Archive for April, 2009

Just You Wait

April 8, 2009

4:30. Asking Sonny to do his homework when he is this grumpy is like asking… um, a very cranky and tired little boy to do something he doesn’t want to do. I promise I will sit with him, but it makes no difference. He scribbles a answer, and then says, “I scribbled! I’m sloppy!,” and then, in self-punishment, scribbles some more. Oh yeah, I can see we’re going to get lots of math done.

I give up on addition and move over to the second worksheet. He has to write ONE or TWO by each item, depending on its quantity. Sonny counts that there are two kittens in the first picture, puts the pencil on the paper, and writes JFAJKLFSKLDGJIEIJFHAHF, or at least that’s what it looks like.

I decide that maybe we won’t do homework right now.

5:45. After dinner we try one more time, and it’s like maybe my wife performed an exorcism on Sonny while I was checking e-mail. Totally different kid. He writes ONE and TWO as appropriate, and they are legible if not neat. He accepts praise from me with grandiose high-fives. We move over to addition, where he gets stuff wrong but doesn’t mind when I correct him. We work it out. He ends the session proud of himself and ready to play Star Wars, his promised reward. He is happy for the rest of the evening.

Note to future self: Remember the power of giving up and trying again later.


Stuck in the Mudflats With You

April 6, 2009

This weekend’s swimming lesson went much better from Sonny’s perspective: The woman with the keys never showed up, so we never got anywhere near the pool.

The wife had taken Peanut on a bike-riding playdate — we’re trying to ease her into allowing us to take off the training wheels. So it was Sonny and me and a gorgeous day. When Sonny said he wanted to go to the beach, I did not hesitate. He grabbed his industrial-size digger, I grabbed my book, and off we went. No towels, no sunblock, no blanket. Just two men on an impulse. All we needed was a keg of beer, but neither of us drink, so that would have been odd.

The tide was out, which is a great time to be at the beach. The water has receded practically to Asia — you can walk forever out into where the water used to be, looking at very confused hermit crabs and about one quazillion snails. Sonny asked for permission to run out there even though he was wearing sneakers. I said sure! So you get muddy! You’re a little boy! Go get filthy for a change!

Miles away, my wife looked up sharply, somehow sensing that her husband was doing something boneheaded.

It was fine, really. Sonny ran all the way out to the tideline and threw rocks. I could hear him laughing and howling even though he was a football field’s distance away from me. I read my book and enjoyed the breezes and the sunshine. All was right with the world.

When I next looked up, Sonny was face down in the mud, trying to pull himself back to a standing position. He was trying to get back to me, but had walked through a particularly muddy piece of beachfront property. The mud had eaten his sneakers and was starting on his ankles. He was rooted to the spot. Every time he tried to lift his leg, he fell again.

This was one of those moments when a father learns just how fast he can run.

“I’m stuck,” Sonny told me when I got there. He wasn’t crying, but he was a long way from happy.

I reached for him with two hands and yanked him out of the goo. “My shoe came off!” he said. Yes, it certainly did. Sonny stood there covered in mud, sopping wet, with one shoe remaining and his other foot clad in a sock so wet it had turned transparent. I stretched out and grabbed back his other shoe — it came loose from the ground with a sound like SHPLORK. (No, it didn’t. But it should have.)

Now I had to get Sonny back to the car. He was not a happy beachcomber. “I fell! I’m dirty!” he kept saying. Somehow I succeeded in keeping the situation light enough that he didn’t get too despondent. I wanted him to see that this was all very silly. Which it was. Nobody likes being wet and muddy, though, so for now he was pretty unhappy. By the time we got home, though, he was more or less back to his old self. He started walking up the driveway, and he looked at his wet feet and the tracks he was leaving behind. “Footprints!” he yelled, and laughed.

He undressed on the enclosed porch, and I took his sneakers and washed them out with a hose. They should be dry again by the year 2015. We both took showers, I got Sonny into his pajamas, and we spent the rest of the day indoors. Some days are too nice to spoil by actually going outside.

The Water is Wide

April 1, 2009

We signed Sonny up for special ed swimming lessons. Apparently the first three or four lessons will cover “getting your child into the swimming pool.”

I am reasonably certain I did not dream the summer of 2006. Back then, Sonny attended a summer program that included time in the high school swimming pool. I remember thinking: Good luck, but the couple of times I went to observe him, he laughed in the arms of the lifeguard or counselor, and splashed himself silly, and threw a basketball .00001 inches into the hoop, and in general had himself a fine old time.

Did we build on that positive experience? Noooooo.

Fast forward a couple of years, and now we’re taking Sonny and Peanut to that same pool for public swim. As soon as Sonny saw the pool, he started crying. What the? Did he not remember having the time of his life in that pool, back when he was, um, six years old? It took much of that summer to get him back in, and even then he clung to me like a barnacle on a shipwreck.

Now we want to teach him how to swim, and we’re back to my original thought back in 2006: Good luck. After about twenty minutes, I convinced him to sit with his feet in the water, so that he could splash me. (I was in the pool. Freezing my eyeballs out, to be perfectly honest.) I would occasionally splash him, which he found amusing enough, but not so much that he now intended to move on to full-body immersion. So we played catch with a plastic dolphin, and he continued to splash me, and that was the end of his first swimming lesson.

Hopefully before this whole thing ends six weeks from now, I’ll have succeeded in getting him moist. And hopefully the water will get a little warmer, because right now I’m not looking forward to getting back into that pool myself.