Friday, November 12, 2010

A Father/Son Secret

The YMCA has a fantastic program designed to build the relationship between father and son. It was once called the "Indian Guides Program" but due to political pressures, I think they have since dropped the word Indian and just called it Guides. Nonetheless, I was once in the guides with my son and as part of the experience, we would go camping twice per year.

The Jacksonville Guides program is huge so there were no less than 200 dads and sons at the campgrounds for the big 'Pow Wow' (Indian word for campout?).

As usual, the dads sit around and drink 'fire water' at night and go canoeing, shoot bb-guns, archery etc. in the day with the boys. We camped at a place called Camp Immokalee, that's an Indian word which loosely translates to "dry sandy campsite with dried up lake bed".

It was customary on one of the nights for our Federation to organized a big scavenger hunt. This consisted of cordoning off a big part of the common areas of the campground with yellow ribbon. This area was then scattered with various trinkets of about the same quality as crap you get out of a box of cereal. Included in this area however they also hide three arrow heads; a red one, a blue one and a white one.

Now keep in mind that this all takes place at around 9:30 at night. The campground is pitch black, save a few camp fires in the distance. At precisely 9:30 the boys gather around the perimeter of the taped off area with a flashlight in their hand, the flashlight is off. At the sound of a whistle, the kids turn on their flashlights, rip down the ribbon and run around like banshees picking up trinkets but also looking for the coveted arrowheads. The child that finds an arrowhead will have an opportunity to turn that in for a BIG prize in the morning.  Typically it is a bike, remote control vehicle, etc.

Now that you have the history, this is where things get interesting. Seeing that we are at our SECOND camping trip, my son was less than enthusiastic about the hunt. I can still recall the disappointment on his face when he did NOT find an arrowhead and did NOT get to exchange it for a big remote control truck last year. Things would be different - this year I had a plan.

At about 9:15 the evening of the scavenger hunt I found my son standing near the fire throwing sticks in it (a male right of passage).  Our conversation went like this:

Me: "Hey buddy, it's time for the treasure hunt, go get your flashlight."
He returns with his only flashlight. A small plastic frog.  When you squeezed the legs together the mouth opens and a faint excuse of a yellow light shines from its mouth. His shoulders are slumped, he's already a broken man.

Son: "Ok Dad I'm guess I'm ready for the treasure hunt."

Me: "Not so fast, do you have the flashlight?"
Son: "Yes sir."

Me: "Let's see it."
Son: "I brought my frog one."

Me: "Well I bought you a new one!"
Son: "You did! Where is it?"
Me: "Hang on." (I go get it from the van - below is what I handed him - a 1,000,000 candle what cordless flashlight).

Son: "It's big, is it really mine?" (I'm about to cry I'm so happy right now)
Me: "Yup and here's what you're going to do. When they blow the whistle turn it on, but instead of shining the ground and looking for the arrowheads, take few minutes to shine it around in the eyes of the other boys."

Son: "But dad, if I do that they can't see."
Me: "Yes, and if they can't see you'll be the only one to find the arrowheads." (HE GRINS EAR TO EAR)

Son: "Dad, is this going to be another one of those things that we don't tell mom?"
Me: "You learn fast let's go!"

He wound up finding two arrowheads and gave one to his best friend. They both got a gigantic remote control dump-truck/digging thing.

No more sad-face puppy dog eyes for my boy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We Reap What We Sew

Several years ago when my oldest daughter was just beginning the 3rd grade, the time came for parents to visit the school. This is a visit done in the evening where parents get to meet the teacher and discuss the curriculum for the upcoming year. Proudly I’ll tell you that all of my children are in gifted classes and have tested with genius IQ’s. To prove that point, read on.

As my wife and I were getting ready our daughter was apprehensive about us visiting. Were we invading her territory? Was there some dark secret she didn’t want revealed? Given her anxiety we definitely had to go visit the school! We left her with friends next door and went to the meeting. The teacher took the time to discuss the yearly curriculum as well as explain the grading rubrics. Before we left we were asked to write our child a note and leave it in their desk for the next morning. It was an informative visit; my only complaint was that we had to sit in those tiny chairs – I’m not built for those chairs anymore.

When we got home and picked up our daughter she was eerily quiet. Once inside our house she opened up and began asking questions.

Daughter: “Did you meet my teacher?”
Me: “Yes, she was very nice.”

