Kids area a pain in the ass. Sure sure, they’re the light of our lives and something our heart and soul cherishes. But you can’t deny there’s a certain level of annoyance. There are hassles from the first time you find a cookie stuffed in your shoe, through the times they flush a stuffed animal into the sewer system, to the Lego in the toaster, to the moment when your car has a dent and the explanation is unbelievable; then they go to college and come out slightly older and statistically they’re likely to go from clueless to a depth and breadth of stupidity that’ll take years to outgrow. It’s a Sisyphean challenge to raise a child.
That said I love my kids and intend to either produce fine intelligent self reliant young adults or kill them working on it. Would that all parents produce young men and women instead of the balless debt monsters wallowing in the average University.
. . .
So there I was, standing in the wind, snow blowing so much as to make vision hard. Half dead from an illness. Waving a flashlight vaguely. Clutching an idiot laying hen and the sexy resistance chicken with whom she’d shacked up. Yammering about frozen pipe in the coop. The stupid was about waist deep and a new life; say living in a condominium in Miami and hiring illegal aliens do the yard maintenance was sounding better and better.
Then the sole of my shoe ripped in half. What the fuck!?!
So what I’m saying is that it wasn’t a good evening.
Just then Mrs. Curmudgeon and a teenager arrived. She, having been informed of the iced pipe, had picked up a heat tape en route home. Well done! The teenager, a species of being that is statistically more useless than chickenshit on a pump handle, sized up the situation and asked the greatest question in the world. “What do you need?”
Dear God there’s hope for us all!
I barked the vaguest of instructions, “Help mom get firewood before my balls freeze off.” Then the chicken in my arms squawked and I dropped the heat tape. I started juggling them and dropped the pipe wrench out of my pocket. I was utterly distracted and too busy to supervise. Also I have injuries (about which which I won’t elaborate at the moment but it’s nothing huge) that preclude me handling firewood. (For me, not handling firewood is concentrated misery but it’s not like I’m in a wheelchair or something.)
I’d said “get firewood” and immediately left. The die had been cast.
In the coop I performed a miracle. Frost free hydrants have pipes that go way down; probably to the earth’s core. I used a great deal of swearing and a broken rake handle to wrap that tape around the pipe precisely where it needed to be. Somehow I’d installed it in a space that would give a mouse claustrophobia. Plus I’d managed the thermostat and whatnot above ground level. Given a bad space where the work had to be done I’d made a good go of it. I plugged it in and left the pipe to the ministrations of electrons which had been excited in another time zone. (Yes, going off grid is romantic, but I never ever forget to be impressed by the awesome utility of 24/7 power.)
Then came the slog back to my house. My shoes, with the ripped soles, accumulated ice and it was like walking on a golf ball. l was exhausted. I’d left the flashlight somewhere. It had been a rough day.
What should I spy but the kid desperately grunting and pushing and shoving the pony trailer’s ball hitch. I hobbled over and either due to my massive level of experience with iced up trailer components or the fact that I was more than willing to rip my spine in half, I got the thing unhitched. Together we set the trailer down, where it would most certainly ice itself to the firmament within hours. The kid thanked me. I thanked the kid.
Then, and only then, I realized I was witnessing a miracle. He was unhitching the trailer. Which means it no longer needed to be hitched to the ATV (which was idling). Which means…
“You’ve already hauled the wood?”
“Yep, Mom and I did it. She’s starting the fire right now. I’m gonna’ park this thing and go inside. I’m beat.”
“I…” I was speechless.
“Pigs are fed too. Not so hard to get around in the pen now that it’s ice.”
“Yeah the mud sucked… You already hauled the wood?”
The kid didn’t hear me. Instead there was a revving of the ATV engine, followed by a mechanical pirouette (just like I’ve done a thousand times; apparently the kid was watching and has mastered it). I saw a glimpse of a red taillight blasting for the garage and then it was gone.
The wood was already done! Before I could wipe the tear from my eye the ATV was parked and the kid was in the house. I sauntered over to the garage and closed the door (the kid has forgotten to close the door but otherwise done incredibly well). Then I declared the day done.
The fire was warm. Mrs. Curmudgeon was already parked by the fire and the cat (which was evil) was already trying to bite her. The kid was already off doing whatever teenagers do. Probably a video game or a manifesto about how adults are idiots or something.
There was half a face cord of wood stacked and ready. The cat was climbing on it, Mrs. Curmudgeon was burning it, I was simply beside myself with happiness at the heat.
Think about the people you know. Ponder the people you work with. If you need a laugh think about politicians and celebrities. How many of them can fire up an ATV (she’s a cold blooded model too), drive through the snow, hitch up a trailer, load the trailer, tow the load through the dark and bitter wind over icy terrain, unload the trailer, return the trailer to it’s designated spot, park the ATV, remember to turn off the fuel line…
Hell the key was even hanging on the rack where it goes.
By God the kid is going to make it! A fine young adult is forming before my very eyes. Sure, I froze the pipes and will only know if the heat tape worked sometime tomorrow and the chickens are missing and I still have nightmares about the AMC Gremlin… but a new generation is coming on line and that too was my responsibility and it means a hell of a lot more to get that right than fretting over an iced pipe. The kid’s doing well. I call that a win!
The kid’s doing well, you say? Let’s see if you still have that same opinion tomorrow…
Sound like you got a good one going there, AC.
Sign on my wall:
“A child is the only known substance from which a responsible adult can be made.”
Good on ya!
Yeah, but it’s a process. Don’t be too surprised if tomorrow he burns down the garage or something.
I should say those words to myself every morning when I wake up… for the next decade or so.
I have a 19-year old son, unspoiled by government schooling. Yet I have to wonder, was I that feckless at his age? Probably so, but I don’t remember it.
Actually I was in the Marine Corps at that point, hating it and making trouble for sergeants.
Anyway he too shows flashes of adulthood. I think we are at the stage where the parent is supposed to annoy the kid enough, that the kid leaves in disgust and makes his way in the world. I find this difficult though.