I rode to Long Beach to see my grandkids yesterday and to yamp, a/k/a yard camp. They think I am a pretty fancy grandpa, showing up with a tent, a tarp, plenary dispensation to watch hours of Ultraman Tiga (Guts!), and new Hot Wheels.
The rest of Long Beach sees a raggedy homeless man on a bicycle, but I’m not dancing for that crowd anymore.
Last time Ringoro wanted classic Hot Wheels; Kohaku, two years younger, wasn’t picky. As soon as I got there, mom and dad dashed off on a date. Remember how that was when you had little kids? You were always completely exhausted, and the minute the babysitter showed up, you were gone in a puff of smoke. Even a trip to the grocery store was an excuse to get lost and wander around killing time until you had to go back to the mayhem.
We put up the tarp first, each kid taking turns fighting with the other over who got to pound the stakes. I finally resolved the dispute by giving each kid 10 whacks. I had also figured out the way to solve the problem of the Hot Wheels and to kill some time, which was to take them to Target so that they could choose the cars they wanted for themselves.
Their neighborhood Target was giant, it was a huge, so big that they wouldn’t let you in if you had a full set of teeth. So I was golden. The other awesome thing about this Target was that it was a solid mile walk, which meant the boys would get tired out on the way there, and would be tired after running around in the store, so that they would be more manageable.
Note to self: do not ever develop any strategy with little children that depends on them getting tired before you do.
It took 34 hours and a Monday to get to the Target. Kohaku insisted on walking along the curb, and both boys discovered numerous holes underneath trees, and trash, and leaves, and other things that are infinitely interesting to fresh minds.
We got to the Target, but not really because it was on the far side of a vast parking lot. Everyone was tired now, especially me, but fortunately there was a shopping cart at the edge of the parking lot. I bundled in the boys, both of whom were more than happy to get off their feet and be pushed. It looked like it was going to be quite a successful shopping voyage.
“One car apiece, got it?”
They nodded vigorously and obediently. All that shit went out the window the minute we hit the toy aisle. Of course it’s not a toy aisle, it is a giant toy store within the department store. They dashed. They ran. They jumped. They scampered. They squatted on their haunches and stared longingly at all of the giant, expensive, magnificent toys that we were not going to buy.
Time came and the time went. Finally I told them that they had to pick a car and we were going home. Kohaku reluctantly chose a car. Ringoro boldly rolled the dice and chose a giant box with nine cars in it, a nine pack.
“No,” I said.
He then began the second phase in the gambit, which was a tantrum. It was impressive, long, high pitched, and quite convincing.
“You can have one car or no cars.”
Kohaku saw where this was going and clutched his toy tightly. Ringoro doubled then tripled down.
I put them back in the cart, went to the checkout, and we started home. There was a lot of crying and unhappiness, trust me.
About halfway home I reflected on the lesson. It was a hard one. Some people never learn it. And I felt terrible. The lesson?
It’s not my job to teach lessons. It’s my job to spoil them rotten. If they want the nine pack, get the fucking nine pack. They will remember a gentle and kind grandfather a hell of a lot longer and they will remember lessons taught by a grumpy old man. In their tiny lives they already have so many lessons, so many teachers, so many edges of reality that are sharpening and hardening the older they get.
Learn to say yes, learn to leave the teaching to others. That was the lesson they tried to teach me. I am a slow learner, but I think this time I finally got it.
We watched TV extra long last night. Ultaman Tiga whupped ass.