Fathers (and mothers), I have sinned. I try to be an ideal dad, but I am human. More accurately, I’m a guy. Sometimes that minor detail stymies my efforts to earn accolades as “Parent of the Year.” A few examples:
A couple of years ago, a friend opened a day spa in our neighborhood. I thought it might be fun to bartend the grand opening party for them (I have no professional training, but have logged plenty of observation time in my day). The night went off without a hitch, and as a thank you, I got to keep all the leftover alcohol. This included a nearly-full keg of some really pristine microbrew from Washington State. While bottles of liquor could be conveniently shelved for later consumption, I did not have the means to store the keg for very long, nor keep it cold for more than a night.
Rather than commit a party foul that would brand me for life with the man-law equivalent of a scarlet letter, I summoned the troops (it’s such a warm feeling to know that you’ve got friends willing to drop everything to help you polish off a keg). The next afternoon, we held a grand opening party of our own on my back patio. I was bartended-out so the job naturally fell to my understudy, my then 3-year-old Marcus. We all pitched in to show him how to prime the pump, work the dispenser and tilt the cup to minimize foam. Before long, he was slinging beers around the yard like an old pro, and padding his Lego slush fund quite nicely for his efforts.
One winter my buddy invited me up to Mammoth Mountain for a weekend of skiing. He was bringing his two nieces and suggested I bring Marcus along so that the kids could all take ski lessons while the grownups hit the slopes.
It wasn’t until we got to the lodge that we found out ski lessons were only for kids 4 and above. That threw a major soggy nasty wrench into our plans, since Marcus was still 3 at the time. Dilemma. We came too far for me to spend the day making snowmen 6 hours from home. But could I make Marcus lie? And I meant that in the technical sense (Moral issues? What moral issues? Where… underneath that 10 feet of packed powder out there?). How could I ensure that Marcus maintain the charade throughout the afternoon? Think, Dad, Think!
“Hey Marcus… isn’t it funny?”
“Did you know that when you go up Mammoth Mountain, you enter the Mammoth Time Zone?”
“What’s the Mammoth Time Zone?”
“Well, you know how you’re three at home? Well, in Mammoth Time, that means you’re actually four!”
“So it’s my birthday?”
“Yeah…” (damn, he’s always fishing for a way to get new toys!)
“Yay, I’m four! Can I get a present later?”
“Yes… yes ok … ok… so in case anyone asks you how old you are, remember: at Mammoth you are…?”
I relaxed a bit.
“… but in Los Angeles I’m really three!”
“No no no… it’s ok, you don’t have to say that last part. Everyone knows what Mammoth Time is.”
That’s all the time we had to practice before the instructor gathered all the kids into one group.
“Ok kids, with a show of hands, who here is… five?”
Some hands went up. My heart sank. I only prepared him for the verbal interrogation. They must’ve orchestrated this to catch bad parents like me.
“Ok, now who here is… three?”
Holy crap! They’re good! I bet they catch a lot of otherwise well-coached kids with this reflex trick.
Marcus stayed cool. Or he wasn’t paying attention. Either way, the desired net effect was achieved.
“… aaand do we have any four-year-olds today?”
Marcus’ hand shot up! I heaved a not-guilty-verdict-style sigh of relief.
Don’t say ‘but in Los Angeles’… Don’t say ‘but in Los Angeles’ … Don’t say…
“Ok kids, let’s learn to ski now shall we?”
YES!!! My buddy and I clomped out of that ski lodge as fast as our boots could take us and never looked back. I was so proud of Marcus. Lying is bad. Understanding and properly applying time zone adjustments is just plain smart.
And Then There’s This…