Having run out of eight-year-olds with whom we have DNA in common, we took the next logical step of importing eight-year-olds belonging to other folks. Our usual kids are grown and gone. So borrowing an eight-year-old or two seemed a reasonable step. Said eight-year-olds apparently belong to friends of my wife. Good to know. Here is the first thing I noticed about living with actual eight-year-olds: It is easier to write about eight-year-olds than to live with them.
I am probably not the first author/parent to make this distinction. Actual flesh and blood eight-year-olds can wring a body out. Although I’m not unequivocal about the flesh and blood part. Because it seems certain that there must be a number of battery packs hidden under the piles of sweaty T-shirts, crumpled comic books, and dripping snorkeling equipment. No way these children were just solar powered. I am in pretty good shape – – ultra-marathons and all that – – and I couldn’t keep up with these kids for nothing. Not for an hour. Their parents arrived this morning to reclaim their eight-year-olds and I am in the mood for a nap that could last centuries.
Highlight of the visit: Eight-Year-Old Number One and I played Stratego. (The only backstory you need here is that Stratego is a board game in which neither player can see the numbers on the other player’s pieces. Think bridge. Players can not see one another’s cards.) Eight-Year-Old Number Two moved back and forth with every move. He looked at the pieces on my side of the board. Then he took a couple steps and looked at the pieces on the other side of the board. Every move. He must have made a hundred trips back and forth, covering more distance than the players in the World Cup. Board games as cardio. And this after a day of sail camp and hours of swimming in the lake in the backyard. The Energizer Bunny would put a fork in his short circuit if he had to keep up with this eight-year-old.
The only minor glitch was a cough that Eight-Year-Old Number Two developed around bed time one evening. We connected with our gracious health care provider–she and I have been friends since elementary school–drove half a mile to the pharmacy, and contributed a single-digit co-pay to obtain a medication. Within minutes, Eight-Year-Old Number Two was sleeping peacefully. He didn’t even miss sail camp the next day.
Which got me thinking. How staggeringly smooth was that evening? My health care provider takes my calls in the evening; I have a car with which to drive to the drug store; I have insurance and can easily afford a life-changing elixir; I have a stable life-partner with whom I can leave Eight-Year-Old Number Two while I pop off to a drug store two-minutes from my climate controlled home. My “attitude of gratitude” went into overdrive when I was soon ensconced in my comfy bed knowing I would get enough rest to be productive at my job the next day.
It didn’t have to be that way. I could have taken two buses across town to a pharmacy that was closed. Hard to get perfect info without money for a smart phone. Without insurance, the medication could have cost funds that were needed for rent, heat, or food. Waiting till the store was open might have meant taking off work, maybe losing my job. I certainly would not have been able to talk to a medical professional at her home. In the evening.
Maybe nobody ever felt better knowing that most other folks are worse off. But consider how hard it is to be sympathetic to parents who make these comments. All of the following are quotes from actual teaching colleagues:
- Don’t you understand how a B in eight grade English will affect my daughter’s chances at Harvard Medical School?
- You can’t give my son a detention; he might be president one day.
- My daughter got a B+ in one of her five AP classes. We are devastated. Of course the other grades are all As, but we just don’t know what to do.
- Our son was not admitted to one of the better Manhattan pre-schools. We have no choice but to move to another city.
What do all of these hysterical piranha parents have in common? Could they be suffering from terminal ‘entitle-isis’ and ‘affluenza’? Could they profit from living with an emotionally impaired child? Would they benefit from knowing that not all children are taking advanced placement courses? Should they acknowledge that their glass is indeed 99% full? Or have they just forgotten the unmitigated joy of playing frenetic, full-contact Statego?
Would right now be a good time to write down all the wonderful aspects of your relationship between yourself and your neuro-typical child? Would right now be an even better time to tell said neuro-typical child what an unmitigated joy it is to share her childhood with her?
Because before you know it, your biological kids will be living lives of their own elsewhere and you’ll have to borrow somebody else’s eight-year-olds. My advice would be to cherish every game of full-contact Stratego.