Daughter: “What did you do, you were gone a long time.”
Me: “Oh, we had to install the security cameras.” (wife shoots me an evil glare)

Daughter: “Cameras? What cameras? For what?”
Me: “The parents installed cameras so when we are all at work we can check in on you and make sure you are being good and learning.”

Daughter: “Did you really put in cameras?”
Me: “You can ask your teacher if you want, I’m sure she’ll tell you.”
Me: “Anything else? If not it’s time for bed.”

Daughter: “No. I’ll go brush my teeth and climb in bed.”
Me: “Mommy and I will be in to kiss you good night.”

As soon as my daughter was gone my wife was ‘in my face’ wanting an explanation.

Wife: “Why did you tell her that we put in cameras? Her teacher is going to rat you out!”
Me: “Never in a million years, this plan is fool proof.”

Wife: “How? Did you tell the teacher what you were going to say?”
Me: “No, but I didn’t have to. Imagine it is tomorrow morning, the kids are all together talking about the night before. Our daughter tells all the kids that the parents put in cameras to make sure they are being good. Now, class begins and the teacher will naturally have a Q&A session with the kids after they read their parents notes. Our daughter will raise her hand and say something like, “our parents said they put in cameras to watch us and make sure we’re being good, is that true?”

Wife: “Exactly, the teacher isn’t going to lie to the kids.”
Me: “She doesn’t have to. Look, she teaches bright children, therefore she is bright. If the 19 kids you teach are under the impression that their parents are watching them, isn’t that in your favor? Why would she say “no, your parent’s can’t see you.”

Wife: “Well have to see what the teacher says when our daughter gets home.”
Me: “Yes, we will.”

Later that evening as we sit around the dinner table and have the usual family discussions I ask our daughter about her day at school. Specifically I ask her if she asked the teacher about the cameras. “Yes” she said, “I did ask our teacher about the cameras.” “And what did your teacher say” I ask. “She said ‘If that’s what your parents told you then it must be true’”. I was now grinning from ear-to-ear at my wife. The teacher did NOT let me down, she avoided lying to the students AND she reinforced the notion that we could see what was happening. My experiment in predictive human behavior had worked.

Several days go by and we again are at dinner and I have all but forgotten about the camera incident. After my wife shares her day with us and I share mine, I innocently ask our daughter what she did today at school. Without skipping a beat my daughter says, “You have the cameras daddy, you tell me.” About this time it was my wife’s turn to shoot me an evil ear-to-ear grin as my experiment blew up in my face. I deserved it. When I didn't have an answer but instead was choking on my food she quickly figured out there were no cameras and my credibility was shot. I can only imagine how happy the rest of the kids were to learn this news the next day!

Friday, November 05, 2010

My Son Loves Tacos

Do you remember when you started using deodorant? Personally I don't remember but I know when kids SHOULD start and that is somewhere around 10 years old or the 4th grade (whichever comes first). Let me explain.

One summer day, like any other hot, muggy Florida summer day our twins (boy / girl) came home from school. The bus drops them off right in our driveway so walk is a short one.

Always the gentleman my son lets his sister walk in first and then he closes the door behind the two of them. My wife was in the kitchen when they came in and she asked how their day was. Emily had the usual to report - some boy pulled her hair or otherwise flirted - apparently being beautiful is a curse she must live with :) Our son on the other hand had great news to report.

Wife: "So how was your day Derek?"
Derek: "It was great!"

Wife: "Wow, you're in a good mood."
Derek: "I am - guess what!"

Wife: "What?"
Derek: "My underarms smell sooo good - they smell like tacos! I can't stop doing this."

At this time he proceeds to cup his hand under his arm, stick his nose inside this hand made cup, and then inhales like it is his first breath from the womb.

Wife: "That's gross, you need deodorant."
Derek: "What? Noooooo....I love tacos, here - you smell!"

At this point he tries to get close to her so she can take a hit from his cupped hand.

That's about the time my office phone rings and I'm advised of the situation. I stop by the grocery store and get him is own personal Axe deodorant and a can of their body spray.

When I got home I briefly explained the proper use of his new tools and sent him into the bathroom to washup, put on deodorant and the optional body spray. He passed the deodorant test, the body spray turned out to be a bit too advanced.

Naturally like any child does, he made it my fault that the body spray experiment was a failure. IT seems that I failed to mention two things, 1 - it will burn your eyes and 2 - if the bathroom looks like a fog machine has been turned on, you used too much.

He's in the 5th grade now and smells great. Now if I can only get him to understand that his breath should smell better than the dog's we'd be OK.