Your crime spree is over, Daddy

Every so often, your kids gets a toy that is so fun he has to use it on you. All the time.

You reassure yourself that he’ll lose or break it soon enough and the suffering fun will end.

My son’s fun toy is his handcuffs. He got them in July. He has neither broken nor lost them. I’m getting worried.

Big Brother loves TV shows about police. He doesn’t get to watch the modern, in-your-face shows, but he is content with Adam 12. He would probably even watch CHiPs, if he ever discovered those reruns. Thankfully, he hasn’t.

These programs inspire him to break out the cuffs. Since his little brothers can easily slip their hands out of them, it is left to Daddy to always be a criminal. Daddy, it turns out, is quite a bad bank robber – bad in that he robs banks almost daily, and also bad in that he gets arrested every time. He is incorrigible and incompetent.

The last time we played cops and robbers, Big Brother deputized Buster to be on his police force. As he was fumbling to get the cuffs onto my compliant hands, he pointed out his new partner, “This is Officer Wawa.”

Officer Wawa didn’t have nice, store-bought hand cuffs, but he did have a stick, which doubled as a gun and a Billy Club. It may also have been a Taser, as I found him poking me with it rather sharply.

Don't mess with Officer Wawa. He will put you in solitary, down in the hole, if he has to.

Don’t mess with Officer Wawa. He will put you in solitary, down in the hole, if he has to.

There was no sense in holding a trial for such a notorious felon as myself, so I was immediately transported to prison. “Here you are,” Big Brother announced as he fumbled to take the cuffs off. “This is Springfield Beginners’ Prison.”

I suspect it was in Springfield because The Simpsons had just been on. And it only made sense that I should start out in a beginners’ prison since, in spite of my many crimes, I had never been exposed to prison life before.

I kind of liked beginners’ prison. It was mostly a driveway with a basketball hoop. And since I had the foresight to bring a basketball, I did my time working on my jump shot. It was not an unpleasant experience.

follow through

Working on my follow-through in the yard of Springfield Beginners’ Prison.

Until the cop with the handcuffs came back.

He told me, on the sly, that I could escape when he wasn’t looking. I was happy where I was, so I didn’t try it. He got a little impatient and told me again, so I figured maybe that was the expected thing at beginners’ prison.

At the first opportunity, I just walked away. I got a few steps onto the lawn before he came after me. Officer Wawa, who had been sifting through a pile of pine needles, found his stick and followed. Before I knew it, I was in cuffs again. For good measure, I got clubbed, or tased; I’m not sure which.

That was enough for me. I made all the cops put down their sticks and go to bed early.

happy birthday

No, son, you may not have one of these for your birthday.

 

Whine for two

After months of intensive practice, Buster has become an accomplished whiner. This means we now have two top-notch whiners in our house. Is there anything else in the world that could so completely double our pleasure?

There are two basic catalysts for little kids to cry. The first is that they have a reason to cry. This catalyst can be broken into two subgroups: a good reason to cry and a lame reason to cry. A good reason to cry is that your brother tackled you into the coffee table and the shiny new welt on your forehead hurts. A lame reason to cry is that your brother has the toy you’ve wanted ever since you saw him playing with it, and you failed in your attempt to snatch it out of his hands.

But there is hope for you yet. Keep trying to snatch it and he may tackle you into the coffee table, giving you a valid reason to cry.

toddler diplomacy

We’re trying to teach them to find a way to settle their differences between themselves, without whining to the parents. Buster’s way includes swordplay.

The second basic catalyst is the “give me a good reason not to cry” mindset. This is often the result of a lame reason to cry run amok. Lame reasons to cry are easy to forget, even to the person crying over them. Hence, you started crying over your brother’s toy five minutes ago; the toy was dropped behind the couch four minutes ago. You are still very sad, but you’re having a dickens of a time remembering why.

Now you need someone to give you a reason to stop crying, thanks to the laws of inertia, which you are obeying because you’re a good boy like that.

Meanwhile, you’re not really even crying anymore. Over the past five minutes, your sobs have mutated into an elongated, parent-piercing note from some magical spot at the back of your throat. Your sour grapes have fermented and mellowed into a fine whine.

Sometimes you just need a hug, but more often you need some ice cream or a new toy without the stench of your brother’s hands all over it. The good news is you can have the hug anytime you want it.

you need a hug

I hope this is enough for you because it’s the only thing you’re gonna get by whining.

Buster has made great strides as a whine producer, but Big Brother is still the undisputed master of whine at our house. Nothing  has yet come near his masterpiece anthem for wrongly accused children: “Noooo! I aaaam not whiiiiniiiiing!” [sniffle, sniffle, foot stomp].

And I don’t think they even covered irony in kindergarten.

It’s a special treat to witness two great artisans inspiring each other to new heights. The way Buster and Big Brother fight over toys, no outside influence is necessary to motivate either to hone his craft. The parents are only necessary as audience. Without parents, there is only fighting; the effort is worthless if there is no one at hand to sample the whine.

With this friendly competition only just beginning, it looks as though 2014, and the several years following, are sure to be superb vintages for the very best whines.

Which way to the woods?

I was playing with the boys in the living room one afternoon. The TV was tuned to one of the cartoon channels they require, even when they are paying no attention to it. A Thursday afternoon in August is a pretty good time for a sports fan to watch cartoons, so I put up no argument.

