Tag Archives: Freak Out

Distraction Drama Dismay

The twitchier I get, the more inventive I get.

What with the youngest dude, Hyper Lad, starting to get behind the wheel now that he’s 15, I’m probably more twitchy then I’ve ever been when I consider having to teach this guy how to drive.

I feel like one of those short-timers from any movie about Vietnam. As the date they will rotate home gets closer and closer, they get more and more paranoid about something happening to them before they get out.

I’ve made it through teaching two other young dudes how to drive, but now that the last one is come around, I’m starting to freak out more than I ever have before.

Fortunately for me, I actually have made it through two other driving debuts so I do have a couple of tricks in my bag.

The first big trick in the bag is repetition, which is the trick I take out of the bag first. This is one trick I have been using for a long time with things like texting. Knowing I have/had three sponges sitting behind me, I make sure to loudly and often refer to the fact that I got a text, but can’t read it because I was driving. Or I will ask one of them to read aloud the text and respond.

They have heard again and again, seen again and again and again, that they should not text and drive. I get the feeling that they’re more likely than not to follow in those footsteps, if only to avoid having to hear me talk about it again and again and again and again. . .

Since the spawn couldn’t see my face while I was driving and they riding, I made sure to continually talk about how I was keeping my eyes on the road even when I had to change the radio or something similar. I recommend them getting to know their car/dashboard well enough that they don’t have to look to hit the radio buttons.

While this next step might be corny, I think it really does work. Before I allowed any of the young dudes to drive on their own, I sat them down and went over point by point exactly what was expected of them. For each point, they had to tell me specifically that they would not or would do that point. You also can do the same thing in a written contract they must sign.

Include repercussions that will occur to the young driver should he or she violate the terms of the promise/agreement. And enforce those terms.

While not necessarily distracting, one thing I have made sure they know is something that my mom made me understand. If I was ever out with friends and either I, as driver, or my friend, as driver, had been drinking, I could call my mom and she would pick everyone up, no matter the time, and never say another word about it.

I only ever called her once, but she was true to her word. I’ve made sure that my young dudes understand that as well. If there is any sign of impairment, they always know they have a free, safe ride without any sort of blowback for them. Knowing that we trust them enough that we’ll offer that kind of thing, actually helps them to do the right thing because they want to live up to that trust.

Or at least that was how I felt when I was on the other end of the bargain.

In North Carolina, new drivers aren’t allowed to stuff the car with their friends. Neither are new drivers with the last name of Jones, who live in Casa de Dude. We make it a point for our young dudes to understand that their first job as drivers is to make their way from Point A to Point B safely. Bringing along anyone else is way, way down the list.

Friends in the car can be even more distracting than driving by a 10-car pile-up of a circus truck, a shipment from a marble factory and a funeral home for mimes.

The two big takeaways from this would have to be make sure you model good driving behavior and communicate with your neophyte driver, which means both of you talk and both of you listen.

Distraction starts behind the eyeballs. Fortunately, safety does as well, so make sure there’s more room for safety.

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Baby’s Reach Exceeds His Grasp

It’s a huge day in baby’s life.

On the day the little dude figures out just what — exactly — the wriggly things on the ends of his hands are for, it marks a major turning point in his relationship with his parents.

Whereas, before the epiphany, mom, dad and little dudette were living in a state of blissful harmony, marked by glances full of love and adoration, it’s a whole different ball of goop after.

Before, you could put the little dude in a high chair next to a table and

Babies tend to grab stuff as much as possible once they realize they actually can have an effect on the outside world.
Gimme!

have him sit there blissfully playing with whatever happened to be in front of him. Which let Mom and Dad eat relatively leisurely and without much incident.

And then the little dudette gains the smallest extra bit of self awareness and realizes that she can cause change in the environment around herself. And she can do it with her hands because they — holds up hands in front of wide eyes and wriggles fingers back and forth like a stoner realizing for the first that the four fingers are like a highway and the thumb is a little off ramp and whoa! Dude! doesn’t that just blow your mind?  — allow her to grab stuff.

Even better, those two hands and ten fingers allow her to grab stuff and then throw it anywhere. Or knock stuff over. Or, best of all, grab stuff, use that stuff to throw and knock over more stuff and watch Mommy and Daddy freak out, jump up and start talking funny and blotting at their clothing with napkins.

