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Body-Checks and Chicks

Fisher will body-check you. At Saturday soccer, for which he is newly enthusiastic (no more imaginary tummy aches sidelining him), a boy trips him during a three-on-three scrimmage. He face-plants in the mud. Standing up, he holds it together for about three seconds before bolting across the field in tears to Daddy. Daddy and Auntie Jen buck him back up.

D: Fisher, I know, but let’s get back out there one last time before soccer is over, okay? Can you do that for me?
F (still crying a little): But, that boy did that a-purpose.
D: Oh, I don’t think so, Fisher. I think he was just running for the ball like you were. And your legs tangled. That happens in soccer. Can you just go back out there for the last minute or two?
F: But, he did that a-purpose, Daddy.
D: Fisher, he was just trying to get the ball. Everybody wants to get the ball, and…
F: But, he did that a-purpose.
D: Fisher, no, I don’t…
F: Yes, he did.

Daddy has to walk him back over to his coach, and together the two coax a few kicks of a ball and a smile out of him. Fisher back in the saddle, Daddy returns to the far sideline, and during the subsequent “scrimmage,” Daddy spies Fisher walk right by and deliver a body-check solid enough to get the tripper’s attention and subtle enough to avoid the coaches’ notice, playing it pretty well…um, if they weren’t both four or five. The kid is fine, of course, just a little warier of Fisher. Auntie Jen assures Daddy that sometimes an intentional foul is just the thing. Daddy files the incident away for future “discussion.”

On Monday morning, the kids visit yet another pumpkin patch, this time with their kindergarten classes. Daddy is constantly on edge as a gaggle of toddlers reach in a large box to grab and hold little baby chicks. “Not too tight, Bailey.” “Be gentle, now.” “Don’t turn them upside down.” “Keep them over the box.” After the rest of the crew moves on, Fisher stays with it. He spends the next ten minutes trying to help a two-year-old unaffiliated with the class capture and hold a chick gently enough. The child’s French-speaking mom smiles to Daddy at Fisher’s efforts and attention: “So gentle.”

Yah, sure, in the right context, definitely, so, um, gentle.

Backsliding

Thursday sees some serious backsliding. The prior three days had little angst and no crying from Fisher at kindergarten drop-off. Smooth sailing. Daddy starts to relax, and then…Thursday morning. As soon as the bell rings, Daddy watches Cory run to line up for class, forgetting in her eagerness to say good-bye, much less to kiss good-bye. But, Fisher grabs Daddy’s leg, which is never a good sign.

D (squatting down): Fisher, you are going to have a good day, now. It’s time to go to class.
F (kissing Daddy): Okay, Daddy.
D (kissing him on the head and standing back up): Buh-bye, Fisher.
F: No, Daddy, wait! I need to kiss you on the head!
D (smiling, bending down, other parents eying the scene): Okay, Fisher.
F: No, Daddy, take your hat off, so…

Daddy takes his baseball cap off, and while the other parents smile, Fisher kisses Daddy on the top of his bare head. “Bye, Daddy.” Daddy makes it around the corner, wading through a growing throng of older elementary school kids, whose bell won’t ring for another fifteen minutes, when…he hears hysterical crying. Daddy turns. Fisher is running through the kids, crying. “Daddy!”

Daddy bends down again, hugging him. Fisher is bawling against Daddy’s shoulder.

D: Fisher, what’s the matter?
F (struggling): Daddy, you forgot to kiss me on the head.
D: No, Fisher, I didn’t. I kissed you on the head, remember?
F (crying for a minute): But, you didn’t let me kiss you on the head.
D: Fisher, yes, you did. I took off my hat, remember?
F (a few minutes later): Daddy, I just want to stay with you.

Daddy gets him somewhat calmed down and to class. His teacher gets him peeled off Daddy and somewhat resigned to his fate. On the walk home at the end of the day, when Daddy asks Fisher about the morning scene, Fisher takes a new angle: “Daddy, someone just patted me on the head when I went into the classroom, and that, eh, er, uh wiped your kiss off of my head. And, I didn’t like that, Daddy. I needed another kiss.”

Fisher’s teacher pays a little extra attention on him, sends pictures to Daddy during the day to show that the initial anxiety fades, and helps Fisher write notes during the day so that he can get what he’s feeling out and move on. There are other tricks to try, but for the moment…ugh.

