Tag Archives: The Lion King

Be Prepared

When I was a younger, more fiscally solvent man I spent a year teaching in Bangkok, Thailand. I was just out of college, full of debt and pretense but largely free of stuff. Moving from dorm room to dorm room for four years doesn’t encourage a fella to accumulate much beyond tolerance for squalor.

When I moved across 2 continents and an ocean for no less than a year, I traveled with 2 big duffel bags and a guitar case. There’s something exciting about traveling light – a little scary, a little bold. Every pair of underwear you leave at home gets you closer to Rambo.

If I had it to do over again, I’d pack even less. Like towels. I brought towels. Why did I bring towels? Thailand has towels. I can confirm this. One thing I didn’t bring was a first aid kit.

I don’t think I’ve ever packed a first aid kit on a trip.

I bring this up because I was on a trip to the University of MN Landscape Arboretum recently and we’d packed a first aid kit. And we needed it.

Here’s the story – Little Man’s first grade class was on a field trip. I was given the honor of chaperoning. One of the kids to a spill and did a face plant into gravel. Bumps occurred, bandages were administered, and the day was ours

This all drove home a fact which I’d often observed but never articulated: I moved to Bangkok. Bangkok. For a year. And I did it in 2 duffel bags. Today, my family of 3 will go for an overnight at the grandparents’ in the same amount of luggage. If not more.

It’s easy to be distressed by this until you realize it’s all a matter of expectation, a matter of what’s reasonable.

When you’re an adult, traveling alone or with other adults, it’s reasonable to expect that you won’t be bleeding from your head. Unless you’re going to Syria. It’s also reasonable to expect that neither you nor your companions will poop your pants.

When you travel with someone who only recently needed two hands to show you their age, it is not reasonable to expect such things. It is not advisable. You are courting disaster. Don’t f**king do it, is what I’m saying.

You pack differently depending on what you expect. How you pack for work is not how you pack for the zombie apocalypse. Even if you’re resourceful, you want to be prepared. If MacGuyver and Jason Bourne had a kid they would have a diaper bag, at least one change of clothes, (for the kid, maybe a shirt for themselves), a wet bag, a snack, a few towels/rags, the requisite toys, and coffee just to go on a grocery run.

Any parent will testify – you don’t have to be a boy scout, but you damn well better be prepared.



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It’s Like the Water Cycle, But With Recalcitrance

I was listening to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me last night –if my nerdhood ever was in doubt, I believe I’ve just settled the argument – and they mentioned a thoroughly unscientific study declaring that 32 years is the age when most people turn into their parents.

This does, of course, coincide nicely with the age when most people who plan to have kids end up having kids. Which ends up being the take-away from this – that having kids basically turns you into your parents.

This phenomenon, I believe, is at least partially triggered by the fact that pretty much as soon as they can start to exhibit anything resembling behavior, your kid will start to remind you of yourself.

We’re about a month into preschool with the little man, and it has never been more apparent to me that he is most definitely his father’s son.

Firstly, and most obviously, he always puts up at least a token protest about going to school. It hasn’t yet escalated to full on tantrum, but every schoolday morning he declares with a tragedy possessed only by 3 year olds and tweens that he “can’t! I can’t go to school! I can’t!” Not that he doesn’t want to, but that he is, in fact, existentially unable to make the journey.

It took me sophomore year in college to be able to articulate my relationship to academics so clearly.

Really, I owe my poor, suffering, sainted mother a phone call on this one, because Monday- Friday, from preschool through to 10th grade I’m pretty sure I made a similar whine about going to school. It only ended in the 10th grade because we’d reached an unspoken truce, where as long as I kept my grades up and didn’t play hooky too excessively much I could get myself to school (or not) on my own (It was rural Iowa in simpler, non-truancy-law times).

I’m hoping that my little man’s insatiable curiosity and the Montessori educational model will eventually sync up and divert us from this course, but I harbor a secret dread about weekday mornings for the next 12 years.

As if a guy didn’t have enough reasons to dread weekday mornings. Eesh.

Another trait that preschool has turned the mirror on me with is silence. This may be a surprise, coming from somebody filling the interwebs with hilariously touching observations about life and love in these crazy times of ours, but I am generally a quiet guy. Not responding, does, for me, count as a response. As long as I’m apologizing to women in my life, I should play penitent to my Baby-Mama, because I know it drives her nuts.

I’ve developed, in the last 35 years, a skill set to let me work well in social situations, to give people the impression that I’m outgoing and charming and ruggedly handsome. But they are skills. They require practice, and take a lot of energy. I do not label myself a nerd lightly – my natural state is that of a basement-dwelling troglodyte who’s petrified of women and possessed of incredibly fast thumbs.

And this is, it seems, genetic. After five minutes of mid-snack interrogations, we’d gotten from him that he’d had a good day at school. 10 minutes later, we learned they’d gone for a walk. By the end of the day we had gleaned that he held hands with another kid during the walk, but couldn’t for love or cantaloupe get the name out of him.

And then, free of clothes and full of banana, he will go on to recount the plot of his favorite Curious George episode at length.

It’s odd how things become cyclical. Whether it’s the Serengeti or the Baltimore slums, whether it’s Elton John singing about it or Tom Waits, people come and go, rise and fall, and yet they’re eternal in a way, wearing different faces.

There will always be a Baggins in Bag End, and there will always be a kid at my table not talking about his day.

I brought it on myself.

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