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Stars and Stripes Scene, Sunday, May 18

In honor of Father’s Day, I’m sharing a story about a monthly ritual at our house that involves "men only."

Ron came up with the idea of Men’s Night Out when we were stationed in San Diego in 2003.

He, Jimmy and Tommy went out to eat at a "real" restaurant on the first Monday night of each month. A real restaurant, by Ron’s definition, is one in which you sit down and order, definitely not a fast-food place.

I think his intention was to give me a break from cooking while teaching the older boys some manners.

Ronnie was deemed one year too young to attend. He had to reach the ripe old age of five before being invited to join in the monthly event.

At first, Ronnie didn’t mind. He and I were used to having the house to ourselves and enjoyed the peace and quiet, eating cereal for dinner if we wanted. Plus, sometimes, Men’s Night Out didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.

There were nights when Ron came home complaining about how poorly the boys had eaten, or all three of them might be arguing over which restaurant to go to on their way out the door.

They were supposed to take turns choosing, but somehow, the three of them never seemed to agree on whose turn it had been last month. Many nights, Ronnie and I listened to them head out the door, a grown man and two boys saying, "No, you picked last time!"

"No, you did."

This continued until the three of them filed out the door, climbed into Ron’s pickup truck and drove off. They usually came home in a better mood, bringing us fortune cookies or stories of how the waitress had flirted with Tommy.

Sometimes, they all returned as grouchy as they had left us, which meant Ronnie and I were really glad we had been left at home on Men’s Night Out.

Still, Ronnie was eager to reach his next birthday and be officially declared big enough to join the "men" in their monthly ritual. As January and Ronnie’s fifth birthday approached, his excitement grew.

He looked forward to that first Men’s Night Out almost as much as he looked forward to his upcoming birthday party.

I can only imagine the ideas going through his head …What really went on every month when Ron, Jimmy and Tommy slipped out of the house and didn’t allow Mama to go? It must be a pretty big deal if no girls (Bless the three of them for still calling me a girl!) were allowed.

The big night finally arrived when Ronnie turned five and was invited to join in the manly fun. He almost drove his older brothers crazy, encouraging them to get their homework done so they could leave as soon as their daddy came home from work.

I still am not sure what Ronnie expected. Dancing girls, clowns or maybe all-you-can-drink root beer?

It’s hard to guess what a five-year-old might think a night on the town without Mom’s supervision would be like.

Unfortunately, he had imagined Men’s Night Out to be something it was not. It did not live up to the wild and crazy evening of fun he had envisioned.

Ronnie was the first one through the door when the "men" returned 1 ½ hours later after he rushed them out the door.

"How was Men’s Night Out?" I asked him, eagerly.

"All we did was go to damn IHOP," he mumbled.

Here’s to all the fathers out there who take the time to do "Dad things" with their kids. Even if your family is complaining, we still enjoy every minute of the attention you give us.

Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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