And here’s the thing. Even when new parents accustom themselves to the idea that their little dude can now grab stuff, it still takes a while before the really understand that he can lean farther than they think and knock over stuff a really big distance away.

It happened to me. When Sarcasmo was a young ‘un, maybe a year or so, his grandmother, Kaki (who was my mom) went away for a week or so. This was during the time he discovered the wriggly things and grabbing stuff.

Kaki asked to hold Sarcasmo while we were out to eat for a friendly lunch at a Gainesville diner. I warned her about his newfound propensity for grabbing stuff. She glared at me, silently reassuring me that she managed to raise me and my sister and she knew what she was doing thank you very much you young know-it-all. Mom had very expressive eyes.

What Kaki had forgotten was that reflexes, if not used, will sometimes decay. She stood Sarcasmo up in her lap, facing the table, and having fun.

He managed to get a salt shaker and mostly full glass of Diet Coke before I could get him free from Kaki’s lap and into his car seat, which we were using as a high chair. Kaki insisted on having Sarcasmo sit next to her.

He managed to get the refilled Diet Coke and a very mean look from the waitress who had to clean it up. Again.

Even experienced parents can misjudge the reach of a newly grabby little dude. Much less those new parents who have no experience to fall back on in their panic.

And this is before we bring in poisons and cleaning supplies and the like into the equation.

All is not lost, though.

To combat a little dude’s propensity for grabbing stuff, you only need to remove from his immediately surrounding environment anything that you could grab with your arms. And lock up all cabinets with the most parent-annoying security system imaginable, and then use them.

No worries.*

Footnotes & Errata

* That was a lie. There are a lot of worries. It’s not until you get to your third or so kid that you stop worrying and begin to think you know it all. Of course, that’s when everyone around you begins to panic because they just don’t understand that a toddler juggling razor-sharp knives while riding a kiddie unicycle is just little dudes being little dudes.

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The Brightening Quiet

Sons of the South savor snowfall.

And alliteration? Absolutely!

Okay, enough of that.

Here in Charlotte, we received a small taste of the snow storm that’s been causing havoc in the midwest, the Pacific Northwest and all over the country, basically.

It’s causing havoc here, of course, but mostly because we see a snowflake and we freak the freak out. Seriously.

But enough of the whining.

No, seriously. Why are you all laughing so loudly?

Fine, whatever.

Anyway.

Walking Buzz, The Garbage Disposal That Walks Like A Dog, last night after the first day of snowfall, I found myself feeling amazingly peaceful and happy.

Yes, it was an odd occurrence. And I traced it to the environment.

I was bundled up like I was three and my mom was about to send me outside in the cold by myself for the first time. I could barely bend my elbows I was so layered. (Look, I was born and raised in the South and this is as far north as I’ve ever lived. Sue me.)

Anyway, that wasn’t it. It wasn’t the cold. It was, I came to realize, the snow.

I’d always thought it was a cliché, not based in fact, that snowfall quiets everything down once its settled. But, by golly, it’s certainly true here.

We walked in the night and couldn’t hear anything but the sound of dog tags jangling together as Buzz, The Garbage Disposal That Walks Like A Dog, continued to bite the snow, freak out, levitate while doing a 360-degree spin, land, repeat.

Eventually, he tired out and we were back to only walking. The sound of my boots squelching in the snow. . . That was the loudest sound of the evening.

Add that to the level of light in the dark and it was a magical evening.

The level of the light is my malformed and horrifyingly clumsy way of talking about the high albedo of snow-covered ground and trees. The white snow reflects back so much more light than does the ground or tree branches.

Because it’s able to reflect more light, it looks like the night is that much brighter, as if there were two light sources. As above, so below. If you will.

Even after the sun set, I could see the gray clouds, hovering above the white-draped tree branches, white over brown, arching across the new-fallen snow covering the hibernating grass in the fields.

It was a beautiful sight.

My wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Getting Cabin Fever Already, today asked me why I’m always so excited about snow. She’s not. This is the second week in a month where she’s only able to work less than three days because of the snow. Which means we’re going to have less money in the weeks ahead.

But still I love the snow. I guess it’s because I never stopped being a young dude, even deep down in my withered, blackened, cynical wasteland of a heart. Yeah, we’ll have to pay for the snow days later in the school year, but seeing that snow, experiencing the brand-new sensations in its immediate aftermath. . . It’s worth it.

I’m glad I live here in the South where snowfall is a rarity. That way, I won’t get used to it. It will remain special, something to celebrate.

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