Craig texted me on Wednesday and asked if I had room in my car for the terrarium. Actually, that’s not quite the way he phrased it. I think he proactively made a statement: “You have room in your car for the terrarium, right?” Actually the thought caught me a little off-guard. Surely he didn’t have the expectation that I’d transport William’s salamanders to our house when I stopped to pick up the kids on Thursday.
Actually, it wasn’t just the inconvenience. I don’t know what the terrarium weighs, but it has to be really heavy. Add to that, it is also fragile. Glass breaks. More importantly, salamanders have a strange diet. I think William feeds his earthworms and crickets. Most importantly, salamanders are salamanders. No, this was not something I’d eagerly opt to do, but how do I say, “No?’
Maybe it’s a flashback to my childhood, but in the midst of adolescence I remember resolving that if I ever had kids, I’d look for reasons to say: “Yes” to whatever they wanted to do. I always had the best laid plans for things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go and I hated the experience of being told “No”. For that matter, I still do.
Perception becomes one’s reality. Consequently, my dad often turned out to be the bad guy. Whenever I wanted to go somewhere or do something that was a stretch beyond what I’d been permitted to do before, Mother would always say, “You’ll have to ask your dad.” That never gave me much hope that I had a snowball’s chance in July for him to say: “Yes”. When things got elevated to dad’s level, chances were slim to none that it was going to get a thumb’s up.
I wanted to do it differently for my kids. Somehow in the process of parenting, I remembered my resolution. I remembered my resolution, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to “throw caution to the wind”. Consequently, I said “No” more times than I said “Yes”. When you stop to think about it, kids can come up with some pretty hair-brained ideas.
On the other hand, shouldn’t it be natural for grandparents to say: “Yes” instead of “No?” My grandparents never let me get away with murder, but I could generally write my own ticket when it came to staying up later than my normal bedtime or eating junk food instead of whatever was served for lunch or dinner.
Actually, I was in a quandary with Craig’s request. I called the General. Instead of asking her what I should do, I explained to her why we weren’t keeping the salamanders. It was simple. We couldn’t keep them. For one thing, we were keeping Andrea’s dogs this weekend. Without pausing for her to say anything, I asked: “Do you have any idea how long it will take for the dogs to have salamanders for dinner?” The General response was somewhat patronizing. With an air of “how stupid can you be” she said: “I saw Craig’s text message. He was joking.” How did she know that? Maybe I’m as gullible as my mother used to be. You could playfully tell her almost anything and she’d never question the validity of what you were sharing regardless to how outrageous it had to seem. I breathed a sigh of relief.
As I was traveling from Houston to Cat Spring to pick up the kids on Thursday afternoon, I telephoned home. The General said she and Lilian had been to the grocery story. She mentioned in passing that Lilian had brought Coco, her dog, to our house for the weekend. With an air of “I can’t believe you let that happen”, I reminded her that we have Andrea’s two dogs with us for the weekend. The General also has a Yorkie. I’m not real good at math, but that is four dogs. I started to tell her we needed a license as a kennel to have that many canine creatures at our house. What was she thinking?
I was late getting the kids picked up. The freeway outside Sealy had a terrible traffic accident on IH-10. Consequently, traffic was backed up and I was about forty-five minutes behind schedule. Jenna met me at the door with a question: “Granddad – Is it okay if we take Daisy (rescue dog) with us? I was in a state of disbelief. How could this be happening?
I wasn’t going to tell her “No”, but I was less than thrilled. “Let me check with your dad”, was my response. Surely he would have the good sense to know that a house full of kids and a house full of dogs could make an old man like myself a little nuts. I can handle the kids anytime. Five dogs – “heaven help me”! We are operating a kennel.
I mentioned to William that I was pleased that his dad was joking about our taking the Salamanders. I told him I really didn’t want to have to tell him: “No”. The kid is quick. He smiled and asked: “Does that mean we get to eat in your car?” I’ll let you figure out my answer for that one.
Like I’ve said repeatedly, “I don’t always get it right.” I was wrong about the five dogs. Things couldn’t be going better. Barnabas, the General’s dog, tends to sequester himself in our closet. He’s not big on mixing it up with big dogs. To date, there haven’t been any dogfights. The kids couldn’t be better behaved.
The most trouble I’ve had has been subtle redirection from the General. I came into the house yesterday morning around 10:00 a.m. I had been working in the yard for about three hours. I was expecting: “Atta Boy Don – Thank you for working in the yard!” Instead what I heard was more closely aligned to: “So, you’re doing yard work wearing a dress shirt! I guess if you ruin it, you have about 20,000 other dress shirts you can wear.”
Obviously, it was all hyperbole on her part. Besides that, how do you ruin a dress shirt with a weed-eater?
All My Best!