Chicago dad builds a better blanket fort

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor Foster ( his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who won’t let you past the velvet ropes outside her new blanket fort.

21st century children won’t settle for the mediocre living arrangements they did a few decades ago. Remember how Bobby and Peter Brady share bunk beds while Greg had a bed on the other side of the room, and they all shared a bathroom with their three stepsisters? If you remade “The Brady Bunch” now, all six kids AND horrible cousin Oliver would have their very own attics like Greg did in later seasons. While our generation was lucky to have access to a football phone or “River Raid” on the Atari in the rumpus room – today’s youngsters all have their own flatscreens, iPhones, iPads, shiatsu chairs and tanks of garra rufa fish that eat their callouses. Colleges and Universities have figured out this new luxury living that kids are accustomed to, and most dorms, instead of having communal bathrooms with sinks full of hair clippings and ramen noodles, now have a spinning bed that dumps you into a hot tub while Vikki Carr sings the theme to “The Silencers.”

This lifestyle inflation doesn’t stop at bedrooms – it extends all the way to blanket forts. When my three-year-old asks for my to help build her a fort, she doesn’t mean an old comforter thrown carelessly over a couple of dining room chairs – it’s a project. So, let’s examine how you can start your 2015 off in style by building a blanket fort your snowflake can be proud of!

First off, to get the amount of square footage your 21st century child will require, you’re going to need several blankets. Stinky old afghans and army blankets aren’t going to cut it, either – you’re going to needed either licensed blankets featuring Anna and Elsa making snowmen (for the right amount of whimsy), or maybe some Pottery Barn duvets personalized to say “Hudson” or “Hayley” or whatever prep-school-ready name you gave your child. Don’t laugh – if you’re reading this there’s an 80 percent chance you have a daughter named “Mackenzie.” You may have to shore up larger expanses of blanket roof with a quilt-bearing wall – time to drag over that hand-crafted barstool you splurged on at Nadeau in Ravenswood before the kids came along and you went back to buying IKEA.

Technology is a must for a modern blanket fort dweller. A flashlight that lets you see the latest “Goofus and Gallant” cartoon in “Highlights” is no longer considered a high tech fort accessory. To have a Smart Fort™, you’re going to at least need a strong wi-fi connection so your little one can stream “Despicable Me 2” on their tablet. And don’t cheat yourself, either – make sure there is a phone charger cable running into the fort so you can check your Facebook news feed while you sit in there without draining the battery. You’ll also want a remote control for the thermostat, and a speaker mount for your kid’s phone so they can jam out to the clean version of “Anaconda” on their latest KidzBop download.

Oh, and stick a humidifier in there – you know how zappy that static electricity can get.

Snacks are the next essential. A fort without snacks is hardly fortified, and certainly no fun. You might as well go gluten-free, hypoallergenic and vegan, just in case the neighbor kids visit. I’d say some vegetable protein like avocado slices or some edamame would be a good choice. You’ll want a salami platter and some artisanal cheeses for yourself in case you’re hunkered down for a while. Install a cooler to store Green Goodness fruit juice for the kiddo and that growler of Half Acre Wooden Teeth Saison for Daddy. It could be a long siege.

Finally, as with any real estate, you’ll want to think about Location, Location, Location – access to good lighting, ventilation, decent Little People schools and an active imaginary Alderman. The local pretend Dominicks in our fort’s area is being replaced with a pretend Whole Foods, and made-up property values are skyrocketing. Think strategically and don’t forget: a blanket fort must be able to be defended from the Decepticons, the Foot Clan and Nightmare Moon, the evil little pony.

You’ll also need access to the potty.

There you have it – the four S’s of blanket forts: Space, Smart Fort, Snacks, and SssssLocation. Remember all that and you can give your modern child the living room camp-out they’ve always dreamed about. While you’re in there, you can ponder the playhouse you need for the deck when Spring rolls around.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe to the WDP podcast (One of Podbean’s 10 most downloaded parenting Podcasts worldwide and an iTunes staff pick for best Parenting humor.) for free on iTunes, or listen at (Do note that the show has a potty mouth and is definitely for Over 17 Only.)

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