Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Nappiness

Parenting is a tough gig. One which calls for many sacrifices. And surely a guy who went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months would know all about sacrifices, right? Wrong. At least not when it comes to one particular thing which I’ve never been asked to give up.

That’s not to say that I haven’t given up a lot. Because I have. The very moment I moved in with my wife and stepdaughter, for example, virtually all of my personal time went away. So did my peace and quiet. As well as my (how should I put this?) carousing. Oh. And my ability to sleep in on Saturday mornings. (Induced by the carousing, perhaps?)

With the triplets came an amplification of those sacrifices, as suddenly I had even less personal time, less peace and quiet and was able to get even less sleep than before. The triplets also came with a new sacrifice. My sanity. (That’s right. I’m bat-shit crazy over here.)

So with the advent of Grand Finale, it only stood to reason that there would be more sacrifices on the way. And with the timing of his arrival, I suddenly realized that one of them might be that one particular thing which I’ve never been asked to give up. A sacred piece of myself which I’d told Caroline about long before we ever became husband and wife — the piece which I insisted be forever left unfettered.

Camping. Well, camping in general and going on a three-day bender with my idiot friends on this remote mountain lake in North Carolina via the annual Men of the Woods (MOTW) trip in specific. Given that Grand Finale was born on July 21 and that the MOTW trip was scheduled for mid August, it was obvious that something had to give.

Before you scoff at me, let the record show that I only ask for two hall passes a year, both camping related. One is an annual backpacking trip which is sure to be filled with strenuous climbs, arduous conditions and soul-searching moments. And the other is the MOTW trip which is sure to be filled with a coupla boats, a shit-ton of beer and general jackassery.

One is more introspective while the other is more social, but they both appeal to the same part of me — that place where the boy who wants to play outside lives. The one who wants to look at a GPS. And cook over an open fire. And be forever young, not to mention wide-eyed with wonder at the rugged beauty which many, for whatever reason, will never see.

If someone’s putting a gun to my head, I’m choosing the backpacking trips each and every time, as they are filled with far more substance than one could ever hope to find during controlled benders carried out in remote locales. But thus far, no one’s put a gun to my head which means that I’ve still managed to make every single MOTW trip since the inaugural one nearly 10 years ago. Which meant that despite Grand Finale’s infancy, I was still hopeful that I’d be part of this year’s trip. But I knew it would require a plan of attack.

So I came up with one — that of complete and total silence. I know Caroline, and there was no way she’d let me go if I came right out and asked — not with all we’ve got going on. Instead, my only chance was to have her construe my silence as a resignation to the infeasibility of it all, at which point she’d be so touched by my act of familial sacrifice that she would, at the last possible moment, say Honey, why don’t you just go. I’ll be okay for one night.

Gee, are you sure? I’d say while trying to come up with a tasteful way to ask for assistance in getting the canoe atop my Tahoe, despite the fact that such assistance might lead her to discover the waterproof backpack sitting hopefully alongside my trusty tent in the back. You know, just in case.

The trip began last Wednesday, the very same night of my stepdaughter’s tenth birthday party, and as I walked into said party, I texted one of my MOTW friends a number — 20. It was the percentage chance I thought I had of pulling off a single, solitary night around the campfire.

About an hour into the party, things took an unforeseen turn when one of Caroline’s best friends, a woman whose husband left earlier that day for the MOTW trip, suddenly addressed the pink elephant that had been sitting on my mind for weeks.

“So are you gonna let John go on the MOTW trip or not?” she asked my wife.

I almost fainted, but instead I found myself immediately responding, not to Caroline’s friend, but to Caroline, herself. “I just don’t see how it’s possible, honey” I uttered with feigned concern and some weird, brow-furrowing facial expression deal which I could probably never duplicate in a million years.

That’s when her friend offered to transplant her entire (and temporarily husbandless) family to our house the following night (Thursday), thus enabling her to provide Caroline with round-the-clock help and me with the window to get one precious night in the woods. I tried to contain my glee as I snuck off to send another text to my friend, one which this time contained the number 60 followed by a girlie number of exclamation points!!!!!!! I left the party before Caroline in order to relieve our babysitter, and as I did, I asked Caroline and her friend if they’d figured out the details. They hadn’t, but assured me that they would before the party ended.

