Friday, March 5, 2010

169 days to Bar Mitzvah: Friday musings

We got our invitations back from the printer. Six months in advance. They are all in lowercase, like mine were in 1978, except for where we screwed up and made the first letters of the Jawa’s name capitol. Please don’t notice.

This weekend we have no Bar Mitzvah to attend, which is a good thing, because on Tuesday, I had to take the Jawa’s one and only suit to the drycleaners. The hem needed to be taken down an inch. That’s right; while I’ve been watching myself grow out, the Jawa has been growing up.

This morning, the Jawa forgot to bring his saxophone to school. Yesterday, it was his lunch. I completely understand how frustrating it is to constantly be forgetting stuff. Eventually, he’ll have to come up with a plan – lists, something – to cover for his natural tendency toward forgetfulness.

His solution to this problem was to call me at work. “Dad,” he said, “I forgot my saxophone.”

“Well, I didn’t drive today. You’ll have to call Mom.”

I think I heard him growl involuntarily on the other end of the line. His anger was growing, replacing his shame at forgetting something as large and hard to miss as a saxophone.

Ten minutes passed and the phone rang again. “Mommy’s in meetings,” he said, his voice a strangled wail. “Can you get Tristen (our carpool partner) to bring it for me?”

Here I paused. I needed to, lest he know what I really thought of that ridiculous solution. When you’re twelve, I guess, it’s perfectly logical to ask someone who isn’t your parent to get in their car and drive to school with your saxophone. He doesn’t yet know the particular parenting rule that says ,“Parent A is only responsible for repairing his own child’s screw-ups. All screw-ups done by other children are the responsibility of their parents, i.e. Parent B.”

“We can’t do that,” I said.


“Because we just can’t. That’s not how you do things.”

“Fine!” he thundered. “I don’t care, anyway.” Click!

Yes, my son, who once sat on my lap while getting haircuts, who was moved to tears when I picked him up in the toddler room at daycare after being gone for a week, that same son hung up on me.

I sat there, shaking my head slowly.

I felt better after hearing from Sandra Bullock. Her luck with the enraged child had been no better than mine. “After I told him I couldn’t bring his saxophone to school,” she told me, “he just kept saying, ‘Okay, thanks for helping me out’ over and over.” I think I got off easy.

We’ve been trying to figure out ways for him to learn the consequences of his actions while still keeping him safe and happy. Could this be a good example, as stated by S. Bullock? My guess is that he went into the band room and told his teacher that we wouldn’t bring his saxophone to school. We’ll have to keep trying.

Yesterday, I did laundry. I’m all over laundry lately, churning out two loads every Tuesday and Thursday, roaring back from my low point of a month ago, when I sent two black pens through with the colors. Those days when huge piles of laundry threaten, blob-like to take over your home? They no longer exist for us as long as I’m kicking laundry’s butt.

The first load was whites. The second was colors. Between the two, I only came up with one pair of boxers for the Jawa. Had I lost a pair? Was there still a pair in the hamper? It had been two days since I’d done laundry. There should have been at least two pairs of boxers, even if the Jawa had worn the same pair during the day and to sleep.

Later, my worst fears were confirmed. He’d only worn one pair of boxers from Tuesday to Thursday. Worse, Sandra Bullock said that her Sunday loads of laundry had only turned up one pair from Friday to Sunday. We teamed up to present to our son a unified wall of disgust which he found somewhat amusing.

After I finished being disgusted, I thought back to my own teenage years, particularly the ones that took place after I started college. I remembered contests to see who could go the longest without a) doing laundry, or b) wearing underwear. Even though I appear to you today as a fully-domesticated middle-aged version of myself, I, too, flirted with grossness as a youngster. I take back the mantra – “What on earth would possess you to wear the same underwear two days in a row? – I chanted repeatedly for most of last night.

Which doesn’t mean that I wasn’t on him like a hawk this morning. “Did you put on new underwear? Are you wearing the same t-shirt you wore yesterday?”

This morning, I had to call some business owner about an ad he’d bought in our newspaper. Since the management team doesn’t care if I’m happy, they assigned me to write a series of “advertorials” for an upcoming special section in the paper. They also insisted I “interview” the advertisers instead of just getting information from their web sites.

Fine. So I spend Thursday calling all of these people, who are, to a man, confused, taken aback, not sure of what to say and then end up emailing me press releases or nice, coherent outlines of what they’d like me to write about. Today I called Superior Automotive, because the instructions I’d gotten said to call them Friday.

I knew I was in trouble when I asked the woman answering the phone for “Jessie.” “She’s not here,” said the woman who later turned out to be Jessie.

Turns out Jessie didn’t really care that I had been pushed unwillingly into doing this, that my real job was writing sardonic columns about real estate, that I had an advanced degree in creative writing or that, at times, I am a good father. Jessie wanted to vent. She’d been badgered by our newspaper repeatedly, even though she’d told that saleswoman, TO HER FACE, that she didn’t want to advertise.

How difficult is it to think of yourself as a misunderstood artist when you’re on the receiving end of the kind of diatribe usually reserved for telemarketers? Extremely.

As she ranted, I held the phone away from my ear. I shook it a few times, threw it up in the air and caught it. I jumped back on to say, “Well, I’m no happier about this than you are…” but she kept right on going. Finally, she took a breath, then said, “Who told you to call me?”

I was more than happy to tell her. If I could have driven over there to Superior Automotive, picked her up and delivered her directly to our sales staff, I would have. Instead, I gave her a name and quietly hung up the phone. Then I thought about taking a shower to get the sales funk off of me, but decided that maybe I’d just wear the same t-shirt and boxers for two days instead, to recapture the youthful feeling I’ve been lately lacking.

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