A Father’s Diary: Understanding My Son

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by Lucky Garvin

Cailan didn’t want to go to school.  I knew it the moment I roused him from sleep the other morning and he looked at me blankly and said, “Who are you, mister?”

I met this passive insurgency with restraint. He then proceeded to question the air before him with uncertain fingers. “Where are you, mister?”

His sight was gradually restored, if you consider double-vision a restoration.  “Which one is the real you, mister? The one on the right or the left?” And then, “What’s causing this, mister?”

“Staying up so late at night watching TV that you don’t want to go to school.  That’s what’s causing it.  But don’t worry, it’s not fatal.  Unless you push your luck, MISTER!”

I’m starting to sound like my father, a common end to most parents.  I tell Chester and Cailan, “Hey!  Let’s turn off thirty lights or so.  Y’know, about half of them.”

Ye Gods and ministers of grace, I’m wearing sunglasses in the house, there’s such a glare!  No reason Appalachian Power should be swept into the Fortune 500 just cuz these two won’t turn off the lights, TV’s, tapes, VCR’s and Segas when done with them.

Nothing kids today fear more than a power failure; they  live in constant fear.

Cailan was rebelling.  His mother was trying to justify her unrelenting parental oversight of homework, sensible bedtime, salutary diet and the like.  “Look, Cailan, here is Mother A: She doesn’t care if you eat junk food; doesn’t care if you do any homework and doesn’t care if you don’t get enough sleep.  And here is Mother B: like me, concerned about those things.  Which would you rather have?       Cailan!?      Cailan?!”

“I’m thinking about it!”

“Cailan!”

“Mom A has got some real possibilities…”  Well, at last he admitted that he would rather have Mother B, but it was a photo finish.  He was a man convinced against his will, as was summarized in his later confession : “I’m an A kid with a B mom.”

Occasionally, Cailan likes school: holidays, teacher conferences, field trips. On these days, he holds the educative process in an undiluted esteem. For the balance of the school term however, he would as soon go to his grave unlettered. And so he falls asleep in class.  A lot. His desk has an air bag; his chair, a head rest. Rip Van Garvin.

Well, Cailan marshaled all of his talents and did not lose consciousness for the better part of a semester.

For this tour de force, he received a coveted honor at the end of the school term. “Staying Awake in Class, Some” was inscribed on the plaque bestowed during an especially moving ceremony, most of which Cailan slept through.

His mother and I are so very proud.

I’m telling Cailan about George Washington; trying to demonstrate that honesty, if not the best policy, is certainly worth a shot if you can’t think of another angle.

“Well of course he told the truth about the Cherry Tree, Dad!” rebuts my son, a ruthless dialectician with a firm grip on the proceedings, “His father catches up with him holding a running chain saw, sawdust in his hair and yelling, `Timmmmm – berrrrrrrr!!’ Of course he’s gonna tell the truth; does he think his fathers a idgit?! That’s not the time for a lie; that’s the time for a plea bargain!”

`Pithily said,’ I mutter to myself, my lesson gone awry.  He is persuaded of his unquestioned eminence in parent-child debate.  Probably gone off to get a mallet and a wooden stake for me…

I have known Cailan for years; weathered many a developmental cycle.  For example he was once Cailan the Cosmic Cadet.  He would walk by me space helmet on his head, molecular atomizer in hand – set on `stun’ – ranging far into the neighborhood to seek his prey; and would dismiss me as an enemy not worth stalking by sticking out his tongue and saying, “Thbbbbbit, earthling.” [My son has no suppressed emotions.]  At times like this, he is as much fun as a pinched nerve.