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Saturday, January 20, 2007

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Riding the Short Bus to Redemption

This morning I remembered that tomorrow is Pinewood Derby day for our resident cub scout. When I brought it up with Patrick, our resident Pinewood Pit Crewman, it was obvious that my earlier reminders had somehow slipped beneath the radar. In the interest of preserving the marital trust, I will now enable the MUTE button on the scene that followed. But if you were to write captions based on observing our body language and facial expressions, you might come up with something like this:

"Are you fucking crazy??"
"Are you??

And that would more or less capture the jist of it.

I would love to tell you that we are a couple who always meet adversity with a unified front. Grace under pressure. But the truth is, when things go awry, we sometimes turn on, and not toward, each other. Certain situations trigger our own insecurities, rip open old wounds. The defenses go up and the pointing fingers come out. This was one of those situations.

Sometimes—most times—I think we are doing a pretty good job as parents. I have been known to joke that our kids won the baby lottery when they pulled our number. They slept between us as infants. They were breastfed into toddlerhood. They never had to cry longer than it took us to figure out what was needed, and answer the need. We may not always keep up with the Joneses, but they have bikes, books and bunkbeds, soccer, school and scouts, and most of the other privileges of being a middle class kid in America. We work hard at being whole people in a healthy relationship. Most times, I think my kids are as lucky to have us as we are to have them.

But then we hit a bump like today and it derails me completely. Instead of feeling like we are doing an outstanding job, I wonder who thought it would be a good idea to give us three human beings to care for. We can't keep houseplants alive. We can't change light bulbs. We can't sew badges on uniforms—hell, we can't remember to wash the uniform—let alone remember the goddamn Pinewood Derby. Other people seem to have no problem at all with going to work, paying their bills, mowing their lawns, dusting their ceiling fans, painting the door frames and returning their library books on time. What is wrong with us, I ask myself on days like this. Did we miss an orientation session on Living Life? Did we ride in on the short bus?

Procrastination is a character trait that has pained me all my life, one that I would spare my children from, if I could. The other night it was my first turn at leading my son's scout den, a duty I had agreed to take over from the other leaders at the turn of the year. I still don't have my leader uniform. I read the meeting literature in my office over lunch. I scribbled a plan on an index card, and ran to the dollar store a couple of hours before the meeting with the only two dollars I had in my pocket to pick up supplies. Somehow, I managed to pull it off. We did collage, and made chef's hats and then put on a skit. That night, as Patrick was tucking him in, our cub scout said, "You know what I want to be when I grow up, Daddy?"

I paused to eavesdrop in the hall, expecting a new elaboration on his recent ambition to become a night watchman at the museum.


"A cub scout den leader." Peeking around the corner, I could see his eyes were shining. I thought my heart would just give out then and there. Never before, have I been his hero.

The memory of that moment is the winch that hauled me out of the ditch today. That, and watching my son's eyes shine again as his father—frequently the hero— sawed and carved his pencil sketch into three-dimensional reality, complete with tailfins and a chrome paintjob. Somehow, he managed to pull it off.

Somehow, I guess we always do.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

how brave and wonderful.........
being human!

9:18 AM  
Blogger moongal said...

I can fully relate to this type of occurence. I'm glad that your husband was able to quickly able to construct the car.

My husband ended up being the den leader for our son's troop because nobody else was able to do it. My son's derby day race is next weekend.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Karla MG said...

Our race is next weekend too. Can I borrow your DH? My son was too busy arguing with papa arriving home moments before they needed to leave for said den meeting where the dad with the tools was going to help DH's like mine with no tools and little clue, with their kid's cars. Hmmm...they never made it out the door that night. Son with a BD and dad with little patience some days for it :( Sigh... I think I'll tell my dad I want a saw for my b-day! (I got my drill for Christmas). I have the know-how but no doesn't bid well on DH's ego, but someone's gotta get it done... ;)

Oh, yes I'm a new name...I found your blog from JL's, who I found from another friend, who.... I like your style, and I'd say you do a good job of parenting your 3 blessings! --Karla

4:08 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

thanks, I feel better knowing ours was not the only family nearly torn assunder by the pinewood derby. even at the race, the air around several couples appeared chilled. way to go, Boy Scouts of America!

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, I empathise. My family and I ride frequently on the chaos helter-skelter. Good luck on the derby.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

now I know why you and my sister Jen ( are soul sisters. Your cub scout prep sounds like her girl scout prep.

8:40 AM  
Blogger peefer said...

After reading the three paragraphs starting with "I would love to tell you ...", I am firmly convinced that we are twins separated at birth.

Also, managing to pull it off is a dangerously reinforcing outcome. Sometimes I think failing miserably once in a while would be more productive in the long run.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Kyran said...

Peef, I agree....successfully skating through life on the seat of one's pants is a mixed blessing.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm sorry - "people of lower intellectual capacity?" - otherwise, I enjoyed your post

9:47 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

I meant that IQ points don't seem to have much to do with good sense. Not that I have an abundance of either.

Thanks for stopping by!

7:04 AM  
Blogger jenlemen said...

we are living parallel lives.


12:07 PM  

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