It takes a lot to get a rise out of me. It’s usually a slow building kind of thing that then explodes in a fury of jumbled words and phrases that make no sense and result in me apologizing profusely (usually to my wife). Sometimes I can ward off said rise by warning certain pokers that the bear is not amused. But my son (who just turned 9) is a different story. As any parent knows, children are an unending source of frenzy-inducing moments. Sometimes they make you laugh and sometimes they scare the living crap out of you.
In a recent episode of the latter, he and I were getting a gallon of milk at the local grocery store. I’d just picked him up from his after-school and we just needed to run in and run out. We got to the register and I waited for the girl to charge me, ran my card through the reader, grabbed my bag, turned and saw… nothing. My son was gone. I looked back up the aisle. No. Looked out into the little glass vestibule. Nope. Started panicking slightly and headed into said vestibule, only to lock eyes with my son, who was now standing in the middle of the crosswalk… in front of two stopped cars.
“What the hell are you doing?!” I said, hands raised in the air in absolute astonishment. He had just turned around, having apparently noticed (finally) that Dad was nowhere to be seen. He stood there for a moment, probably torn between getting run over and returning to me; certain grief in either case.
I was lost for words only momentarily as I dropped a “J.C.,” which was followed by a stern walk back to the car and pretty much me losing my $#!@ for the next 15 minutes. “What were you thinking!? You need to pay more attention! That’s how accidents happen! Did you even look when you entered the crosswalk?! Since when do I let you walk without holding my hand in the parking lot!”
When I was done, I was exhausted. Coming back down from my frenzied high, I said to him, “Well, congratulations on scaring the crap out of Dad for the first time in a long time.” By the time we pulled into the parking spot at home, he’d apologized several times. And, despite me having raised my voice to its greatest extent, he didn’t cry. I think he was in too much shock.
At this point, I decided to use this incident to motivate him in a chore he hates. I used my quiet voice. You know that voice… the one that’s slightly more scary than the raving one? The one your parents used that told you that you’d crossed some invisible line and sh!t was about to get real. “Listen. We’re going to go inside and you’re going to go into your room and start cleaning. You do that and we won’t have to discuss this with Mommy. Deal?” “Ok, Daddy.”
Now, before you get riled up at me not telling my wife, understand that I did tell her… after he went to bed that night. He’d had enough and I knew that it wouldn’t improve the situation if we started back up again as soon as we walked in the door. My wife agreed. She said, “I thought he was awfully quiet and obedient when he came in.”
Kids! Gotta love ’em, right?! RIGHT?! ;-D