Asserting Independence

Who wouldn’t want to be friends with this guy?!?!?!?!

Garrett came home from camp in a foul mood. I heard him stomp through the front door, turn the corner, march into his room, and slam the door shut. I decided to give him a few minutes to calm down before approaching him. After about 30 minutes, I found him sitting on the sofa and gently asked, “Hey buddy. How was camp today?”

“Terrible,” he replied.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I inquired

He let out a long, audible breath and looked at me. “Fine. I had a terrible day because I asked ‘Sarah’ (not her real name) if she would be my best friend at camp and she said yes.” Confused, I replied, “Isn’t that a good thing?”

He continued, “…but then, her friend whispered in her ear and then she told me that she didn’t want to be my friend anymore.”

“Oh. I see. I’m sorry to hear that.” For a moment, we both sat in silence. He had vented and I was trying to determine what to do with the information. I could have gone with the theory of “Boys Rule, Girls Drool,” but that only goes so far. Ultimately, I chose honesty.

“Well, Garrett. Sometimes boys and girls (and grown men and women) like each other, but their friends get in the way.  If you like someone and want to be friends, you should tell them and don’t worry what their friends say. I’m sure it made Sarah feel good to know that you wanted to be her friend.” I suggested he try playing with her again the next day. If she wasn’t interested, that’s OK too.

He seemed satisfied with the answer and refocused on the video game he was playing. Garrett is clearly going to be OK. It’s Sarah’s loss…and Sarah’s friend will eventually be shunned by her friends because of her terrible judgement and gossipy ways. She will then grow old alone, spending her nights eating single-serving frozen dinners, and living with her 40 cats who will ultimately eat her face off when she runs out of cat food. (Is that too harsh? Not when you reject my son, it’s not.)

 

garrett-dentisSometimes, it’s not what happens to us that compels us to make a change, but it’s the things that we witness happening to other people that make us reassess our own choices in life. Case in point: Garrett recently experienced something, but it had a bigger impact on Justin.

While on a routine dental visit, the dentist discovered that Garrett had a small cavity. Even though the cavity was tiny, we knew that the task of getting it fixed was going to be monumental. Garrett is not a good patient. He does not like having dental equipment in his mouth, does not like the sounds that the equipment makes, and he has zero patience for sitting in a dental chair. GWE and I knew that he certainly wasn’t going to tolerate getting a shot of Novocain AND having his tooth drilled. I spoke with the dentist and he agreed that Garrett was a “hostile patient.” We decided that the only course of action would be to use nitrous oxide to keep him calm.

As the day of his cavity removal approached, GWE and I kept telling him (excitedly) about the “Firefighter’s Mask” the dentist was going to put on him on his next visit. Garrett was intrigued by the prospect of wearing a mask meant for firefighters in a dental office. As soon as he arrived at the dentist’s office, he asked to see the mask. He looked at it quizzically. It wasn’t like the ones he had seen at the fire station Skeptically, he got into the chair and put the mask on. Slowly, the dentist began to administer the gas. After a few minutes, Garrett was supposed to begin feeling the effects, so the dentist administered a shot of Novocain. Garrett felt it, realized what was going on, and began to fight back. Clearly, the gas had no effect on him.

In the meantime, GWE and Justin were in the waiting area and they could clearly hear what was going on. Garrett was screaming, shoving the dentist and hygienist away, and trying to escape while the we tried to keep him calm. I looked over to the lobby and saw GWE cringing. Justin appeared calm, yet slightly panicked as the blood drained from his face. After 30 minutes, I told the dentist that this wasn’t working and that we’d have to try again at a later date.

Knowing that his defiance had been successful, Garrett angrily hopped out of the chair and was at the front door in less than a minute. When we got in the car, Garrett was back to normal. What we didn’t know was that Justin was the one who was affected the most!

Later that afternoon, we had a normal lunch. Afterwards, Justin excused himself from the table and went to brush his teeth.

toothbrush

After dinner, Justin excused himself from the table and went to brush his teeth.

After breakfast the following morning, Justin excused himself from the table and went to brush his teeth…again.

That night, after dinner, Justin excused himself from the table and went to brush his teeth…again.

The following morning, we ended up running 15 minutes late. Everyone was in the car, except for Justin….who was still brushing his teeth…again!

Thanks to Garrett’s “Cavity Calamity,” Justin has brushed his teeth more times over the past 6 weeks than he has in his entire life!

picThere is a Japanese proverb that says we all have Three Faces:

The first face, you show to the world.
The second face, you show to your close friends, and your family.
The third face, you never show anyone.
It is the truest reflection of who you are. 

In this social media world filled with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we are a society that works very hard to cultivate public personas that (we think) match who we think we are…or are trying to be.  And, no matter how hard we try to project one type of image, we can’t escape how others really see us.

I believe that younger children see us the clearest. They see the good, bad, and everything in between and process it without judgement or ego.  That is why I decided to ask my kids the following questions. Some of the answers I expected. Some, I didn’t!

