To fully understand this post, something needs to be clarified before we get started: Belching and burping are different things. Everybody burps, but not everybody belches. The difference between the two is subtle: Intention.
Out of kindness (and to make sense of some upcoming paragraphs), I’ll clarify how intention affects the very definition of this common human event.
As already mentioned, everybody burps. Burping occurs when the body involuntarily takes in too much air (eating or drinking too quickly, stress, chewing gum, a baby nursing, talking and eating at the same time, drinking through straws, etc.) and a burp is one way to get rid of it. Sometimes we feel it coming and other times it sneaks up on us like a digestion ninja.
Belching is similar to burping, except that there’s no ninja sneaking up on us here. Belching requires the VOLUNTARY intake of excess air, and the resulting gas is forced out as quickly as possible. Because the air is taken in with the sole purpose of creating an offensive noise, it’s more appropriate to compare it to a barbarian screaming and charging at you in an inhuman rage. Whatever the cheesy metaphor is, intention is really the main difference between the two.
Understanding the difference between a digestion ninja and an obnoxious barbarian is important to understand the rule at our house ‘no BELCHING at the table’. If a digestion ninja attacks and a small ‘urp’ sneaks out, you say, “Excuse me” and continue. If it’s a barbarian attack and instead of the ninja-like ‘urp’ you’ll get a noise more like ‘URROWURGOOAAARRGROOAAAARR’and (in our house) the offending viking has to run around the table 11 times. A second belch gets you another run of 22 times, a third means 33, and so on. The reasons behind the base-11 punishment aren’t important, just that a belch at dinnertime will earn you a few trips around the table…
…unless you’re dad.
What? That’s not fair!
Nope, it’s not, but I believe every family has their ‘unless you’re a dad’ (UYAD) list of rules exceptions. Even though I know about these UYAD exceptions, yesterday was a real eye-opener on why this may such a bad thing.
It went something like this: After helping get a kite out of a tree (more on that in a moment), I decided to work on getting the bathroom downstairs finished, which meant hooking up the sink. I shut the water off, double-checked to make sure it was off, and then went to work installing a bathroom faucet.
The actual instructions for ME doing this plumbing job might as well have read something like this –
- Shut off the water valve. Make sure it’s off by flushing the toilet (this is not the correct method to verify that, by the way).
- Start unscrewing the cap on the cold water pipe. Wonder if you shut off the valve. Go back to make sure you did.
- Go back to the cap and continue removing it. You will notice some water coming out. Get nervous.
- Tighten the cap and double-check that the water is really shut off. It will be.
- Assume it’s just water left in the pipe and go back to removing the cap.
- The leaking water will become a high-pressure spray. Cease removing the cap and tighten it again. Go check the water shut-off once more.
- Get a towel to soak up the water from the brief high-pressure water show. Naively assume that one should be enough.
- Resume unscrewing the cap. As soon as the spraying starts, turn it faster to get it off quickly and stop the spraying. Continue even if you think this is a mistake and assume your single towel will still be enough.
- The cap will shoot off and hit you, feeling like a .50 caliber shot in the chest. Make sure you cuss when this happens.
- The water in the pipe will not be a short burst as assumed, so put your thumb over the pipe to stop the flow when you realize this.
- Begin screaming for help. For best results, scream like a dying bird and pray someone upstairs can hear you. Someone will come down. Eventually.
- When your children run down in a panic, yell, “Get me some towels!” to your daughter.
- Forget that you’ve checked the shut-off valve in steps #1, 2, 4, and 6 and scream “I think the water valve is still on! Go turn it off!” to your son. He will do what you ask, not knowing you already checked it numerous times.
- Move your thumb and get fire-hosed again. Even if you follow a rigid iPhone-game-playing thumb exercise routine, your ability to stop the water will be much less effective now and you’ll need to begin screaming at your son to turn it the other way. He will do this. Eventually.
- After the valve is shut off, continue to hold your thumb over the pipe and look around you. You’ll see water on the floor, the walls, the ceiling, the window, and around the .50 caliber death cap that hit you in earlier. Now is the time to realize your single towel won’t be able to clean up this much water. Send your kids to get as many towels as they can find. They will. Eventually.
- Your thumb will begin hurting a lot. Don’t worry – this is normal.
- With your thumb still holding the water back, have the kids clean up the water. They will think it’s all very funny and start laughing. Maintain a grouchy expression. Do not laugh.
- Everything will get sorted out, with the help of the armloads of towels your kids will have brought by now. Your new water lines will be installed when the dust/water has settled and your thumb will start to recover. Eventually. Your kids will be laughing and having fun cleaning up your mess. You should not laugh with them.
- Run to the hardware store to get one more piece you need to finish the job. The lady at the counter will ask you how the project is going and begin laughing when she sees you soaking wet. You should NOT laugh. Or smile.
- Return home to your wife and kids hanging out in the kitchen. When your wife asks how the bathroom is going, hold your arms out and show her your soaking wet clothes. She will begin laughing. As you tell everything what just happened, you will be surrounded by a group of people who are laughing hysterically. You will not feel like laughing, but you will. Eventually.
I followed the above instructions to a tee. It wasn’t until my day-end reflection that the irony of my initial refusal to laugh hit me. You see, an hour before I started converting the bathroom to a water park, my little girl came in to ask for help getting her kite out of the tree. She was crying when she asked and for the entire rescue attempt. After failing to get the kite down without cutting the string (which meant more crying), I said this to her:
“Sometimes, the only thing you can do when bad things happen is to just laugh.”
…unless you’re dad.
Thinking more about the double standard we dads often have with our kids, coming up with specific examples was way too easy. I imagine there are a few people out there who can relate, and maybe see what a common (and silly) thing this is. Here are some I came up with from my own UYAD list:
– (Starting with the obvious one from the beginning) Don’t belch at the table. Unless you’re a dad who thinks your family should follow viking rules of table etiquette.
– Buckle your seat belt so you’ll be safe. Unless you’re a dad who’s convinced nothing bad will never happen to you when you’re holding a steering wheel.
– Don’t eat in the living room. Unless you’re a hungry dad dropping crumbs you don’t think ants will be able to find.
– Don’t swear. Unless you’re a *&!@# dad!
– Be nice to people. Unless you’re a dad driving in traffic with idiot drivers and moron pedestrians (See the previous rule).
– Eat everything on your plate. Unless you’re a dad that thinks green salad removes testosterone from your body and should be avoided.
– Laugh whenever something bad happens. Unless you’re a dad and you feel like being angry about an Old Faithful re-creation in your bathroom.
You get the idea. I wonder how different things would be if that list read ‘BECAUSE’ instead of ‘Unless’ (Except for the belching thing, of course – that’s actually been an official responsibility of dad-dom since the Viking era).
Bottom line? I don’t think we understand how uncool it is for a child to hear one thing and see another from the main person who will define how they view men in their lives…
…unless you’re a dad.