Let’s wrestle!”

And so we tangle on the carpeted floor, practicing our patented moves, including the cud crusher, where Adam jumps off the futon and lands on me, the alligator chopper where I scissor him between my legs and nibble his toes, and his favorite, the pile driver, where I scoop him up and pretend to repeatedly drop him head-first to the floor.

After our warm-up, it’s time for home repairs and cleaning. Today we plan to extract a toothbrush that has spent months lodged deep in the recesses of the master bath sink drain. We round up our plumbing tools. Adam is drawn to the big red pipe wrench, which if he dropped would probably send us to the emergency room for a foot X-ray, so I steer him to the little one.

With the pipe off, we flush the slimy crud and goo into a bucket, including the long, thin object once used to clean Adam’s teeth. “We can’t brush with that any more,” he announces.

Feeling emboldened by our success, we head to the kid’s bathroom to clean that sink trap, too. Adam’s vivid memory reminds him that I need to fold myself like a pretzel to reach the pipes nestled in the vanity and that I have been known to yell like a pirate when engaged in this task.

“Try not to get frustrated,” he advises.

“What should I do if I feel frustrated?” I ask.

“Take a big breath,” he reminds me, which I do moments later.

Repairs complete, we turn to cleaning. While I wipe down the sinks, Adam strips down to his Bob the Builder undies, jumps in the tub and starts scrubbing with great vigor and enthusiasm. This lasts for almost one minute when he announces, “It’s clean.” I finish up and after dressing himself Adam starts in on his new favorite cleaning job, scrubbing toilets. He loves the scrubbing and flushing.

After a bagel and juice snack we tackle the basement. When I pull out the vacuum, Adam immediately volunteers his expertise. For an hour I sweep and he vacuums, sorting and storing the miscellaneous toys and craft supplies he and his sister have scattered across the floor as we go. “Watch this Daddy,” he cries, demonstrating how he can make different sounds with the vacuum by sucking up pennies and bits of tissue paper.

After honing our domestic acumen, we break for lunch and then snuggle with hugs, kisses and pirate stories before Adam gifts me a two-hour nap, during which I crank out work emails and teaching plans.

Later, after picking up Zoe at the bus stop, the two of them dine on afternoon snacks.

Predictably, Zoe heads to her room where she decompresses from her day with alone time. A sparkle in his eye, Adam slides down from his booster seat and says, “Daddy, let’s do something in my room.”

After wrestling, books and more wrestling, I say, “Mama will be home soon and we need to get started with dinner.” Having just landed on my torso, Adam jumps off my aching body and excitedly says, “Let’s go cook!”

Adam would like every day to be Wednesday; the mere thought exhausts me, and besides, I can’t take too many more cud crushers. But I realize the bond forged through this weekly ritual is a priceless gift, for both of us.

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