If you want to see a family with all their shit together, just make sure you give my family 24 hours’ notice. After the planning phone call, the clock starts and the plan is kicked into action.
The Night Before
The plan for the next 24 hours is constructed. My wife takes an inventory of the house, tells me that everything sucks and that I am a horrible provider, apologizes, and goes to bed. I get drunk and play video games.
The day starts with the first real house cleaning we have done in months. My wife hits the bathrooms right away. The home for wayward spiders that has sprung up in our bathtub is demolished. The toilet is cleaned with actual cleanser. Embarrassing ointments and medications are removed from all medicine cabinets and replaced with toothpaste and pictures of us in exotic locations we have visited to foster jealousy in any nosy visitors.
I move to the backyard on poop patrol and general patio cleanup. The ground is swept and the outside dining room set is refreshed to give the appearance that actual family dining happens there on a regular basis. The inside dining room table is quickly converted from storage space to an actual table, including our clever salt and pepper shakers that have no actual salt or pepper in them. This leads to the start of the afternoon where my wife naps and I sit on the couch and watch SpongeBob with my son. It is the best two hours of the week.
Things really heat up once my wife is out of bed. We start with a quick errand to get ourselves out of the house. We have become nose-blind to what our house actually smells like so we need to address the stink level quickly. Upon return, we learn it’s terrible — like a wet dog wrapped in gym socks. The box of scents is quickly brought out from the back of the closet. Since we aren’t candle people, this is a hodgepodge of random holiday Yankee candles we have stored up over the years. They are placed around the house and lit. Forty-five minutes later our house smells like two sugar cookies fucked a Christmas tree and ran down the hallway crapping lemons while wearing clean linen. We look at each other and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ , could be worse.
Next we focus on our son. My wife dresses him in what she considers his cutest outfit but also one that tricks other parents into thinking we let him make his own choices and support his originality. We then have the talk with him about keeping his pants on and by no means is he allowed to sing “The Penis Song” while company is over. The agreement is solidified with fun size peanut M&Ms and the promise of vanilla ice cream.
All his fun toys are removed from sight and replaced by the freshly un-boxed LeapFrog learning toys that he hates. They are put in strategic locations around the house so company will see them during normal conversation, further demonstrating our unwavering support of his educational needs. He is sad to see these toys and begins to complain until reminded of the ice cream he will get if he keeps his mouth shut.
30 Minutes to Go
The final 30 minutes begins the sprint to the finish line. I put an appetizer in the oven to get the hearty kitchen smell to slowly permeate throughout the house. A piece of fresh mahogany I keep in the garage is strategically placed under the couch where they will be sitting to add rustic vibe smells. SpongeBob is taken off the TV and replaced by the DirectTV smooth jazz channel. My only two leather-bound books are placed under the glass coffee table for effect (one of them is actually a collection of batman comics, but no one ever seems to notice). Random glassware and appetizer serving items we got as wedding gifts and never use are full dusted, cleaned, and set up. They are bulky and useless, but damn, they look stylish.
The doorbell rings. My wife moves to the couch with a copy of War and Peace, my son begrudgingly starts playing with his LeapFrog toys, and I do the “sleeves-rolled-up, casual-looking dad” routine as I head to the door to greet them and complete the illusion.
“Glad you could make it, we didn’t have a lot of time today due to my wife’s charity work so I hope you don’t mind the mess.”
They look at each other then back to me with slightly stunned looks on their faces. Checkmate! You give the my family 24 hours, and you are gonna be impressed, even if it means lying our asses off.