When Caroline got home later that night, I learned that they had not.

So the next day, Thursday, it was once again back to the silent game. Outgoing texts were riddled with 50s, as I figured it was down to a coin flip. Until late that afternoon, that is, when Caroline told her friend that she didn’t want her to come over, after all. At which point, my chances went down to Robert-Downy-Jr.-movie-status.

Less Than Zero.

Which meant that while my friends played commando out in the wilderness (on near perfect days according to the radar I couldn’t help but repeatedly pull up), I fed a gassy baby and tried (with varying degrees of success) to contain three fussy toddlers who were all in desperate need of naps. Which meant, of course, that my buddies enjoyed their inalienable right to life and liberty, while all I was left with was the pursuit of nappiness.

That night, with the triplets in bed and Grand Finale quiet as a mouse, Caroline and I sat on our deck and partook in a few cocktails. Just as the sun was starting to set, Caroline broached the topic which hadn’t been brought up since the trip was officially quashed. She told me how bad she felt that I had missed it. And that she knew how important it was to me. And that she wished that she had wanted her friend to come over and help, but that she just didn’t.

“She can’t help me like you can, honey. No one can,” she explained in a voice that cracked with emotion as a lone tear rolled down her cheek. “And it’s been so hard lately…I just don’t wanna be without you right now. And the kids only one reason why.”

That picture at the top of this post is what it looks like when the sun sets on that remote mountain lake. Which means that while Caroline and I were talking on the deck, my friends were likely witnessing a scene similar to that one. Yet I’m the one who won in that deal. Because the sunset that Caroline and I shared that night might have been the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen.

That piece of me that I was finally called upon to sacrifice in the name of parenthood? I still have it, regardless of whether or not I made this most recent trip. So the sacrifice really wasn’t that big of a deal. And given what I received in return? It’s one I’d make over and over and over again.

Because the little boy who wants to play outside would be nothing without the beautiful woman who almost always, if even somewhat begrudgingly, allows him to do so.

Pssst. Honey — I’m still cool for that October backpacking trip, right?

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • Debbie

    This was wonderful to read!!

    • John Cave Osborne

      Thanks, Debbie! i love it when you stop by. really appreciate it.

  • Beth Sumner Lowe

    You’re a good man, John Cave Osborne!  My husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary in October and lovingly and willingly still sacrifice for one another.  Several years ago, I began to suffer from severe panic attacks and during that time, my husband was my touchstone.  Since he runs a corporation for a syndicated morning show located a couple of hours from our town, he is frequently out of town but he didn’t leave my side for about 6 weeks until I felt stronger.  These experiences make the tapestry of our life together richer and more beautiful.  You and Caroline are weaving that tapestry right now.

    • John Cave Osborne

      Beth — this gave me chills. i’m big about beginning with the end in mind, and i often imagine how incredible love must be once it’s weathered a few decades. C and i celebrate our 5th anniversary this august. seems hard to believe, given how much we’ve crammed in those five years. rich years. five rich years.

      what a wonderful story about the sacrifices your husband made in being your touchstone. your perspective isn’t lost on me, and it’s nice to hear someone from your vantage point say that she believes we’re weaving the same tapestry that you and your husband have been working on together for 25 years. just a beautiful comment, my friend. and i thank you for it.

  • Miss A

    And this is why I adore you and Caroline (I know it’s a strong word but I’ve been following you for about a year now).
    This… it makes it all worth it, and her, breaking down to show that fragility is beautiful, especially considering how strong she seems all the time.
    You’re a good man, and you have the family that you deserved. Good job JCO!

    • John Cave Osborne

      miss A! hello, again!

      you know, C and I have this Paul Reiser / Helen Hunt / Mad About You thing going on — that little flirty dance we do and have so much fun doing. so when she broke out of that dance with such a profound statement… i was just really moved. more than i could even express to her at that very moment.

      the woman who stepped up and offered help is as competent as it gets. one of her lifelong friends to boot. so to hear her say that not even that wonderful woman can help with the kids like me? i dunno… it just really meant the world to me. that she feels i’m so helpful with the kids, that is.

      re: me being a good man and having the fam i deserve? not so sure about all that, but i sure do appreciate you saying as much!