Ducks on a June Bug

Plop. Daddy inadvertently drops a dollop of peanut butter on the floor while making the lunch sandwiches. Cory and Fisher break from cereal shoveling to glance over.

D: Boston! Quincy!
F: Daddy, is peanut butter bad for doggies, like, eh, er, uh, grapes?
D (Quincy having arrived, standing at attention, eying the dollop, Boston having not bothered): No, Fisher. Dogs loooove peanut butter. If you want to get a dog to eat a nasty-tasting pill, you can put a couple things around that pill to be sure that the dog will eat it. One of those things is peanut butter.
F: You just stick the pill in the peanut butter, Daddy?
D: Yep. Look at Quincy, she’s on this peanut butter (calling up a faux southern drawl) like a duck on a June bug.

They laugh. Daddy taps his foot. Quincy pounces.

C: What’s a ju bug, Daddy?
D: A June bug, Cory. It’s a little brown bug that hops and buzzes around. Do you know why it’s called a June bug?
F/C: No.
D: Because it starts coming out in the month of June. Not in May or April, no, no. Not until June.
C: And ducks like June bugs?
D: Oh, yah! If a duck sees a June bug, it can’t wait to eat that little bug! That’s why you say (repeating the drawl) “like a duck on a June bug.” For example, if I put a bowl of popcorn and bowl of caramel to dip it in, would you stop what you are doing to pay attention?
F (smiling at the thought of one of Papa’s treats): Yes!
C: Daddy, can I have some pop…
D (exaggerating): See! If I put that popcorn and caramel on the table, you two’d be all over that mess…(southern accent) like ducks on a June bug!

They laugh.

D: If I let a squirrel loose in this house, those dogs’d be all over it (southern accent) like ducks on a June bug!  (They laugh.) Now, you try it. Fisher, can you say, “duck on a June bug”?

F: Duck on a June bug!
D: Okay. Now, give us an example of when Daddy or Cory would be like a duck on a June bug…

Pause.

F: If I put some “Cookie Don’t You Want Some” on the table, Daddy’d be like a duck on a June bug!

They belly-laugh. Daddy joins in.

C: My turn! (Smiling.) Daddy, if I put a lemon cake on the table, Daddy’d be eating it like a duck on a June bug.

Everyone laughs.

F: My turn…if…

They were all over this exercise like ducks on a…

Books

D: My own daddy used to read to my brother and me a lot, just like Papa and Daddy read to you.
F: What did he read to you, Daddy?
D: He read “The Lord of the Rings,” chapter by chapter.
F: What is a chapper?
D: It’s part of a book.
C: Are the rings pretty, Daddy?
D: Yes, they are pretty, Cory. They were made of gold. And the elven rings had jewels in them.
C: Prettier than…
F: Gollum just bit that ring off of, er, eh, uh, that boy’s finger, right, Daddy? And he just fell into that volcano, right?
D (shocked at the seemingly random leap): Yes, he did, but let’s not think of Gollum right now.
C: Can you read that ring book to us, Daddy?
D: Yes, I can, but only when you are older. It’s too scary and too complicated for…
F: Like Harry Potter. Daddy, I want to read Harry Potter, but I am just too little, right, Daddy? And I want to see that Harry Potter movie, Daddy, but it’s too scary, right?
D: Right. Everything in good time.

Every third paper sent home from kindergarten stresses the importance of reading. Read to them. Repeat the same books. Let them see you reading. Let them read to you, even if the story doesn’t match the words. Draw connections. Let them read the same book to you over and over and over. Confirm understanding. The most important thing anyone can do as a parent (presumably after unconditional love, etc.) is to exalt reading. They have library visits and will be allowed to bring home a book in a red bag every week or so. Read that book. Tout the bag. They’ll have periodic book fairs. Buy some books. In fact, you can buy some books for the library and for the classroom. And so on.

On a Saturday night, Daddy busts in at 9:30 to find them, two hours after bedtime, together in Cory’s bed, with as many books as are under Cory in this picture, scattered all over the bed, the two of them apparently having “read” through them together. Given her interest in reading anything remotely resembling a book (catalogs, mails, scribbles on paper) to Fisher or Daddy and his interest in getting to Harry and Gollum, there should be no doubt that the “emphasize reading” box has been very firmly checked.