O K, everybody. Stand up straight, establish a little eye contact, and repeat after me: “There’s nothing to do.”
A little louder please: “THERE’S NOTHING TO DO.”
Here we are, a Sunday in July, and that’s the second most common phrase heard throughout New England. The first, of course, is “Cordero’s a pig.” And third place is quite predictable: “But, Daaaaddd (or Mommmmmmmm), I’m booorrrrred.”
It’s amazing. Just a couple of weeks after the conclusion of school and my kids are starting to resemble Timothy McVeigh, the way they sit around like total saps, outraged because I won’t stay home and amuse them all day long.
I mean, if you added up the cost of all the bats, balls, gloves, Rollerblades, Beanie Babies, and other junk tossed in the garage, you could balance the budgets of Sweden and Finland and bail out Mexico with the surplus. You could outfit six expansion teams in the National Hockey League with the debris off the driveway and still, “THERE’S NOTHING TO DO.”
A typical suggestion: “Why don’t you read a book?”
A typical response: “I did … in March.”
Trying to motivate them with stories about what you did during the summer when you were their age is stupid as well as demeaning. By the time you finish, they look through glazed eyes at you like they think you are so old you were an eyewitness at the Council of Trent.
And why not? After all, a typical summer day when I was their age went like this: Wake up. Leave house. Come home at some point. Go to bed. Wake up again. Do same thing tomorrow.
Between age 8 and 15, I thought my mother maybe spent July and August in Ecuador because I never saw her. It was so long ago that parents were unafraid to let kids go to a playground or a sidewalk by themselves because all we did - simpletons that we were - was play baseball or stickball in the street.
And when we got tired of playing - which wasn’t often - we were busy (and this is incredibly politically incorrect) killing Germans, Japs, or Commies. Soon as we won the war, we’d retreat to the drug store for a Coca-Cola that cost 5 cents and sneak a peek at Confidential magazine.
After that we might go upstairs to watch “Superman” or “Amos and Andy” on Mr. Fogarty’s black and white TV set. That was fine with him because by 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, he’d have lost three out of five rounds to Jack Daniels and would be out like a light, dropdead drunk.
After dark, we’d hang around and hope the newlyweds on the third floor across the alley might forget to pull the shades. Or, we’d grab a neighborhood cat and toss it in the path of some dog on the prowl. This was before Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger got married and took a blood oath to put pets before people.
Swimming meant cracking a hydrant, pretending you liked the nerd whose parents had grass and a garden hose, or biking 6 miles to a swamp that the EPA would now declare a toxic waste site. But it wasn’t fun unless you got so sunburned you could cook hash and eggs on your back.
Today, parents figure playgrounds are for perverts or crack dealers. And kids are so programmed they can only play sports in some organized league where nobody ever wins but everyone gets a trophy. You fall down or run like a complete putz and some well-intentioned adult will hand you a plaque because they don’t want any child to suffer a loss of self-esteem. Go in almost any child’s room today and you see that by the time they reach age 10 they already have more awards than Junior Griffey.
Some kids play Little League. That’s something to do, right? Believe me, it’s a nightmare because Little League only works when the kid goes four for four - EVERY GAME - the team wins, and the park is 10 feet from an all-time great ice cream stand where you blow 63 bucks on cones that are still stuck to the seat of your car halfway through hockey season.
Basically, your kids want to suck you into some incredible guilt trip over the fact that you go to work when it’s hot. They don’t want to play with any friends; they want to play with you, and, besides, it’s amazing how many of their “friends” apparently leave home for the Marine Corps Reserve between the close of school and the start of September. They’re simply gone!
So, the only answer is a pre-emptive strike. Do to the little … uhh … darlins what they do to you, and do it before they can open their mouths. This morning, as soon as they wake up, look at them and say, “Know what? I’m booorrred.”
See what happens. And if it works, call me, because it’s only July and I’m already desperate.
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