Darrell Huckaby - Some assembly required on Christmas Eve

The rest of you are more than welcome to come along for the ride, but this one really is for all the new daddies out there. Not the brand new daddies, understand. Laying out a doll and some blocks and a few story books is child's play. You can do that before the choir in that big New York cathedral finishes singing the "Alleluia Chorus." I'm talking about the fathers among you who will this very night, be inserting Tab A into Slot B for the very first time.

That's right. We are talking about those guys who have yet to learn that the biggest lie in the world is not "The check is in the mail," or "Of course I will respect you in the morning." The biggest lie in the world, as untold millions of young men will find out tonight is actually, "Some assembly required."

But don't worry. I have tons of experience, and I am here to help.

First of all, it's going to take longer than you think to get Christmas ready. I don't care if you have engineering degrees from Georgia Tech, MIT and Stanford - or have worked at Harold's Garage since you were a sophomore in high school - it is going to take longer than you think. Forget cuddling under the mistletoe or having one last glass of eggnog before getting down to business. There ain't time, because Murphy's Law was created for Christmas Eve.

You have to make sure the kids are sound asleep before you get started. There will be loud noises in the living room. Banging, clanging, fussing, cussing - trust me; it won't be a silent night. And those tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will be so excited that they can't sleep anyway - and they will be convinced that every sound they hear is Santa and his reindeer. So you have to make absolutely certain that they go to bed early and are sleeping soundly as quickly as possible.

I recommend drugs. Dimetapp works especially well. Diane Howington taught me about Dimetapp and I highly recommend it.

Scoff if you will, but don't blame me when it is 1:15 and you still haven't been able to bring the toys in from the trunk of the car - or up from the basement or down from the attic or, worst of all, home from the closet in Grandmama's guest room.

Now for the next thing. Directions are for sissies. They really are. Go ahead. Be a man. Throw the directions in the fire as soon as you open the first cardboard box. Don't just set them aside, because if you do you will have to eventually turn to them, which will be what your wife has been telling you to do since the first teaspoon of Dimetapp. "When all else fails, read the instructions!" If you hear it once tonight, you will hear it a dozen times.

Get rid of them. Not only will using them make you feel emasculated, you won't be able to understand them anyway. And you'll probably get at least one set written entirely in Chinese and there you will be, on the holiest night of the year, cussing some poor Chinese man who, along with a couple billion of his countrymen, could care less if you can get the Barbie Dream House assembled by the time the Dimetapp wears off - which will be approximately 5 a.m. - or 17 and a half minutes after your head finally hits the pillow.

Twenty-two minutes if you follow my advice and forget about cuddling under the mistletoe before getting started on the toys - which you won't, because if you are a new daddy you are really looking forward to the whole mistletoe thing. It's Christmas. Not even the coldest wife in the world would fake a headache at Christmas.

We're almost there. We've drugged the kids, disregarded the confusing instructions and are pressing onward - living on the edge; trusting our instincts. Just a couple more pieces of advice. Don't forget - batteries are almost never included, and even if they are, they won't last long. So go out right now and pick up two or three dozen batteries, in every size imaginable. When you have all the batteries you think you could possibly need, go back and get a few more. You'll thank me tomorrow.

If you really want to be ahead of the game you might want to actually open the boxes in the basement - or the trunk of the car or Grandmama's guest room closet - and make sure all the major parts are included. I say major parts because it goes without saying that you will be missing a few screws - OK, a few more than normal - and a washer here and a bolt there. Pick up a whole set of those while you are out. I mean, make sure that bicycle has handlebars and the little red wagon has wheels.

Don't laugh unless you want to wind up at Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. buying a pink bicycle for a 4-year-old boy.

That about does it. The rest you can learn on your own. But my best advice of all is to treasure every minute of tonight, because that little 4-year-old girl who is upstairs dreaming of a Barbie Dream House will be grown and gone before you turn around. Trust me on that one - and Merry Christmas, y'all.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.