Friday, August 27, 2010

Toly Hansbrough Learns To Put His Napkin In His Lap (The Hard Way)

(Editor’s Note: The life and times of fictitious multi-sports star Toly Hansbrough, who is currently competing for basketball, baseball and football scholarships from the Univeristy of North Carolina, are infrequently published here at T.A.H. Any resemblance to any person [real or imagined, and in particular the Editor/Publisher’s son who coincidentally has the same first name] is purely coincidental. These particular events, however, happened exactly as depticted below.)

We know some basic truths about parenting and our children’s behavior.

The first is that our kids are creatures of habit who find and, ultimately, maintain order in their universe via a reasonably consistent routine. Define “reasonably consistent” as you will.

We know our kids get completely out of whack the first week of school, the last week of school, etc. – anytime the normal routine is imploded.

The second basic truth we ascribe to is that, for the most part, all of our “bad parenting” is a direct result of the epic failure of all of our “good parenting.” This is a tale of just such a digression.

This is the first week of school with the added stress of early mornings, new bus stops, new classes, new teachers, new students, homework and cranky parents who are also struggling to adjust to the new more complicated routine. Add to that that systemic shock of the complete abandonment of an unstructured summer vacation with a lack-of-routine save for almost daily trips to the pool now replaced with the likes of arithmetic and a grumpy (who can blame her?) bus driver…

On top of all this, Toly Hansbrough (multi-sport superstar) is further burdened by football practice for two hours, three nights a week. Taxing at best. Needless to say he’s also concerned about recent events down in Chapel Hill involving the NCAA and the “I” word. (Investigation.)

Which brings us to the napkin.

For the past five years of his life, Toly (now 8) has been instructed to put his napkin in his lap at meal time. As there are 365 days in a year and three meals per day, we are comfortable surmising that his request has been made as many as 5,475 times by a parent or some other supervisory agent -- grandparent, babysitter, teacher, relative, friend or random adult saddled with feeding my children.

Guess what? The napkin still can’t find its way to Toly’s lap without this oft repeated request! Shocking, we know.

Now, we all have limited parenting skills, but, Toly’s Dad’s core strength is seemingly unlimited patience. Key word being “seemingly.”

Well in the midst of this stressful week, Dad’s “Stay-Cool-Omoter” was sneaking out of the green and moving dangerously close to the red. The favorite young son had a particularly bad day with his inability to accurately depict facts and his further inability to effectively listen to his parents and other figures of authority thus rendering him incapable of properly executing the instructions these incredibly wise, wonderful and caring people were bestowing upon him.

Fast forward to supper. Yes, Dad (somehow remaining calm) instructed the T-Man to put his napkin in his lap yet again.

And that’s when it got interesting.

Toly stared into his glass of milk and determined that it included a foreign object. He removed said object with his finger which he then wiped on his shirt (Fauquier Basketball Camp tee shirt, for the record) – not his napkin. (No, that was not a misprint – he wiped it on his shirt.)

Dad watched amazed and horrified. Or horrified and amazed, we’re not sure which.

Then, the Tolinator noticed a second foreign object which he subsequently removed with the same finger. Needing to remove the object from the finger yet again, he WIPED IT ON HIS SHIRT – AGAIN!

At this point, he did glance up at his father and the look he saw must have been something between “that was inappropriate” and “you should run like hell NOW!” because his face clearly registered that an error had been made and detected which would, no doubt, lead to some unpleasant consequence(s).

Here’s where the “bad parenting” comes in.

Instead of calmly explaining yet again about the use of the napkin (good parenting), dear old Dad chose an alternative tactic. He did not raise his voice. In fact, he did not say a single word. He simply reached across the counter and WIPED his dirty knife on Toly’s SHIRT (bad parenting).

Criscross-applesauce -- made a nice “X” of mashed potatoes and grilled chicken right there on the chest of Number 1 son’s tee-shirt. Hey, what’s good for the gosling is good for the gander.

Not satisfied the point was adequately made, Dad then reached across the counter and WIPED his dirty fork on Toly's  SHIRT in the same fashion.

The children were then wide-eyed and speechless with mouths agape. “Wonder what “Crazy Dad” is gonna do next?” they were surely asking themselves.

Dad’s got their attention, why stop now? So he picks up his plate and says “How about I wipe this on your shirt too?” (Add as much sarcasm as you deem appropriate and necessary.)

Suffice to say the look on both children’s faces was priceless in that “Oh My God Dad Has Finally Completely Lost It” sort of way…

The bad parenting moment passed and the frustration of asking them to do simple things over and over again was explained (again). Some headway was made when the children were asked to describe how frustrated they get when they ask each other to do something over and over with no results. This seemed to make the point in a 8- and 11-year-old sort of relatable way. (A temporary victory no doubt, but some salve for the wound.)

The next morning all was well again.

Toly Hansbrough came down to breakfast, looked his Dad right square in the eye, and calmly placed his napkin in his lap.

His Dad winked at him.

He giggled.

Mission accomplished?

Time will tell…

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