I read somewhere that being a good parent, or faux-parent, means making your kids (faux-kids) do things they don’t want to do even if you (the parent) doesn’t care if they do it or not. If that’s true, C and I dropped the ball recently. To be fair to us, this wasn’t really a situation where we didn’t care. We cared. Oh sweet Jesus, we cared a lot.
C signs the kids up for stuff all the time. Sports, after school activities, all sorts of enrichment shit- basically working to turn them into well rounded young men, which is great. A little while back she pitched something called “Odyssey of the Mind” to me as an activity for T2. The kids would work in teams to come up with creative solutions to a problem. It sounded pretty cool, at least to a gigantic nerd like me. She asked if I thought T2 would like it, I said “sure” and several weeks later on a lovely fall Sunday afternoon, I found myself in the car with C and T2 headed to T2’s school.
In my head I imagined T2 and the couple of other kids who showed up, paper, colored pencils and random musical instruments spread out around them as they brainstormed ideas as to how to rescue a dragon from the bottom of the ocean or designed a Mars colony. C and I and the other parents would lounge around and have adult beverages for a couple hours out of the month while our kids got their brains on.
The organizational meeting was in the cafeteria. The cafeteria was packed. There were 15 teams, each team with 9 to 12 kids on it. With the exception of T2 and six other kids, and this is not an exaggeration, every other kid was Indian. Odyssey of the Mind, it would appear, is the Indian equivalent to football.
Things kicked off with a talk to all of the groups by the Odyssey of the Mind…I don’t know what to call him…commissioner maybe…wherein we were informed that for the first five months (five months?!) or so we would only have to meet around three hours a week (three hours?!?). Then, as the regional competition (what?) approached we’d probably have to meet a little more often than that. Say, four or five days a week (WHAT?!). Things would really get exciting because we were hosting the regional competition and teams from all over the area were going to come to our school to out brain each other, or something. I admit, by this point in his talk there was a real feeling of panic that was beginning to set in and so his voice was taking on the tonal resonance of Charlie Brown’s teacher.
My dreams of a casual activity where we all hung out, had fun and maybe got a little drunk went out the window as the other parents on our team, all who had done this before, started making up lists for who was going to bring snacks and who was going to be the team leaders and when the regular meetings were going to be. They were serious about this. Really, deadly, completely not-in-a-fun-way serious about this. No one was smiling. I’m a rookie at this stuff, but it seems like any activity for seven year olds which doesn’t involved at least a bit of smiling, if not outright laughter, is bad news. C and I looked at each other and communicated non-verbally, in that way that couples can often do.
“What the fuck did you get us into?” I asked lovingly, using only my eyes.
“I don’t know,” she answered, also only using her eyes. “Don’t worry, if it gets too bad I will kill us both.”
The first meeting ended with everybody on our team filling out the contact form and agreeing that we would all meet at someone on the team’s house next Sunday to begin planning in earnest how to mentally and creatively kick the shit out of the other teams. We left the cafeteria, all three of us a little shell-shocked.
“Sooooo,” I asked T2, “what did you think of that?”
“Boring,” he said. God love him.
The emails started right away. Several a day. They primarily concerned when we were going to have our regular meetings. The options were 4pm on Sundays, 6pm on Tuesdays or 7pm on Fridays. Voting was to be held at the next meeting.
“Surely they won’t pick 7pm on Fridays,” I said.
“I can’t imagine they would,” said C.
“I mean, that’s pizza and movie night,” I said, referring to our household tradition. “And even if it wasn’t, it’s fucking every Friday night from now until the end of time.”
“They won’t pick Friday night,” C said. “That would be insane.”
Sunday arrived (as it is wont to do).
“T2,” I said. “Put on your shoes.”
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“Odyssey of the Mind,” I said, attempting to sound cheerful.
“Oh no,” he said. “No. No. No. I don’t want to go!”
“Well,” I said. “We have to go.”
“Why?” he asked. I had no good reason. “I don’t want to. I want to stay here and play the Wii. It is boring. I don’t know any of them. I want to stay here. I don’t want to. I DON’T WANT TO!”
And the fit began. T2 is a world class scowler, and in between yelling about not wanting to go, he was scowling up a storm.
We got him in the car and C and I stood talking to each other (with words this time) over the hood.
“I don’t want to fucking go either,” I said. “But now he’s being so bad and such a pain in the ass about it, I feel like we have to go.”
“I know,” she agreed, “we can’t not go now because that rewards him for being bad.”
We got in the car and started to drive. C is driving. She normally drives like Dale Earnhardt Jr. This time she is poking along. T2 is scowling and snorting in the back seat.
“Wait,” I said, almost whispering so as not to be overheard by the resident of the back seat, “really, aren’t we punishing ourselves? By making him go? Cause we have to go too? And that sucks?”
“Oh yeah,” said C, in her whisper voice. “That’s how it works.”
We were both quiet.
“What if we just don’t let him go home?” asked C.
“You mean, like drive around for a bit?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she said. “Circle the block a bit. He doesn’t get to go home, which is what he wants, but we get out of the other thing. Maybe go to the grocery. You want to go to the grocery?”
“A lot more than I want to go to Odyssey of the Mind,” I said. “You are a genius!”
So that is what we did. We drove around for a bit, then went grocery shopping.
The Odyssey of the Mind parents were all very nice. Odyssey of the Mind is their thing, and they take it seriously. I legitimately think that is cool. I am certain that their kids are geniuses, in no small part because the parents make them be serious about stuff like this. I am equally certain that T2 would benefit from it. C and I just couldn’t do it.
We got a very nice email from the team captain (it struck me as weird that the team captain was one of the parents and not one of the kids, but that’s how it apparently works) saying she was sorry we missed the meeting and informing us that they had voted and the regular team meeting would be every Friday at 7pm.