Resetting the family odometer
Some of my children are capable of reaching speeds close to Mach 1, on certain occasions. The 4-year-old, for example, can attain extremely high velocities when he’s orbiting the couch or being chased by one of his older brothers.This same individual, on a Monday morning, can demonstrate all the pep of a glacier or a Game Boy that’s been left out overnight in the minivan. On one recent morning, I was convinced that his socks were having some kind of Velcro relationship with the carpet, so sluggardly was he in getting out the door to preschool.I have the interesting vantage point of living in a household with a preschooler as well as a trio of teens and tweens. It’s no revelation to observe that people at the age of 13 or 14 are nearly comatose first thing in the morning. The older boy eats his cereal with all the mechanical enjoyment of a cattle cropping grass. It’s enough to make me think I could get away buying things like All-Bran or Grape Nuts – would they even notice? Are their brain synapses capable of firing rapidly enough to discern that I’ve swapped the Reese’s Puffs for a lowly form of generic Wheaties or Cheerios?But these same teens – whose pre-noon life-sign readings parallel those of the cryogenically frozen – can move at near light speed when the phone rings and a member of the opposite sex is suspected. So, too, does the presence of crinkling bags of Taco Bell cause them to accelerate like nitro-burning funny cars. So, it seems obvious that nature is part of the equation, but motivation is a big factor as well. The problem comes when their need for fast action bumps up against my own natural rhythms. I’m a lark, which is to say a morning person, which is to say that if you ask me to drive you to a far-away place – that is, beyond our driveway – to see your friends after dinner, your chances are nil. About the only thing I’ll leave the house for on a weeknight is a trip to the emergency room for stitches or the setting of a broken bone.My kids also find it annoying that I don’t respond with requisite alacrity when they’ve got a burning academic need. Usually this takes the form of a big project due yesterday or some kind of activity that requires multiple signatures, a check for $17 and a car ride to Durango like, NOW!At times like these, I am fully capable of moving into “Full Sloth” mode. As they fidget at my side, nearly late for class, I’ll have a slow, careful look at this permission form, this medical waiver, this liability release. I’ll study this project they’re about to turn in and find multiple typos or something horribly wrong with the cover page (and don’t they wish they had a dad who isn’t a newspaper editor). As I hand over the completed documents, I’ll remind them, once again, of an old adage I found on a poster in, I think, a tire shop somewhere: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” If I’m really feeling annoying, I’ll launch into a moldy parental spiel concerning planning, the lack thereof and its inherent wickedness, and the need to understand that these sorts of things would never be tolerated in the working world (even if I know damn well that they are, in spades, each and every day).I suppose it all offsets somehow, this speedometer of life. Episodes of tremendous sloth are counterbalanced by frenetic activity, and periods of medium speeds fill much of the intervening moments. Some day, when the phrase “empty-nester” is attached to our names, my wife and I will recall the light-speed moments with distorted fondness while ruing the fact that, even as time slows down, that odometer has been all-too-swiftly clicking forward.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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