When you’re a father and you’re planning a fun-filled family activity, you have to approach it like a pro golfer lining up a putt.
So when I decided it would be a good idea to gather my crew together and join my electric co-op’s team at the annual Komen 5K Race for the Cure, I had to pause for a moment, take a deep breath and plumb-bob the situation.
Like Rory McIlroy on the 18th green for the title, grim-faced, squinty-eyed, carefully calculating distance, wind speed and slope, I had to run through my own list of critical calculations.
Such a sequence usually includes schedule coordination, time en route, traffic conditions, travel expenses, admission fees, parking fees, precision weather forecasting, and the most important consideration of all: will there be restrooms – no, even more important to some in my family – will they be clean?
Not just, is there a chance they will be clean, but am I willing to personally sign a sworn affidavit they will be absolutely sanitized and completely uncontaminated, like the event hosts should be obligated to build a separate germ-free facility just for us, we’ll be the only humans to ever use it, then they’ll tear it down after we leave and build another one for our exclusive use the next time they find out we’re going somewhere.
At any rate, after eyeballing the plumb-bob, I loosened up, took a few practice strokes like the pros do on TV, and I drew it back and gave it a rip. Not only did I miss by a wide margin, but my ball went scorching past its target, across the green, through the fringe, down the apron and into the drink. The crowd gasped. Mumbles and moans of bitter disappointment could be heard.
The problem arose when my 13-year-old daughter, the Baroness of Balk, balked. Right on cue, she automatically shutdown when she heard my voice crackling through the air, “Hey, we’ve got a free Saturday! Why don’t we get together as a happy family and…wah-wah-waaah-wah-wah-wah-waaah.”
She immediately adopted her default posture of resistance, using her greatest powers of imagination to conjure up a zillion reasons why at least one of us must absolutely stay home and that particular someone really needed to be her.
We could all lose our lives in a fiery interstate car crash on the way and there’d be no one left to feed the dog, and how tragic would that be for a poor little innocent dog like ours to lose its entire family and spend the rest of its lonely little life longing, yearning, weeping little doggie tears for a family that will never come home again. If only one family member could stay back, safe and sound, there to take care of that precious little pooch.
Or one of us could tragically snap a femur during the one-mile not-so-fun-run and need medical attention and possibly air transportation to the ER, which you know is very expensive and even with a good health care plan would still require substantial out-of-pocket expenses and could create a strain on the ability to save for college, and taking the risk of having to rely on student loans to acquire a degree that probably won’t end up paying for itself in the marketplace anyway just really isn’t a wise strategic financial decision, in the long run.
Or aliens could zoom down from the cosmos looking for the perfect subjects for their cruel intergalactic experiments and determine only the Gibsons are a suitable match and we could all get beamed up and flown into the deepest recesses of the galaxy and transformed into puffs of putrid purple plasma and spend the rest of our existence floating around in test tubes being observed by creepy Gorkian compound eyeballs.
Along with the still unaddressed porta-potty question, these were just a few of the reasons she shouldn’t have to go. Depending on how much time I had, she’d be glad to share some more.
Finally, I said, “Fine, just stay home.” And then I saw that thing I hate, nay loathe, most of all. After hearing all the whining and wailing with these tales of woe, I saw from across the room the faintest of movements, ever so slightly, just a hint, the left edge of her mouth curl upwards just a half-tic or so, the corners of her eyes lift just a tad: a 13-year-old’s victory celebration, like an NFL touchdown dance, subtly revealed.
“Okay.” And back she went to her Minecraft game. Frankly, I was just glad she didn’t say, “Like. Like, okay, like. Like….like, like-like.”
Then comes my 10-year-old son’s turn. He didn’t even know what the term “5K” means, but he heard the word “race” and exploded like a Tex Avery cartoon character, flapping his feet, pumping his arms, convulsing in waves of unbridled excitement, his eyes all buggy and popping out, “Aaaah-ooooh-gah, aaaah-ooooh-gah!!”
“What kind of race? How long is it? Who do I have to race against? Where is it? Is it on grass or concrete? Can I bring a friend? Which one of my friends is slower than me?” And by far the most important for him, “Do I get a trophy?” Completely unconcerned, by the way, about where the porta-potties are posted.
I had to hose him down and explain to him that they call it a race, but it’s more of a fundraiser and social event than a sanctioned competition. Then I got on the web and showed him pictures of last year’s race. There were people dressed in pink tu-tus, crazy hats, green faux-hawks, people eating jambalaya.
Then, in a matter of seconds, he went from fearing he was going to have to strap on his sneakers and line up against a bunch of ringers, to thinking this whole thing just might be beneath his dignity.
Turned out he loved the 5K and has his aim toward the next race on tap, the Get Your Rear in Gear Run to support colon cancer research. He heard there’ll be a huge walk-through colon where you can pretend you’re a piece of poop. For a 10-year-old boy, it doesn’t get much better than that.
As for me, I’ll dispense with the porta-potty jokes…at least for now.