Tuesday, June 29, 2010

With Apologies to my Eight-Year Old Son

On Sunday evening, I got the lawn mower out as my wife had asked me to mow the front yard. (Yes. She asked. Like I ever think of these things.) As I was moving the mower around from the back yard to the front, I noted that one of my kid’s Nerf guns was laying in the back year. I knew the boys had played with it on Friday when my younger son, Christopher, had a friend over for a play date. On Saturday, we’d had a brief, torrential downpour that had taken out trees in our neighborhood. I wasn’t happy.

“Christopher,” I called out as I entered the house. “Get down here.”

Christopher came down the stairs and I explained the situation. “Dad, that’s Andrew’s gun,” he protested, blaming his older brother. My wife joined in my disciplining, sending our little guy out pick up his stuff.

It wasn’t the first incident of the day for him. My younger sister and her family went to the beach on Sunday, staying at my parents’ trailer at the beach. On their previous trip to the beach a month ago, she’d left her Wii game. My sons had played with the Wii while we were at the beach in mid-June. My sister called because she couldn’t find a couple of the games. She wanted to know what my little guy had done with them and could he remember where he put them.

I went out to the mow the lawn, doing a small bit of weeding as well. When I came back inside, my wife broke the news. Christopher didn’t leave the gun outside. Our older son, Andrew did. Later that night, my sister called. She realized that the people who’d been there the week between her visit and ours had also used the Wii. She called them and they told her where the game could be found

I felt bad about accusing my younger son. I admit that the evidence I had was only circumstantial. However, I was acting on past history. My younger son always leaves things outside and has been told repeatedly to put things away. If something is wrong or out of place, he’s the usual culprit.

Still, I’d been wrong. He hadn’t done it this time. I apologized immediately. He told me it was okay. He handled it well.

I, on the other hand, didn’t handle it well.

I’ll have to think the next time before I jump to conclusions in my house.

Do you have the same issue sometimes? If something goes wrong in your house, do you automatically jump to conclusions about which of your children is guilty?

As for me, I’ll jump more slowly next time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Beach Walk Through Memory

I’m trying to come up with a new euphemism, but sometimes the old ones work. I feel like a beached whale.

Or maybe a fat pig? A bloated elephant? A gorged dinosaur? Whatever, I pigged out last week while I was on vacation and I don’t think I can eat anytime soon.

As I said, vacation. My family and I went to the Myrtle Beach. With football season less than a month away, along with Boy Scout Camp and Vacation Bible School (which doesn’t count as it’s already over), last week was the only time we could go to the beach. We swam in the ocean, went out for dinner (and ate a lot of seafood). And, because there was one nine-year old girl also on the trip (aka “a cousin”), we endured incessant renditions of this decade’s version of Leif Garrett, Justin Bieber and Bieber mania. (I have two sons. Thankfully, I’ve been spared this to date.)

But all vacations must come to an end, so we returned home Sunday evening. I drove back the six hours from Myrtle Beach and had a bit of time to reflect. I’ve been going to Myrtle Beach since I was a kid. When I was young, my parents and aunt and uncle ran a small company. The business owned a trailer. Every Easter weekend, we would pull the trailer down to a campground at the beach. My Dad would hook it up and then the Company would leave it there through the summer. Employees would sign up to use it, providing them with a place to stay.

Eventually, they got a mobile home trailer in the campground’s residential section. That was when I was in middle school. The Company as eventually sold, but they kept the trailer. With all the development that has gone on at Myrtle Beach, I expected each year that the campground had been bought and was being turned into condo space. However, there are currently a number of empty condos at the beach, no one expects the place to become upgraded tax usage anytime soon.

Eventually, the place will go away. Everything does. But there’s something special about your kids playing on the same beach that you did as a child. I think they have as much fun as I did.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Step Up

For the longest time, my sons have gone to the same section when they visit the bookstore, the kids section.

However, with my older son having turned 13 recently, I looked at the section of books that featured the Magic Tree House, Hank Zipzer, and various other elementary school heroes and decided it was time that he looked elsewhere. With elsewhere in mind, I pointed him in the direction of the Young Adult section.

