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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G.
Chapter 36 – “The Kid.”
My son launched himself head-first into a bigger kid’s face. It seemed to have the desired result and so he returned to what he had been doing, which was playing catch with a smaller boy.
Ahhh, the joys of being a dad. Actually, for all my complaining, cynicism, and sarcasm about parenting, I have often been extremely proud of my son.
“But not at that moment, right?” my editor asked me when I was outlining this chapter.
“The head-into-face moment, you mean?” I asked her.
“Kind of violent,” she said. “Not a time for pride, I wouldn’t think.”
“On the contrary,” I said.
Nope. Proud. I’ll explain but let’s set the stage first.
Even at three years old, The Kid (which is the nickname we will be using in this publication) was strikingly unafraid to examine, play with, operate, and explore all things electrical and most things mechanical. If you didn’t watch out, he would take apart any device not nailed down. And any device that was nailed down. Radio. Clock. Watch. Phone. Doorbell. Turntable. Amplifier. Speaker. Electric guitar. Television set. Headphones. Garage door opener. The really wild part of all this was how often he was able to put them back together in working order.
Did his activities worry his mom, me, and his grandparents? No, I wouldn’t say we were worried. Petrified, terrified, horrified, freaked-out, and scared witless, sure, but hardly worried. After all, a shock from the electric current running through a house can only cause a few itsy-bitsy problems, like muscle spasms, headaches, breathing difficulties, and temporary loss of consciousness. Not to mention point-of-contact burns, loss of vision and hearing, respiratory or cardiac arrest, brain damage, and/or death. But not to worry, right? Just a few scattered moments of pure, unadulterated panic.
“Quick, The Kid’s got the hair drier!”
“Look out, The Kid’s into the home security system!”
“Don’t let The Kid take the car keys!”
“What’s The Kid doing with the electric toothbrush, TV remote, blender, stove, oven, can opener, refrigerator, lawn mower, barbecue grill, pool filter . . .?”
As he explored more of the world, sometimes we underestimated him. “You don’t think he can reach the electric saw in my dad’s garage, do you?” I asked my wife.
“No, it’s pretty high up on the wall.”
“Right. Okay.” She was correct. It was about seven feet above the floor of the garage. I would have had to stand on a step-stool to reach it.
Ten minutes after opening the garage to wash the car, my dad and I heard the unmistakable sound of the electric saw. We rushed over to the workbench to find The Kid standing atop it, carefully examining the groove that the saw blade had cut into an old piece of wood he had clamped into the vise at the end of the workbench. How did he get up there to reach the saw? He had created a makeshift ladder using paint cans, boards, cardboard boxes, and some bags of old clothing that hadn’t yet been taken to Goodwill.
He turned to look down at us, holding the saw in both hands. “Works good,” he said, and then calmly unplugged it and re-hung it on the wall.
Did The Kid get electric shocks from time to time? Yup, but that didn’t stop him from examining everything electronic. He entered a room, spotted something plugged in or battery-powered and he was immediately interested.
“Can I touch it?” he asked. “Can we open it up?” he asked. “What if. . . ?” I cannot remember how many different endings there were to questions that began with those two words, “What if?” I do recall that our most frequent answers were “No,” “No way,” “No!” and “God no!” always followed by our calm, cool, and careful explanation concerning the various ways his actions might lead to severe bodily harm, carnage, doom, disaster, destruction, and the loss of electric power until the city maintenance workers could swing by and rectify things. None of which seemed to bother him very much but at least he understood that we were Very Concerned Adults and so he sometimes humored us by finding some new potential atrocity on which he could concentrate.
On another visit to my parents, my then three-year-old son made a beeline straight to an oscillating fan my mom had set up near the kitchen.
“Please don’t touch that,” he was told. You could see him considering the options available to him. I can’t prove it, but I’ll bet he was saying to himself, “I can touch it but then they’ll take it away. But they didn’t say when I shouldn’t touch it, so if I wait long enough . . . ”
He did ask what kind of fan it was, so I said, “It’s called an oscillating fan because it oscillates from one position to another.”