Garrett’s Questions and Answers:

1. What is something I say a lot? Bad words
2. What makes me happy? When I’m playing with you.
3. What makes me sad? When I’m not listening.
4. How tall am I? So big, very big
5. How old am I? 12
6. What’s my favorite thing to do? Golf
7. What makes me proud of you? When I listen
8. What is my favorite food? Broccoli
9. Do I have a favorite child? Yes, me!
10. If I could go anywhere, where would I go? To the golf range
11. Do you think you could live without me? Yes.
12. What’s my favorite song? Ghostbusters
13. How do you annoy me? Bothering you when you’re working
14. What is my favorite movie? I don’t know
15. Who do I have a crush on? Me
16. Where was I born? Atlanta
17. What’s my favorite show to watch? Doctor Who
18. Who’s my best friend? Aldis
19. What scares me? I don’t know.
20. How do you describe me to your friends? By showing you to my friends.

 

Justin’s Questions and Answers:

1. What is something I say a lot? “Have a good day at school”
2. What makes me happy? Me getting good grades
3. What makes me sad? Me getting in trouble
4. How tall am I? I don’t know
5. How old am I? 45 (I’m 41)
6. What’s my favorite thing to do? Play golf, watch Doctor Who
7. What makes me proud of you? Beating you in golf
8. What is my favorite food? Pie (Didn’t specify Apple or Pizza)
9. Do I have a favorite child? Yes, me!
10. If I could go anywhere, where would I go? You would go somewhere to golf with me
11. Do you think you could live without me? NO!
12. What’s my favorite song? The “Hot Day” song (Uptown Funk)
13. How do you annoy me? A lot of things. Saying “daddy, can I please have this? daddy, can I please have this? daddy, can I please have this?”
14. What is my favorite movie? You like tons of movies. You like “Back to the Future.”
15. Who do I have a crush on? Mommy
16. Where was I born? Atlanta, GA
17. What’s my favorite show to watch? Doctor Who
18. Who’s my best friend? Your clients
19. What scares me? Me getting bad grades
20. How do you describe me to your friends? The best dad in the world. The best dad no one can have. But that he yells at me a lot.

BoogieSeveral weeks ago, we took the kids to the Alisal Ranch for a few days of vacation before the school year started. It provided us with the opportunity to disconnect from technology, play with some farm animals, and just enjoy each other’s company for a little while without distraction. For three days, Justin found refuge in one of the barns where he fed and played with guinea pigs and bunnies. Garrett became the unofficial tour guide of the entire petting area. He would greet each guest at the gate, explain the rules of how to pet the animals, and then oversee that the rules weren’t broken. GWE and I spent our time observing, decompressing, and wondering why we didn’t do this more often. bunnyOn that Saturday night, the ranch had a giant bar-b-que for all the guests with live music and a dance floor in an open field near the pool. Garrett had seen the band setting up earlier in the day and made sure to tell them that he expected them to play some rock and roll music. They acknowledged his request and told Garrett that they would see him at the party.

That evening, we arrived just as the music began. Garrett could not contain himself. He raced to the dance floor where the music took over and his “booty betrayed him.” (A phrase we heard on a different trip.) Garrett became possessed by the music. It didn’t bother him that he didn’t have a dance partner. It didn’t bother him that he didn’t know the words. The music played and his little body obeyed.

Enjoy the dance stylings of Garrett Priluck:

Bed2Justin must want something, but he hasn’t told us what it is yet. However, there have been subtle clues around the house. Things are a little neater. Clothing has been put away and the “puppy-dog” eyes have made an appearance once or twice over the past two weeks.

The latest act of kindness has appeared in an unexpected place: my bedroom.

One morning, I climbed out of bed and wandered into the kitchen to look for coffee. When I returned, my bed was made and a note was placed neatly on the pillows:

Bed1

Wow – he must want something very badly if he not only made his bed, but made mine as well!! I wonder what he wants.

 

JustinWhile are Grandma’s house, Justin decided to announce to anyone who was listening (specifically Grandma and Grandpa Bob) that there was a toy he really, really, really wanted. I’m pretty sure he assumed that because he was under Grandma’s roof it would either appear magically or he thought that someone was going to leap out of their chair and go to the store right at that moment to fulfill his wish. I can assure you that neither were an option…especially because it was Super Bowl Sunday and no one was getting off the sofa.

After making his announcement, he was largely ignored. Probably not the response he was hoping for. However, I saw an opportunity here.

“Justin,” I said, to acknowledge his existence. “I’ll make you a deal.”

He perked up in anticipation.

“Here’s the deal: If you get 100% on your spelling test this week and 100% on your speech, I will buy you that toy!”

I saw the wheels in his brain turn in order to process what I had just said. He looked into my eyes to make sure that that I wasn’t bluffing. My son, “The Negotiator,” was about to meet his match in Dad “The Non-Negotiator.”

He took a moment to calculate his response. With caution, he smiled and asked: “What’s deal number 2?”

I smiled and answered him “Justin….there is no deal number 2!!!!” And with that, his smile vanished and the room erupted with laughter.