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News >  Family

Dad Daze: Kids, be careful what you wish for

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 28, 2020

Guinea pigs are one option for family pets.  (Karen Fosberg)
Guinea pigs are one option for family pets. (Karen Fosberg)

When my son Milo begged to take a Spanish class over the summer, I thought there was a hidden camera and I was part of a reality-TV show. Forgive me for wondering what was going on since for Milo, books are akin to kryptonite. I’ve tried so often to find interesting tomes in his wheelhouse about sports, music and the history of war, and he spurned the literature – written in English. And he wanted to learn Spanish?

However, Milo was as serious as the Inquisition. His request for an online class, after he bombed in distance learning over the spring, was unfamiliar. However, his tone rung a bell ever since Milo learned to speak his most common recent phrases in Spanish.

Why would I let my teenager study a new language when my Mr. Malaprop has so many issues with his native tongue? I told the kid, who looks for items in the glove department, that there are too many distractions during the summer, which is the perfect season to just drift away. Milo also is running out of fun summers. There’s nothing like being out of school from June throughout the dog days of August. I still get melancholy when September arrives.

But Milo persisted about studying Spanish. “It’ll help me with baseball since some of the kids I’ve played with primarily speak Spanish,” Milo said. His pleas reminded me of the lyrics to Metallica’s “King Nothing”: “Careful what you wish for, you may regret it / Careful what you wish, you just might get it.” It’s not just Milo. Each of my kids wished for something they might regret.

When my daughter Jillian, 21, started dating at 16, she was completely enamored of a boy she went to school with who was perfect on paper. He was Hollywood handsome with an aw-shucks, all-American look and demeanor. The charming and polite student athlete excelled in school and on the gridiron.

I remember Jillian used to write their initials in hearts on the sand at the beach. She received what she wished for, but about a month into their relationship, he changed and just wasn’t very nice to her. The capper was when the cad wrote a note in her high school yearbook about how he broke up with her. Real nice, jerk! She wished for it, and Jillian is fine. It’s all part of growing up.

My son Eddie, 18, decided twice to not play hockey, and each time it didn’t work out as planned. When he left the team the first time, they finally won a championship, but it was more than that. After two months passed, he was obsessed with getting back on the ice. He would play hockey on his Xbox and play minor league hockey so he could play as an Ice Dog, his old team.

Last year was his final season for youth hockey eligibility, and he instead opted for high school football and sustained one annoying injury after another.

“I totally regret what I wished for,” Eddie said. “I decided to play football because I was a senior, and it seemed like the thing to do. I’ve always liked playing ice hockey more than football.”

Milo’s pet requests can be filed under regrettable. Milo had to have guinea pigs. Diamonds and whatever the other one was called were, well, not a lot of fun for anyone. They didn’t want to be handled or even glanced at. It reminds me of that hilarious scene from “This Is Spinal Tap” when the enigmatic Nigel Tufnel demands that nobody even look at his guitar collection.

One day, Milo carried the guinea pigs’ cage out with Eddie and placed it on the grass. I’m not sure what happened, but they somehow escaped, and, well, some predator had a surprising feast. Goodbye, Diamonds and whomever. I wish Milo could have been more caring.

And then there were the snakes Milo pleaded for about five years ago. I’m all about pets. I’ll do whatever I can to save an animal. I enabled a pair of cats to survive by injecting insulin each morning. I made sure that a stray feral cat I adopted consumed its oral medication daily.

However, feeding a snake a dead frozen mouse each day was exasperating. I wasn’t crazy about serving up a live mouse, either. It was so frustrating. And then there was the bearded dragon Milo lost interest in after a few months. I had to make sure he was fed, but thankfully his sister Jillian saved her by creating an ideal habitat.

Jane, 11, is an outlier among my children since she asks for so little. She sits around and watches tyrannical Milo and her two other older siblings make their requests.

Her behavior reminds me of a chat I had with Michael Che of “Saturday Night Live.” The humorist, the youngest of seven children who grew up hardscrabble in Manhattan’s Hells Kitchen before it was gentrified, revealed that he didn’t make demands. “I just sat around and observed,” Che said. “Who would listen to me anyway? I think that helped shape me, who I am as a comic writer.”

I asked Jane about any wishes that she regrets. “The only one I can think of was writing a play with my friend about a girl who had cancer and all that she had to overcome,” Jane said.

Writing about what you don’t know – thank God Jane is unaware of how to deal with that crisis – is always difficult. I explained the concept to Jane, and she understands that it’s easier to write what you know.

I asked Jillian what her biggest wish was that didn’t pan out. “A dad who can cook,” Jillian cracked.

Ouch! That hurts, and sometimes so does the fare I serve. Guy Fieri, I’m not. I’m guilty as charged. I’ve done my best to feed my children and Milo’s snakes. At least my kids have survived so far.

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