“Don’t tell him that,” my wife said. “He can’t understand that. Just say it’s a fan that goes back and forth.”
A month later, The Kid went to his first day of pre-school. When my wife and I came to pick him up at day’s end, the school administrator told us, “We’re very impressed with your son. He walked into the classroom and said that we had an oscillating fan. Four syllable words are fairly rare from three-year-olds, you know.” I exerted all of my will power and refrained from sending an I-told-you-so glance at my wife.
Using His Head
At the pre-school, there were three groups of kids: little, medium and big. Their size was primarily a function of age, and usually the three-year-olds played with three-year-olds, fours with fours, and so on.
One late afternoon during The Kid’s second year at the pre-school, I was walking from my car to go pick him up. I was on the sidewalk, moving along the fence that contained the large grassy play area of the school. You could see through the fence and I spotted him playing catch with one of the littler boys. Not the baseball-and-glove kind of catch, but using one of those rubbery springy balls that would be too large to fit through a basketball hoop.
My son had no trouble with the ball, but the younger boy seemed only a little larger than the sphere and often couldn’t get a handle on it no matter how softly it was rolled to him. I noticed that my son was unbothered by this. He waited patiently for the little guy to knock the ball down, throw his arms around it, raise it to chest level and give it a mighty heave in The Kid’s general direction. My son moved wherever he needed to retrieve the sometimes errant throw, and then he’d gently lob or roll the ball back. Made me grin.
Suddenly, a boy who was bigger than either of them ran over and snatched the ball out of the hands of the little boy and began taunting him. He’d hold the ball out and yank it back, over and over. My son said something but I was too far away to hear it. The big guy kept tormenting the little guy. The Kid walked to him and I expected to see a scuffle for the ball. Instead, my son said something again. The big kid turned, put his hand on my son’s chest and gave him a shove that flung him back four or five steps.
The Kid just stood there a moment. He appeared to sigh. His chest expanded and his shoulders went up; he exhaled and his shoulders went back down. He again walked up to the bigger boy and tapped him on the shoulder. The guy turned on him, a snarl on his face and his arm moving forward to administer another shove. The arm never arrived and the shove never happened because The Kid leaped straight up at him, sending the top of his own head into the bigger boy’s face. The bully dropped the ball, grabbed his nose, started to cry, and ran toward the classrooms, wailing all the way across the playground.
The Kid picked up the ball and calmly returned to playing catch with the smaller boy. Wow. That was something I had always wanted to do in life, and my son had just done it right in front of me. I turned to share this wonderful moment with . . . nobody. I was the only person who had seen it.
I continued around the playground to the school entrance, signed in, walked past the classrooms and out onto the play area, fully expecting to be called back for a parent/teacher conference. But nothing happened. No one approached me about the incident. One of the teachers even waved happily from a classroom door several yards away.
“You ready to go, Kid?” I said.
“Sure,” he said. “See you,” he told the smaller boy.
On the way to the car, I asked him, “How was school today?”
“Anything unusual happen?”
“Really? Just a regular day for you?”
I wondered if he was some sort of secret playground enforcer, quietly righting wrongs and attacking bullies on a vigilant quest for truth, justice, and the Czechoslovakian way (for that’s my ethnic background). I could see making t-shirts for The Kid: “Bad Czech,” or some such. But no. He didn’t make a habit of physical confrontation as far as know, but was evidently adept at effective retaliation when necessary.
As I said earlier: I was proud.
Once during his time at the pre-school, he was “in trouble,” or so I was told. His offence was operating the school’s record player at the wrong speed, playing a 33-1/3rpm recording at 45rpm or 78rpm. Evidently this appealed to only a small percentage of the students and actually upset some of the kids.
“Really?” I asked the teacher who was explaining this situation to me. “I thought all kids liked those speeded-up things.”
“Well, some do,” she said. “But it scares a couple of the younger children.”
“It makes one of the young boys cry.”
“Well, that kid’s going to be really upset when he hears some hard-sell commercials.”