I wasn’t paying attention to the TV either, until a particular commercial caught my eye. It was a Public Service Announcement extolling the virtues of exploring the forest. At least I assumed it was a PSA, unless there are for-profit forests springing up around the country, which there probably are. I’m inclined to conclude it was a PSA, as the forest visuals looked pretty generic, there being no water slides or Disney logos carved into trees.

I like the forest as much as the next guy, so I was all on board with the sentiment. I was just about to think to myself: “What a pleasant tribute to America’s forests” when I heard the final line of the ad. The voice-over advised me to go to a particular website to find a forest near me.

"Some day there will be some kind of talking box that would tell me what this thing is. I'll just poke at it while I'm waiting for technology to answer all my questions." (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

“One day there will be some kind of talking box that will tell me what this thing is. I’d better poke at it while I’m waiting for technology to answer all my questions.” (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

My jaw dropped. Really? I need to go online to find the woods? Is this what America has come to?

Okay, it is true that I practically grew up in the woods, so all I had to do was go out the front door to find acres of trees. But honestly, people in other walks of life are having a hard time finding the woods without the aid of computers? The very idea makes me sad.

My son is five years old. When he walks out the door of his house, he sees other houses all around. Yet, I am confident he can take me to the woods in any direction I choose. Yes, he might need the aid of a car to get there, but he doesn’t need the Internet. He is the Internet of finding the woods, because he’s a child.

If you’re having trouble finding a forest near you, you don’t need a computer; you need a kid. Kids have a strange and magnificent instinct for recognizing trees. If you are unsure what that clump of three-story-tall plants is, just ask a kid. They’ll help you figure it out.

camping online

A forest. I found it on the Internet. And I didn’t even have to put shoes on. That’s what I love about the Great Outdoors.

Or you could Google it. That’s probably more convenient, as it eliminates all that burdensome white noise of wonderment.

I don’t wish to leave the impression that children are good for only this one thing. They are not one-truffle pigs. In many respects, they are just as useful as computers. In case your search engine is giving you mixed results, here is a short list of things kids can help you locate.

  • Dirt
  • Mud puddles
  • Dog poop
  • Diamonds that are probably quartz but just might be shattered glass
  • Bugs (dead or alive)
  • The meaning of life

But there’s probably a web site to help you find each of these things, too. So, either way . . .

Don’t expect William Henry Harrison to do you any favors

Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoilers regarding the outcome of the War of 1812. If you have not yet seen this war and don’t want the ending ruined for you, proceed with caution.

My smoldering annoyance with William Henry Harrison burst into open flame recently. You see, we couldn’t find New Baby’s birth certificate. Our natural reaction was to curse the name of the late Mr. Harrison.

No friend fo mine

William Henry Harrison: trouble maker. I’ve taken the precaution of blocking him on Facebook.

History buffs may recall that old Billy Harrison was President of the United States for 32 days, or even that he was governor of Indiana during its short pants youth as a territory, before it grew up into mature statehood.

Those are fine accomplishments, if you’re into that. But I will always remember William H. Harrison as the commander of US forces at the Battle of the Thames. This battle took place in southern Ontario in 1813. The good news, if you are cheering for the US in the War of 1812, is that Harrison’s army won the day. The bad news is that it didn’t do a thing to lessen the amount of paperwork needed to cart a family, by the most direct route, from Michigan to New York in 2014.

But it could have.

The Thames battle site is right in the middle of that aggravating little strip of Canada that hangs down into the Great Lakes between Detroit and Buffalo. In 1813, Harrison won control of that area. He could have stayed there and maybe moved the border crossings off to the north so that we could scoot through without having to wait in line to reveal to a complete stranger the intimate details of our vacation plans. Then we wouldn’t have had to turn the house upside down searching for a single slip of paper we had no hope of finding. In the end, we wouldn’t have had to drive through Ohio and add hours to our already too long road trip.

War of 1812

The area in question is the off-white bit that separates the Michigan Territory from New York. The battlefield is the dot marked #4.

Harrison could have accomplish these great things, but he didn’t. He packed up his army and went home. He probably didn’t even give a single thought to the inconvenience this would cause me and my family. I begin to think he did it out of spite.

We collected all the boys’ birth certificates in anticipation of pleasant encounters with border guards. On the morning of departure, Big Brother’s was there; Buster’s was there, but New Baby’s was missing. This odd disappearance might as well be blamed on Harrison’s ghost as anybody else. Why he carries his vendetta beyond the grave I don’t’ know.

As we were standing still amidst Cleveland road construction I conceded that he’d won this round.

Death of Tecumseh

Another result of the battle: Tecumseh was transformed from feared Shawnee war chief to popular lawnmower engine. (Currier & Ives)

Serious historians may suggest that my animosity toward Harrison is misplaced. After all, the Treaty of Ghent restored the original boundaries, regardless of the placement of armies at the close of hostilities. So even if he had homesteaded southern Ontario, it wouldn’t have made any difference to me. The historians may be right, and this is why I’m also pissed off at the negotiators who approved the Treaty of Ghent. They were jerks too.

Come on, Canada. Let’s deal. There must be something you’d take in trade for the right-of-way between Michigan and New York. I think we have some nice tropical islands: sun, sand, and surf; and you wouldn’t even need a passport. Think about it. Call me.