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Putting the fear of survival in kids

Like any parent, I dread that I might someday need to get tough with my sons; conceivably after coming home from work to find the three of them, eyes glazed over, 30th birthdays long past, jobless left hands shoved in their waistbands, lounging on the sofa, sipping Steel Reserve, and chuckling at Jerry Springer. I mean, face it, if we procreate, we run that risk.

But, last Friday, before things even got that out of hand, I kicked my pre-adolescent sons out of the house, after I asked them to clean their rooms. I told them to clean their rooms. I threatened them to clean their rooms. To no avail; they played grab (biblical mule), causing numerous crash noises.

In disbelief, they exited the house, and for about an hour played happily, saying things like, "Let's try to remember how we did this so we don't have to clean our rooms next week either."

In the waning afternoon hours, however, my youngest son rang the doorbell. "Can we come in now," he asked, in a voice laced with innocence.

"No. You don't live here," I said, matter-of-factly.

With wide eyes, the guinea pig turned to his brothers hiding in the hedge and whispered, "I think she really means it." And the three of them trod away glumly.

My middle son sat down on the back steps and cried until he entered a contemplative state, from which the other two boys could not distract him. So they ran off, determined to live to tell the tale.

First, they gathered a variety of possible foods: crickets, spiders, beetles, ants, leaves, grass, and cat and dog food. Taste tests were performed to determine the most palatable and least poisonous provisions.

Next, they arranged lodging. In our old, leaky smokehouse they spread some pine straw on the concrete floor and used a couple of t-shirts abandoned in the yard as blankets.

Then, knowing they would need some financial stability to make it on their own, they set up a shop to sell rare and unusual merchandise like a rusty hammer, a couple of dried cicadas, five rocks, wilted flowers, and a broken flip flop. Since, as I explained to them, they didn't have an easement or a business license, I did not let them put their sign at the end of the driveway.

When the smell of dinner wafted out, their little stomachs began to rumble; perhaps spurring the introspective son to have an epiphany. And while his resourceful brothers ran off to pillage more rations and plunder more products, he rang the doorbell.

I cracked the door. "Yes?"

"Mama, I'm sorry. I will clean my room now if you let me."

I hugged him and welcomed him home.

A while later, the other two children noticed the empty steps. They rang the doorbell.

"Yes," I asked as I opened the door.

"We want to come in too."

"Well you can't. I'm not receiving visitors. I'm eating dinner," I informed them.

"But you let him in," they said, pointing past me at their brother. A whiny "why" seeped through the crack in the door.

Then, momentarily struck with insight themselves, they apologized and promised to clean their rooms.

On his way up the stairs, my oldest child turned to me and said, "We could live out there if we had to. We had things to eat and a place to sleep."

"Good," I said, "because if you haven't finished in 10 minutes, you'll need that food and shelter."

He turned and hurried to his room.

We all find ways to survive.



Web posted on Thursday, October 6, 2005











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