Monday, October 29, 2007

Still Life With Aneurysm

I had an epiphany on Saturday. I realized the bickering was going to kill me.

I'm not even sure what the three boys were at each other about, something to do with whether McDonald's is better than Subway. Whatever else it was, it was the last straw. I stood up and went to the park, where I sat for half an hour, trying to collect myself before I did something that would turn our home into a tourist attraction.

When I got home, I called the kids together. Still squabbling, they joined me at the table.

"Guys," I said, "with your mom back in school, I need more help from you."

"I raked the leaves," snarled the oldest.

"I folded laundry," howled the middle one.

"I fed the dog," shrieked the youngest.

"I appreciate all of that," I said. "I need a different kind of help, though. I need you to stop fighting so much."

Blank stares all around. I might as well have asked them to grow gills.

"Our family's no different than anybody else's," the oldest finally said.

"I assure you that's not true, but that's beside the point," I replied. "I can't stand listening to this anymore. You're killing me. I'm going to have a stroke and I'll die."

"Can I have your iPod when you die?" asked my youngest. His brothers snickered.

"No, I'm going to be buried with it," I said.

"That's stupid," said the middle one. "Why waste an iPod just because you're dead?"

"I have an idea," said the youngest. "If we don't fight for a year, you can take us to Canada!"

Even his brothers looked puzzled by this.

"Canada?" I said. "What are you talking about? Listen, I'm not expecting you to never fight, and I'm not going to bribe you, but you've got to do a better job of getting along. My heart's going to explode."

Whatever. It was time to leave for my youngest's soccer game, so I settled for grudging acknowledgments of room for improvement.

By the time the game ended, the Lovely Bride was home from the library and had been filled in on the earlier conversation by the oldest.

"Do you really think you should tell our children they're killing you?" she asked. "Your lifestyle's going to give you a heart attack some day and the kids will feel guilty for the rest of their lives. They're not bad children."

"They're horrible," I said. "If you look behind their ears I bet you'd find a '666' tattoo."

She rolled her eyes and went to change clothes.

Saturday night was the annual fundraising dinner for our education foundation, a group that raises money to provide scholarships and other assistance to area students. Our school district is relatively large even though it serves a relatively small area. This gives it an unusually prominent place in the community.

A group of us from the neighborhood usually attend together and we know many of the others who come every year, through youth sports or local politics or just shopping at the same grocery. There's a silent auction and an awards ceremony. The mayor makes a speech and comes back to sit with us and we tell him his fly was open and he panics and checks and swears at us. We drink some wine and act like grown-ups and have grown-up conversations, which is something we don't do often enough.

Every year, some of the students perform after dinner. This time the cast of the high school musical performed excerpts from the upcoming show and the choir sang "Hallelujah" and "Amazing Grace." I sat there watching them and thinking What talent there is in our little corner of the world. Afterward I ran into the parents of a boy I coached in soccer a couple of years ago and we got to talking about the choir and when I said, "Holy cow, did you hear that girl's solo," they beamed and told me it was their daughter.

In fact, all around were people who were proud of the kids. Some of them were parents. That's great. Every child deserves a proud parent. A lot of them, though, were retirees and businesspeople and others who weren't related to any of the performers that night, and maybe not even a child or grandchild in school at all. What they had was a belief that young people should get a shot at being good at something.

The evening gave me some perspective on my own boys. They do well in school. They play hard and fair at sports. They're polite to adults and kind to their peers. This weekend the oldest cleaned the house, the youngest handed out campaign literature for a family friend's campaign, and the middle one went out of his way to make a sad little kid laugh. They did these things without being asked, and without complaint, and without expecting anything in return. The bickering still drives me mad, and I still plan to be buried with my iPod, but perhaps my Lovely Bride is right, perhaps they're not bad kids and perhaps they deserve proud parents of their own.


Anonymous said...

you know, as long as they're bickering amongst each other, they're not going to unite(and enlist katie) and go after your fortunes(okay, maybe just the ipod). just a little something the british empire taught us all called tea at 4.

Chuckles said...

So that's what that is AIF. I might start having little meetings at 4, too.

I recommend you be buried at sea with your wealth, as our viking ancestors did. See what your kids think when you take the TV, DVDs, and everything else with you when you go.

Anonymous said...

I almost read that as "silent awards ceremony."

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

What, did fish break in here and do another post?

fish said...

I'm innocent. This is 100% pure Snagus beef.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Snag, as usual.

Once, when I was 16 and my sister was 13 we got into a fight. And I took off running after her. She ran into her room and slammed the door and locked it. I screamed that she had better open the damn door or I was gonna kill her!!!!!!!!!!!

She didn't open up.

So, I took a running start and broke the door down with the right side of my body.


As we looked at each other in horror.

Oh my God!! We're so dead!!!!

We propped the door back up in its place and then went about our business till my Mom got home from work, hoping she and my stepdad would never noticed the splintered door hanging there.

Of course, they saw it.

Another argument ensued.

I argued, in my calm, yet arguey way, how she drove me straight up a wall and it was all her fault because she was such a pest.

She's the one who got in trouble.


I am totally waiting for payback so many years later.

Brando said...

You realize this is an elaborate ruse to get you to let your guard down. If I learned anything from Pet Semetary, it's that children are not to be trusted.

Kathleen said...

awwwww *sniff*

fish said...

If I learned anything from Pet Semetary

One of the greatest openings to a sentence ever.

Snag said...

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned From Stephen King.

BG, your story reassures me I was right in my decision not to try for a daughter.

Anonymous said...

Snag, I think you just painted a giant bullseye on your head with this post. Show no weekness!