SEAL Team Four and a Half

Over the past school year, my son developed a fascination with all things military. He shares this interest with a number of his preschool friends. As I recall my own youth, I find that it is not so unusual. I played “army” regularly as a child, as did most of my friends.

A consequence of my son’s military phase is his desire to wear camouflage clothes. Camouflage pants weren’t so easy to find in size 4T when I was a boy, or I probably would have been bent upon getting a pair to go with my plastic army helmet.

When my son first began his collection of camouflage fashion wear, it was cold outside. He was either indoors or playing in snow the entire time. The kid in the Camo jacket or pants stood out against painted walls or people dressed in winter clothes. It made him easy to spot.

Then something alarming happened. That sneaky outdoors got to looking very much like summer.

In summer, camouflage clothing does that horrible thing it was developed to do.

Two weeks ago, my wife took the boy to his preschool’s end-of-year picnic. Still in her winter frame of mind, she let the boy convince her that he should wear Camo from head to toe. It would make him easy to see among the other children.

And maybe it did, except the park had lots of other things besides children. These other things are known as trees and bushes.

Odd branch.

Who knew? Trees make such stylish fashion accessories.

My wife called me from the picnic. She laughed as she explained their miscalculation. “Oh my Gosh,” she said, “he’s playing over by the tree line and I can hardly see him. Now I have to pay even closer attention.” This was not part of the plan.

It was a disappointing development, because my wife is a good talker. She would much rather be chatting it up with the other moms than trying to follow the one tiny bit of human foliage around a park filled with vegetable foliage. It’s difficult to be an engaging conversationalist when you can scarcely lay down your binoculars, making it toilsome to spare an eye for your speaking companions.

Struggling with tree

Get out of here, kid! The tree doesn’t want to have to watch you either.

But my wife would have made a good soldier too. She’s a problem solver. If she had trouble tracking the object of her surveillance,  she’d find a marker. “It all worked out in the end,” she explained later. “His friend, John, had a bright red shirt on. I made him play with John all afternoon.”

“Did he want to play with John?” I asked.

She shrugged. “As far as I know, he did.”

Let that be a lesson to the boy. If he wants to wear Camo to the park, he’s bound to be the best friend and playmate of the kid with the loudest clothes.

It’s a long story

Lately, whenever I ask my son a question like, “How did the [busted item of the day] get broken?” he heaves a big sigh and replies, “It’s a long story.”

He does not attempt to relate that long story, because it is clear that a father with such a short attention span would not be interested in the burdensome details.

“It’s a long story,” is not at all an introduction to an informative tale. Rather, it is the boy’s way of telling me that a lot of unnecessary information will not fix [busted item of the day]. It is his counsel to not cry over spilled milk and just get on with the business of living life. What’s done is done.

I could not figure out where the boy picked up such an evasive strategy, until I recalled a conversation we had at a restaurant a while ago.

Out of the blue, and just as I was about to shovel the first forkful into my mouth, the boy asked me, “When I was a baby, how did I get into Mommy’s belly?”

Why do they always pounce when I’m weak from hunger?

Put on the spot, my panicked mind bounced between two options. “You see, son, when a man loves a woman . . .” was the option from which my mind ran screaming.

“It’s a long story,” was the defense mechanism for which my mind leapt. It worked, or so I thought at the time.

Before the boy could renew his assault, a man wearing an Air Force uniform was seated nearby. My son, who is going through a period of fascination with all things military, forgot about the origins of his species. “Is that man in the Army?” he asked.

I explained that he was in the Air Force, which was like the Army, but with jets. My son soaked it all in. “Why don’t you go in the Army, Daddy?” he asked.

“I’m not so good at following orders,” I replied.

“You could be the boss of the Army. Then you could give all the orders.”

“But I’m too old. They wouldn’t even take me.”

“Well, you wouldn’t have to be in the battle,” he assured me, as if the Army has a row of rocking chairs ringing the combat area for its aged recruits.

Old soldiers

Maybe I could join up with this outfit of old soldiers. We’d play cards, listen to the battle on the wireless, and, time permitting, argue about where babies come from.

We then went on to discuss related topics. The subject of where babies come from was forgotten. I congratulated myself for dodging a bullet, for the time being anyway.

Well, maybe he forgot about the topic of the conversation, but he did not forget about the device Daddy used to steer the conversation elsewhere. He remembered that all too well. Now I have a house full of broken stuff and a child full of long stories that are too cumbersome for Daddy’s simple mind.

You reap what you sow.

And that baby question will come up again anyway. How will I handle it next time? Well, that’s a long story.