The Right Coast

June 18, 2004
Return to the planet of the boys
By Tom Smith

Jeanne is back east to go to her niece's high school graduation, so I am in charge of three boys. The youngest, the infant Mark, Jeanne took with her. She's not crazy.

They are all in the pool now, so I have a moment. Earlier I tried to take a nap, but the screaming was too loud. So far, there have been lots of touching family moments, such as this one:

Patrick: Ahhhhhhhh! You kicked me in the weiner!
William: You were thweatening me!
Dad: William, don't kick anybody in the weiner. Patrick, stop threatening your brother.

Last night I grilled burgers and we watched Adam Sandler's 50 First Dates. They had seen it before, they said, and judged it suitable for children. In the entire movie, there were perhaps three scenes that did not have some off-color joke on subjects such as the gigantic size of walrus penises, the tendency of steroid use to cause nocturnal emissions, and so on. I hope most of it went over the 8 year old William's head. I would rate the movie as too stupid for adults and too raunchy for kids, but the scene of the walrus vomitting enormously on the vet's assistant was strangely amusing.

The king snake, no doubt sensing diversion in the air, took his chance, slithered out of his tank, and escaped under the coffee table. This was cunning, since the coffee table weighs about 500 lbs. He may be there still or elsewhere in the house. I don't care. If he wants to try to make it on his own, I say, you go, snake. Jeanne, who is the instigator of all the reptile fancying around here, has arranged to get some corn snake eggs from a patient who breeds snakes. I can hardly wait.

The big event this morning was going to the local Target, always a religious experience for me (look at this beautiful t-shirt and its seven dollars!) and buying a playstation 2 for the kids. We have resisted until now, but somehow this purchase became the uber-bribe for good grades. School is now out so the bribe is due. Our children are very different regarding spending money. Our middle boy, Patrick, is ten and the future investment banker. Short of cash to pay the gardener last Saturday, I turned to Patrick to borrow $60. "OK," he said, "but there will be interest. One dollar per week, but no interest for the first week. That wouldn't be fair." He gave me three 20's. I owe him about $500, from previous transactions. I have no idea where his money comes from. Once, I borrowed $30 from him on terms that I had to pay him back in Kennedy half dollar coins. My life was miserable until I did. I ended up having to go to a bank to get the coins. William is a worker. You say, "want to make a dollar?" and he says "sure. How?" I say "clean out the fireplace," and next thing I know the 8 year old is carefully shoveling ashes into a can and vacuuming up afterwards. Amazing. If I asked Luke, he would say "You know what the amazing thing is about using a bokken against a takihachi?" By the time I got done bargaining with Patrick I could have cleaned the thing myself.

We got the Playstation and I let them set it up. Of course, they knew exactly how it worked. Soon the sounds of dying samurai and spell casting Harry Potter characters were filling the house. I went to check on them. "I can almost feel this thing making me stupider," said Patrick. Luke was draped like a noodle over a chair. "It just saps your energy," he said. Later on, I kicked them out into the pool. Before that, I heard William screaming. "I didn't do anything," Patrick said. "He was pulling on something, and I just let go of it!" He was even.