I didn’t know if he was ready. Granted, I’d pushed him before. As I’ve mentioned in this space, my older son has difficulty reading. Every time he gets comfortable with one reading level, my wife and I make him move. It started with basic books like the Frog and Toad series. He didn’t want to change. Then he got comfortable with the writing of Magic Tree House and really didn’t want to change. He was so determined to stay put that he pushed back. Finally, a love of baseball drew him into the Henry Winkler’s Hank Zipzer series. The tales of an adventurous mouse introduced him to Beverly Cleary.

Young Adult was going to be another push.

It wouldn’t be his first foray. He’d read Harry Potter, or at least tried to read Harry Potter. (Those books are in the kids section, which still amazes me.) However, at some point, his struggles with reading get the best of him. I’d expected him to push back once again, but was surprised. He liked the idea of Young Adult. He relished the fact that he was growing up.

We went to our local Borders on Saturday. I had a big coupon and my eye on a Japanese history book. (Yes, I know. Fun reading.) I dropped my son off at the YA section while I headed to the history area. When I went to see what he was doing, I discovered he’d picked out two books: Heat by Mike Lupica and The Boy Who Saved Baseball by John Ritter. (No, not that John Ritter.) I asked if he wanted to get them. He said he wasn’t ready.

I recognize, though, that it’s a matter of time. He has his summer reading list and has to work on that, but I know he’ll eventually move on to the next reading level. (Though my wife is teaching him to prefer the library and there’s nothing wrong with that.). I just hope one day he’ll choose to progress on his own, without his Mom and I shoving him forward.

And I look forward to that day.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Night at the Movies

Somewhere last week, I realized that I missed last week. Memorial Day lapse. I spent Monday afternoon in the hot sun at a Braves-Phillies game. I’d planned to write about a family outing to the game, which was followed by a Beach Boys concert. However, a combination of four hours of hot sun followed by hot dogs at The Varsity left me in no shape to do anything.

However, it does bring up the subject of family outings.

During the summer, the Mall of Georgia has movie night under the stars every Saturday. The evening opens with a demonstration of some kind (e.g. karate club breaking boards, dance group, etc.) followed by a local cover band. The movie usually gets started around 9:15. We went a few times last summer and will probably see a few movies again this summer.

Last Saturday’s movie was Planet 51. My kids had already seen it, courtesy of certain family members two generations removed from them. However, it was a first time for my wife and me. We packed our chairs, a blanket to sit on, drinks, and popcorn. There’s always a good crowd at these events, but it never feels crowded.

After we got set up, I had what I could only describe as an anxious moment. My kids, armed with coupons for ice cream and fries at Chick-Fil-A, declared they wanted to go.

“What?” I asked.

It dawned on me that somebody needed to remain with our stuff. My wife wanted to look around the mall while my boys and I watched the music. However, the idea of them walking together to and from Chick-Fil-A scared me. The look on my face must have spoken volumes. My wife looked at me and said, “I’ll walk with them to the place.”

That left me a little bit better. However, it was only half way there. My older son, newly thirteen, is mostly a responsible young man. We even let him go by himself to the bathroom at the Braves game. My eight-year old, though, is another matter. I stared at my younger son. “You listen to your brother and you come straight back.”

“Yes, Daddy.”

Still, I sweated it out while I waited for them. One of our biggest challenges in raising our eight-year old has been in ensuring that he doesn’t run off when he’s out with us. When he was younger, he thought hide-n-seek was a game suited even for a public place. We worked hard to make sure he understood the danger, still his rambunctious nature worried me. I sighed when I saw them come back.

My relief was short-lived. I should have known what was coming. “Dad, I need to go to the bathroom.”

I’d actually thought this event through. There is a Barnes & Noble next to where the movies are shown. Though the place is active, the bathroom isn’t busy and the store is quiet. I asked my older son to escort his brother there. They made it back safely.

My wife was more relaxed about all of this then I was. She spends more time on outings with the kids while I’m at work and knows how good they are. Still, it was a learning experience for me.

So, how do you handle this situation with your kids?