A whole year ago, at the tender age of three, Buster began pulling at my heart strings to make me feel guilty about leaving for work in the mornings. I eventually bought him off by explaining that I had to work to earn money so I could buy things, like cookies and Doritos.
The horrible thought of not being able to afford snacks toned down his guilt trip, allowing me to get away without feeling I was abandoning my children to the wolves. For months, I believed a boy’s lust for cookies had solved the abandonment issue.
I was wrong.
It’s not that Buster has committed himself to anything drastic, like healthy eating; he’s just never fully abandoned the notion that he can have both Daddy on weekday mornings and cookies.
This morning he introduced his new tactic. “Don’t go to work,” he pleaded. “I’ll give you money if you stay home.”
So it’s come to this – children trying to buy their parents’ love. Doesn’t he know that never works?
First of all, it’s the government’s job to pay people not to work, and he could get into a lot of trouble if the government found out he was honing in on its racket. Second, I know the sum of ready cash to which he has access. It amounts to about $2. I don’t know how many Oreos he thinks that will buy, but it’s hardly an economic incentive to keep me at home when I can make double that amount by going to work.
Consequently, I had to refuse his offer, but he didn’t take defeat lying down. In fact, he would only take it by being picked up. As I bent over to hug him goodbye, he made the apparently innocent request, “Pick me up and hug me.” This request is anything but innocent.
Buster is a world champion hugger, and once he gets his hug all up over you, it’s a chore to break free of it. He’s all arms and legs, which encircle his target like creeping vines. He is one prehensile tail away from having the grip of a monkey in a windstorm.
But the real curse of his hug is the sweet, warm feeling of being loved it gives the hugged. It must be a similar dreamlike feeling that insects get after being injected with venom and wrapped up snug in a spider web. You want to resign yourself to captivity.
Every time I pull away from Buster’s hug, he leaves with another little piece of my heart. But a man greedy for a fistful of quarters does what he has to do. Somehow, I did it soon enough to stay on schedule for work.
That’s when I encountered the slowest, longest, freight train on Earth, crossing the road between me and my workplace.
I was annoyed that the train made me late, but I was even more annoyed that I could have used that time to get more Best Hug in the World.