Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Story About Parenting

Clear back in mid-December of 1970, my brother Boyd drove back to Columbus from Cedar City, Utah, where he was attending the University of Southern Utah.  With the entire family gathered around the dinner table (my parents and my three brothers and me), my mother asked Boyd how long he was going to be in Columbus.  “Just long enough to get some snatch,” was his reply. 

There was silence at the table.  Even forty years later, what he said seems like a spectacularly disrespectful thing for a young man to say to his mother.  My younger brother is of the opinion that our mother didn’t understand what that word meant.  My father just said, “We’ll discuss this later.” 

I’ve thought about that exchange many times over the years.  I don’t think my father handled that at all well.  Back on New Year’s Day of 2003, I had the good fortune to be visiting some dear friends of mine in San Diego, Mark and Barbara, who have three wonderful children who sometimes call me “Uncle Kent.”  A couple days later, Barbara asked, “Who won the Air Force game?”

At that point, clear out of the blue, Mark and Barbara’s then-fourteen-year-old son Bryant Edward said, in a sarcastic voice, “Oh, look it up yourself.”  I was genuinely shocked.  First, because Bryant Edward was ordinarily a well-behaved gentleman and second, because I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to say an unkind word to Barbara.  And thirdly, because that fourteen-year-old boy was mouthing off while sitting beside his Marine Sergeant father.  I briefly considered diving under the living room coffee table to avoid being decapitated by a young man in flight.  I also considered saying, “Kid, have you lost your mind?  In the first place, you don’t diss your Mama, and in the second place, you don’t do it while sitting next to your Dad.  You’re in danger of going to the Moon without a rocketship.”  I let discussion be the better part of valor and kept my mouth shut.

After what I estimated was two seconds, Bryant’s father said, “Son…you *know*…you can *not* talk *back*…to your *mother*.  Now…what…are we going to do about this?”

I was no more than twelve feet away from Bryant and I could see the wheels turning in his head.  A few seconds later, Bryant picked the sports page off of the floor, walked across the room and handed it to his mother.  He then made himself scarce.  I waited until Bryant and his two older sisters were out of earshot and I told Mark and Barbara that, in my opinion, they could make training films on how to raise well-behaved children.

P.S.  Are you curious about the score Barbara was asking for?  The Air Force Falcons played the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2002 Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.  The Falcons lost 20-13.