“Never mind. So, where do things stand with this?”
“We made it clear that if your son does it again, he’ll lose his turn at being record player monitor.”
“Seems fair,” I said.
A few days later I was informed that The Kid had blasted out one of the records at top speed and therefore would lose his next turn with the record player.
“So let’s see if I can get this straight,” I said to my son on our way to the car. “Did they tell you not to play records at the wrong speed?”
He nodded “yes.”
“And did they say what would happen if you did?”
He nodded again.
“And you did it anyway?”
“So they warned you about what would happen if you did that again, and you did it again, and then they did what they said they’d do, and you’re fine with that?”
“Um-hmm,” he said.
“So,” I said, “it sounds like everything’s cool.”
He shrugged and said, “Guess so.”
“Okay,” I said.
Action. Consequences. Lesson learned? Maybe. I think this is an argument in favor of more creative sentencing, or we needed a better design of carrot-and-stick justice. Or something. Proud? I didn’t even know, but I was happy with my son.
Flash forward to when my wife and I were separated.
“Dad, can I bring some computers over to your house?”
“Sure,” I said. “What have you got?”
There was something that didn’t seem quite right about this situation. The Kid was in fourth grade by this time and his school was getting new computers. He asked one of his teachers if he could have the old computers. He was told something like, “Okay by me but you have to get permission from the Principal.” So he asked the Principal and was told something like, “Okay by me but you have to get permission from the School Board.”
And so on. The Kid got the permissions. Apparently everyone said “yes” thinking that someone else would say “no.”
We had to narrow things down to the best half-dozen or so machines but even so, I suddenly had a LOT of computer equipment at my place.
On the plus side, The Kid wanted to spend as much time as possible with me instead of at his mom and stepdad’s place. On the minus side, The Kid didn’t want to interact with me too much when he was “doing my computers” as he put it. On the plus side, I didn’t have to worry about what he was doing whenever he was visiting. My electrical and mechanical equipment was safe because he had a large supply of his own stuff.
One day, as I watched him quietly working with about four machines at once, I said, “How are you doing?”
I received the typical one-syllable kid reply: “Fine.”
“Okay. Let’s try this from a different perspective. What are you doing?”
“Clearing the hard drives,” he said.
“You mean they didn’t do that before giving you the gear?”
“No, they did. They just didn’t know how.”
He explained how it may look like data has been removed but that it can still reside in the computer memory.
“What are the files you’re removing now?” I asked him.
“I don’t know. Just numbers and stuff.”
I asked him to bring some of the files up on the screen. It was interesting stuff to me: Teaching assignments. Student grades. Comments about parent/teacher meetings. School Board assessments of the faculty. Staff and faculty salaries. Cafeteria menus. “Wait, go back a sec’,” I said. Did I see what I think I saw? Yup. A salary list. I considered the ramifications of having this material publically available. I mean, if this critical information was —
“Can I erase it now?” he asked.
“What? Oh, right.” Tempting to make a copy, but no, he was correct. “Yeah, zap it,” I told him. He went back to work. I went into my office and got busy “doing my computer.” There was a streak of honesty in the kid and considering my career in advertising and public relations, for the life of me I don’t know how it got there. Again, proud.
Over the years, The Kid and I have had a lot of conversations about behavior, humanity, rules, interpretations of people’s actions, truth vs. illusion, committees, politics, God, hypocrisy, double standards, and so on. At different points in his life, he has made some very astute observations. Here are three of them:
“Adults are strange.”
“Kids are funny.”
“People are weird.”
I can’t argue with any of that.
• To be continued in next chapter (click link to subscribe via RSS) …. or, to read additional articles and some bits of ephemera by John Scott G, visit his story index here: http://enewschannels.com/author/scott-g-the-g-man .
“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G, is Copr. © 2011-2012 by JSG, all rights reserved under U.S. and international copyright conventions. Commercial use in any form is forbidden without express written permission of the author. Originally published on eNewsChannels.com with permission. Credits: Book cover design: Phil Hatten.