      • Miss A

        Oh my God! I totally get the Paul Reiser / Helen Hunt thing, and yes, you do remind me of that awesome tv couple (God I miss the 90’s… The 80’s also).
        This is what makes blog reading worthwile to me. Getting to know some people (who I might have never known otherwise) enough so that when you get that one post, like this one, you know how much it means to them. And I do know. And it means a lot to me because i have faith in people. And you are a good man, otherwise you wouldn’t have her!

        • John Cave Osborne

          what you say about following blogs and getting to know folks you otherwise wouldn’t have is very true, my friend. no question about it. i miss the 80s TV, too. as evidenced by the fact that i almost said that C and I had a “Moonlighting” thing going on a la Cybil Shephard and Bruce Willis… hope all is well in your world, Miss A. have a great weekend…

  • AEWinston

    Thank God for men like you. And women like Caroline. Lucky, lucky kids. 

    • John Cave Osborne

      AEW — you’re the best. what a great thing to say. (though i’m not so sure how lucky these poor kids are… it’s pretty hectic around there… went to the pool on Sat and were hoping to see you. we were sorry we didn’t. hope you’re enjoying the last few weeks of summer!

  • Ray Boswell

    Enjoyed the read kind sir.  I had wondered if you were going to be able to make it to this year’s MOTW.  I now have my answer.

    I had a similar situation with music which, for me, is what camping is to you.  Moved to Franklin from Napa in April of ’02 pending the arrival of Evan.  E graced us w/his presence on May 31 effectively ending any chance I had of witnessing the inaugural Bonnaroo.  There was really no discussion as Shay was/is my partner in crime when it comes to music, so I wasn’t going to ditch her and head off to Manchester by myself.  Fortunately, this was before texts/Twitter/etc. so I wasn’t constantly reminded throughout the weekend of what I was missing. 

    Fast forward to 2005.  Graham is due sometime towards the end of June/early July.  Bonnaroo is again fast approaching.  Tickets are being offered to me left & right.  Panic will be closing out the festival after taking all of 2004 off.  Decisions, decisions.  I actually did get the “honey, of course you go” green light.  Sweet!  There was a caveat though.  “If this baby comes and you aren’t here, don’t worry about coming home.”  Frak!  Knowing how spotty cell coverage was in Manchester, and the reality of trying to get my stuff together in order to get from Manchester to Franklin in 12 minutes, I decided it was best for all concerned to stay home.  Of course, Graham doesn’t arrive until July 1st, a good two weeks after Bonnaroo.  I miss what would’ve been a great weekend, but it was just a part of accepting that it is not all about me anymore.


    • John Cave Osborne

      perfect, ray. just perfect. when it occurred to me to write this, i had a feeling that it was a very relate-able topic. your music situation is confirmation of that. it’s not about us, anymore, old friend. that’s why it was amazing that my camping had never been affected. well i say that, but it’s not quite true. the last two years, i’ve totally truncated my MOTW weekend. but it had never been taken away from me until now. and, like you in 05, i survived.

      great comment, my man. hope to see you soon.

  • Patrick (yeah, that one)

    Awesome.  Just brilliant.  You and Caroline are wonderful together, and moments like these prove it. :-)

    • John Cave Osborne

      you’re the man. we need to do lunch again sometime soon…

  • Mandy A

    I pretty much love this… as I do ALL of your work.  I got a good giggle out of the girly exclamation points(!!!) 

    I’m glad you were there for Caroline.  I know in my heart how much it meant to her, as I’ve been in that very same place.  Sometimes you just want your support there, even if he does nothing more than sit there and smile at you.  And make smart-ass remarks. 😀

    Adore you!

    • John Cave Osborne

      and i adore *you*. always have!!! (get it? the use of a girlie number of exclamation points?)

  • Kath1213

    How sad.

    Sad that you had to pussyfoot around the subject. Sad that you had to give it up.

    • John Cave Osborne

      it wasn’t sad. i think you missed the point. but thanks for reading!