Clair McFarland: It's Not Easy Being The Man Of The House. It's Harder If You're 11

Clair McFarland writes: Middleborn leaned his BB gun against the wall, trudged to my bed and tucked in next to me, knowing he had to protect his useless unconscious mom.

Clair McFarland

August 24, 20236 min read

Clair new column shot
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

It’s not easy being the man of the house. It’s even harder if you’re 11.  

But when The Husband left town this week for a trip with his brother, that was the directive he gave to our middleborn son.  

“Now. You gotta be the man of the house while I’m gone, OK?” 

Middleborn nodded. He pursed his lips gravely.   

To be clear, there are lots of males in this house. When The Husband is here and the cat is inside, I’m the only female among six males. The twins are 9. Firstborn is 13.  

But only Middleborn, age 11, gets to be “the man of the house” while The Husband is away because Middleborn has more commonsense than a New Jersey mob boss and an 1800s mountain man combined.  

He can drive a car. He can remove a tick. He can load and fire a .22 pistol. He wakes at the sound of a cricket on the windowsill. If zombies attacked, he’d build a trebuchet from wood scraps.  

It’s hard on Middleborn to babysit the rest of us, because the rest of are having too much fun.   

On Tuesday, he shook his head at me for leaving the hose running in my flower garden. He reamed his brothers for leaving the shop fridge open. He rubbed his temples, asking “Lord, why me?” when his older brother angered the wasps nesting in the deck stairs by slashing them with a katana.  

That night, Middleborn woke me with a hard elbow nudge as I lay dead to the world on my husbandless bed.  

“MOM,” he whispered, frantically.  

“Not you, Walt Disney,” I growled.  

“No, Mom. It’s me,” said Middleborn.  

I rolled away from him.  

“I think someone just tore past our driveway,” he continued. “I’m gonna go check it out.”  

“Jobby Clobby,” said I.  

Middleborn peered out his window. Nothing stirred.  

He leaned his BB gun against the wall and walked back to my bed. Then with a heavy sigh, he tucked in next to me, knowing he had to protect his useless unconscious mom. But he didn’t go to sleep. He fidgeted for two hours and wondered what Wyoming’s self-defense laws say about a duty to retreat.  

In the morning he woke grumpy and demanding ice cream.  

I wouldn’t give him ice cream, though he said he deserved it if he was going to continue guarding this house.  

“Fine, then. I’m going on strike,” muttered Middleborn.  

But he didn’t go on strike. He came home from school, ate some noodles for dinner, and watched the sun drift away as the sky darkened to a molasses ooze.  

It was my favorite time of the day. I read “Prince Caspian” to the twins. I read “The Martian Chronicles” to the big boys. Then I cuddled up – this time with the twins in my bed. 

The twins snored lightly. Their brown heels dug into my calves. I sighed and read T.S. Eliot to myself until I fell asleep.  

I woke to Middleborn elbowing me in the sensitive barrow that runs along my spine.

“THE FRONT DOOR JUST SWUNG OPEN,” said Middleborn, his eyes looming in the dark.  

This time I had no arguments with Walt Disney. I sprang upright, grabbed my .45 out of the gun safe and stalked toward the front door in the dark. Middleborn tiptoed behind.  

Sure enough, the front door was wide open and vacillating as if it had just made up its mind to open.  

I flicked on lights and peered into the living room.  

Firstborn trudged up behind Middleborn and me.  

“Hey guys,” he yawned. “What’s goin’ on?” 

“SHHHH!” spat Middleborn. “Can’t you SEE? Someone’s IN our HOUSE.”  

Firstborn’s head swiveled toward the open front door. Then back to us.  

“I locked that door right before we went to bed,” I whispered. “How could someone have gotten in?”  

Firstborn shuffled.  

“Lockpick,” said Middleborn. “I’ve picked that lock myself.” 

“WHAT,” I said.  

“Uh, guys – “ began Firstborn.  

“It was for a good reason, I swear!” Middleborn protested.  

“Guys,” said Firstborn.  

“What?!” I snapped.  

Firstborn cleared his throat. “I went outside after Mom locked the door, to get my speaker, and I didn’t shut it all the way.”   

Middleborn slapped his forehead. “Do you mean to tell me, Mom and I have been hunting the wind?”  

Firstborn nodded.  

Middleborn broiled a roar in his throat. He glared at Firstborn, turned on his heel and stomped back to bed. 

“Whaaat?” Firstborn shrugged.  

“Yikes,” said I. “You really scared us.”  

“Sorry,” said Firstborn indifferently, then he went back to his bed and slept like a baby.  

The next morning Middleborn trudged out to breakfast red-eyed and slack jawed. He wore a flannel bathrobe and eyed my black coffee.  

“When does Dad get home?” he whimpered.  

“Tonight,” I answered.  

Middleborn nodded. “Could I have some black coffee please?”  

I shook my head and wrapped that slim, pale, man-of-the-house warrior in my arms.  

“No,” I said. “But you can have some ice cream.”

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter