Friday, March 23, 2012

I'm sorry, son. Please don't put me in timeout.

After the big yellow bus brought the day's shipment of child-sized mayhem back to our quaint, quiet neighborhood today, things started to get a little rowdy. That's not unusual. Things typically get a little rowdy in the streets and yards, particularly on my property.

Today, a gang of half a dozen young people, including my two oldest, were playing a variation of their favorite game. I don't think it has a name, but I can somewhat describe it. It features pirates/zombies/leprechauns who chase/hit/shove each other while screaming/crying/insulting in my house/yard/garage. Select any combination of the preceding words, and you get a good sense of what it looks and sounds like every day between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. at the Pickering estate.

In today's game, the sacred object was a video camera which apparently started in Josh's possession but then ended up in Matthew's possession. After the swarm circled the house, ran into the garage, left the door to the kitchen open, tore through the house, spilled papers on the floor, ran out the front door, left that door open, circled the house again and ran up the deck stairs, Josh had had enough. He stopped, grabbed a three-foot heavy log from the pile of firewood, lifted it in two hands above his head like a weapon of Medieval destruction and started pounding up the deck stairs in search of his brother.

I'm not sure if he intended to scare his brother or simply bash his skull in, but at this point I opted to intervene. I asked him to stop. He didn't. I ordered him to stop. He didn't. I screamed at him to stop. He didn't. I unleashed the ultimate-Daddy-scare-the-crap-out-of-the-kids scream. He stopped. I told him to put the log back into the pile. He hurled it into the grass. I screamed for him to put the log back into the pile. He did.

A couple of hours later, after more zombie, screaming, crying, hitting "fun," it was time for dinner. The boys were now inside and I was trying to clean up the junkyard that is my property. I had just wheeled Josh's bike from the next-door-neighbor's driveway back into our garage (I know, I'm an enabler), and parked it in the corner with the helmet hanging from the handlebars, when I saw the very same bike lying in the backyard. One of our boys' delightful friends had decided to hop on the bike, ride it through the yard for no apparent reason and dump it out back before running inside to watch TV. (And if this all sounds like borderline chaos, it's only because it is.)

So let's just say I was a little peeved when I stomped over to the bike, hopped on it and decided to ride it back into the garage. As I turned the corner into my driveway, where my next-door-neighbor friends were enjoying a cold one (yes, I had one too at this point), the pedal snapped off the frame of Josh's bike. I tried to fix it, but it was bent and busted. I felt a little stupid, but these things happen.

When trying to settle the boys down for dinner, another version of Josh-hit-Matthew, Matthew-hit-Josh, Josh-hit-Matthew unfolded. As Matthew ran away from him, Josh picked up an arrangement of dried flowers and hurled it at the fleeing middle son. That's when I snapped for the second time.

My loud, screaming speech made a lot of good points about the logic of throwing household objects and the pointlessness of endless vengeance, but most importantly, it included one of my favorite lines, which apparently I use too frequently. "Josh," I said. "Think with your brain! Was that a smart thing to do?"

The point of this whole blog post is coming soon, so thank you for sticking with me this long. Later in the night, when Josh was cleaned, dried, dressed and charming, he asked me to go downstairs with him so he could have dessert. I agreed and we went down to the kitchen together. While he was eating two Oreos, I had to go into the garage, which reminded me of his bike.

"Josh, I'm sorry I broke your bike pedal tonight," I called to him. "But I can fix it."

"How did you break it?" he asked.

"I was riding it, and I shouldn't have," I said.

"Daddy, think with your brain!" he yelled.

I laughed out loud, walked over and hugged him. I told him that was one of the funniest things he's ever said, and he's right, I wasn't thinking with my brain. I have no idea what got into me.

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