Tuesday, June 24, 2008

First Comes the Party, Then Come the Hangover

My family and I had a great weekend.

On Saturday afternoon we all traveled up to my wife's aunt's house in New Hampshire for a party. My wife's cousin just graduated from high school, and her Mom threw an enormous party for her. There was food and drink, a few sports games played, and finally fireworks and a bonfire. Quite a time.

And a quick aside - the family softball game was a heck of a lot of fun. It started out as a serious game, but then the kids wanted to get involved, and the adults began making multiple intentional comical and ridiculous errors to ensure that every kid at least got on base. My five year old hit a home run every time just by making contact with the ball and, having never really played before, she just kept running. The adults didn't want to tag her out, so they just kept dropping the ball, throwing it to the wrong player, missing the tag, etc. And she just kept running, sometimes tagging the base and sometimes not.

Also, when the graduation girl came up to bat, and I was pitching, I intentionally beaned her with the ball. It took her brother several minutes to stop laughing long enough to give me a high-five.

We didn't leave until very late, and the kids were so keyed up after everything that even then they didn't really fall asleep on the ride home.

The next day, Sunday, they were able to sleep in a little late, but then we had another party to go to, at the home of a current friend and former co-worker of mine. It had threatened to thunderstorm all afternoon, so he decided to cook indoors. He has an enormous, wall sized television as the central asset to his home theater, and for indoor entertainment we had a showing of the Jungle Book, followed by a rousing game of Monopoly.

It was quite a weekend, and Monday we paid the price.

Most kids, when they get too much activity and not enough sleep, are miserable. Mine are no exception. They all took up temper tantrums as a hobby, and getting into fights with each other as a profession.

But the queen was my five year old.

She was in the car seat behind my wife. She was throwing a knock down, drag out temper tantrum, and kicking her feet, when she accidentally took it too far. My wife, in her infinite benevolence, was trying to comfort her so she could calm down by reaching back and asking her to hold her hand. My daughter, eyes closed and kicking, ended up kicking the back of my wife's headrest, and only missed her head by and inch.

Life, like football, is a game of inches, and today my daughter is alive because of that inch. If she had actually connected with my wife's head, I would have killed her.

In the immortal words of Bill Cosby, "I brought you into this world, I'll take you out. And it don't make no difference to me, I'll make another one, look just like you."

I have never spanked any of my children, but it's not because I don't believe in it. It's just that none of the kids has ever done anything in my presence that has warranted it. My wife says that she does not believe in spanking, and that there are always better options. But more than once, she has been pushed to the edge of her tolerance and swatted someone on the behind. Not me. I always say that if you give me a good enough reason to unleash the "Ultimate Punishment", then it will arrive for you swiftly and surely, unencumbered by either hesitation or guilt. Perhaps because of this, they have yet to push the issue all the way.

But my daughter came awfully close. Within one inch, to be exact.

As it was, I pulled over the van, yanked her out, and sat her down on the curb for 15 minutes while my wife and I sorted it out and decided her fate.

Computer time is a big deal in our house. It is carefully measured and monitored, everyone has to take turns, only so much time is available. Therefore, having computer time taken away is a big deal, too. To have to quietly sit in the living room, only a few feet away from the precious computer, while some undeserving sibling is enjoying what should be your computer time, watching them as the revel in it; I'm sure that small some part of the children would almost rather get spanked than have to give up computer time.

I advocated for three full days of no computer. My wife (again with the benevolence...) vetoed anything over one full day. She said that the way I immediately pulled her out and sat her down certainly got her attention, and that a full day with no computer would make her remember.

Was I advocating too harsh a punishment? Did my wife end up being too lenient? My daughter is only five. It's difficult to find the path to follow, to strike the balance.

As it is, we have had a few exciting days here. First comes the party, then comes the hangover.

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