It’s pretty much inevitable that sooner or later, no matter how well-intentioned the parents, there will come a day when <stay-at-home/work-from-home> parent will have that “Just sit there quietly and wait until <office-work-parent> gets home!” moment. Unfortunately, Monday was that day at la casa de Puddin. The two older boys, Puddinpop and Mini-Me, got into their first official (semi-obligatory) “Summer-is-almost-over-and-we’d-never-admit-it-but-we’re-tired-of-all-this-business-and-bored-and-just-want-school-to-start” altercation of the season.
It was nothing special, really, the kind of dust up brothers of a similar age have been having since, well, the Wright brothers got into a little-known spat over who got to fly in the Business Class seat at Kitty Hawk*. Hell, for what it’s worth, my older brother and I used to faux rumble over the stupidest things you could possibly imagine.
Him: Did you steal my green Hot Wheels with the fire on the hood?
Me: (Looking innocent with a handful of lime green sports car) No.
Him: Did you get into my shoebox (everyone had a “special shoebox”, right? Where you kept your good baseball cards and best action figures, and that utterly generic medal on the red, white, and blue ribbon you got for coming in 2nd in the long jump on Track and Field day)
Me: (wearing the long jump medal) No.
Me: Did you steal the Cap’n Crunch toy out of this box Mom said I got to open?
Him: (looking at cheap plastic cereal baking soda submarine) Yes.
In fact, I recall one time we ended up rolling around on the family room floor in a tangled heap, each trying – and failing spectacularly – to hit the other. Surely, you’d imagine that such hostility would have to be over Something of Grave Import, right? Like a debate over peace in the Middle East, or Minority Rights, or at least, who got the last piece of leftover pizza.
If only. He’d wanted to take a nap, and I turned on the TV, perhaps too loudly. Also perhaps on purpose. Thus begat The Epic Conflict Over The Remote.
Oddly enough, I remember the fight but don’t remember how we resolved it. There’s probably a message in there somewhere.
At any rate, the Puddinpop and Mini-Me were somewhat unkind to each other, as young pups will be, and the Puddinette, knowing that I’d be home in mere moments, condemned to sit quietly and await Judgment.
Of course, I didn’t letting them off the hook easy, either. I got both sides of the story and told them I’d pronounce their respective Dooms after dinner. Nothing like sweating it out over a plate of homemade Salisbury Steak.
Ah, my father taught me well.
After dinner, I levied the appropriate punishments, which largely included the heavy restriction of electronic devices. I find it incredibly ironic that Back In My Day – you know, when Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth, we walked to school uphill both ways in the snow, and cartoons were only available from 3-5 PM daily and on glorious Saturday mornings – if you messed up, you could expect a long and thorough grounding. For days you’d have to sit, forlorn, in your bedroom window with the hang-doggiest of hang-dog looks while watching all the other, not-incarcerated, kids having fun out in the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, with the modern house o’ diversions, grounding is about as effective as sprinkling some pumpkin seeds in Play-Doh and expecting them to spring up in time for Halloween, ready-made with Jack-O-Lantern sneers.
So I cut them off from powered devices and then we all went outside to play in the backyard for the evening as a family. The Attitude got to dig to his little heart’s content, the Puddinpop and Mini-Me played a backyard game of whiffle ball with heavily modified rules, and even the Princess Puddinette ended up covered in dirt and looking like Pig-Pen’s little sister. By the time bath time rolled around, everyone had at least a spot of dust on their checks, if not a full covering of the stuff from sliding – which seemed to resemble something more like rolling-around to me – into third base.
Sure, I was a little lax on the “don’t play in the dirt” rules, but I figured helping them remember that you can still actually have fun outside was more important than keeping them clean.
Clothes will wash out, the memories don’t.
At any rate, we all had a great time, and every single one of us was all smiles as the sun started to set.
Maybe they should get in trouble a little more often.