I have never called my doctor at home on a Sunday afternoon to complain of a medical issue. But I could. Robin and I have been friends since elementary school. Robin’s sibling and I had lunch just the other day. I have been a guest in Robin’s house any number of times over the decades and Robin has spent many a pleasant evening in my home. Robin might not necessarily be excited to take my call when watching the Dolphin game would be more enjoyable, but the phone would be answered and my health concerns addressed.
I’m not writing this week about the advantage of being able to reach a brilliant health-care professional at my convenience on a weekend. I have covered that topic, addressed how fortunate I am to have Robin as a running buddy, acknowledged how great it is not to have to take a day off work, find child care, take two buses across town, spend the rent money to get medical care. No argument: my privilege has privilege.
I’m talking about being able to reach Robin any time day or night. Because I never have.
Because after some number of calls interrupting family time on Sunday afternoons, Robin would eventually say, “call the office,” or “let’s talk on Monday,” or even “stop calling me at home, there’s a game on!” Friendship is one thing, but nobody wants to be bothered--especially when the Dolphs might actually win one.
There is only one “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” card in the Community Chest pack. You can’t have your Kate and Edith too. (Sorry.) I could call Robin at home on a Sunday because in the 30 years that Robin has been my doctor, I never have called Robin at home on a Sunday.
Which is why I wonder about parents who go to DEFCON 1 in situations where the mention of slingshots rather than the imminent use of nuclear weapons might be the preferred form of communication. It’s hard for kids to distinguish the critical from the trivial when the same tone of voice is used for put your napkin in your lap and get out of the street, there’s a car coming!
Running past the park the other day, my running group and I listened to a parent shout Keep your eye on the ball! Keep your eye on the ball! Keep your eye on the ball! Admittedly, we run slowly these days and it takes us a little while to cover the perimeter of the ball field, but honestly on the return trip past the diamond half an hour later the parent was still incessantly yelling keep your eye on the ball!
The child with the bat—who may or may not have been keeping their eye on the ball—was seven.
The child had no idea of what “keep your eye on the ball” means let alone how to process that information. But before you can say, the seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down, that child will be needing information that they can understand and on which they should rely. Intel about reproductive biology will come in handy, but if the kid has already tuned out his parent, can no longer hear Keep your eye on the ball! Keep your eye on the ball! Keep your eye on the ball! the kid won’t be able to attend to that which is critical.
Don’t drink and drive, for example, is essential. You could ask the 95,000 people who died from alcohol related causes last year except of course they are all dead and unlikely to answer their phones. Or you could ask for the 249 billion dollars back that alcohol cost our country a few years ago. But if the kid has already learned that his parents are just noise-making, advice-spewing automatons, why would the kid bother to listen when there actually is a wolf?
At the risk of beating the metaphor to death, underage drinking is an actual wolf, unprotected sex is a genuine wolf, getting in a car with an impaired driver is an authentic wolf.
So many definite wolves. So many sensible reasons not to call Robin at home on the weekend absent a clear medical emergency. So many good reasons to enjoy playing ball in the park with your healthy seven-year-old.
Whether or not your child keeps an eye on the ball.