Thursday, December 14, 2017

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StephenVance 540I'm not much for 'Hallmark holidays' like Father's Day, and so there's never been much made about the day in my household, but I do think it important to recognize the special bond between kids and their parents, and to celebrate it, and heck, if it takes a 'Hallmark holiday', then who am I to question that?

Rather than write a thousand words about how great dads are, or about how wonderful my own sons are, I thought I would instead share one of my favourite memories in the nearly 19 years that I have been a father. It happened just a few years ago, right here in Meaford.

One of the joys of being a parent to boys, is, well, letting boys be boys.

A few years ago, I was co-habiting with a gal who also had two fine boys of similar age to my own. Yes, before you ask, our kitchen felt like a drive-thru restaurant much of the time with four hungry and growing young men constantly cruising through, sometimes in shifts, sometimes in a herd in search of whatever morsel of ready to eat food items they might scavenge along the way.

We enjoyed watching our children interact, but as any parent will know, as children transition into the teenage years, the moments to watch and enjoy them become fewer and further between.

Fortunately for us, our four boys still provided us with plenty of entertainment. And as someone who tends to generally root for the underdog, it is always wonderful to see the younger ones out-fox the older ones.

One of those moments occurred on a lazy weekend when our children were playing outside in the yard while we were working in the kitchen. Our kitchen featured a large picture window that looked out to our side yard where we spent many hours in the warm months reading during the day, and telling stories by campfire at night.

Also in the side yard was an old play shed that was built by the previous owner, likely 30 years ago or more. Inside this little shed were some bunk beds, a couple of windows, but little else. Often two of the boys would sleep out in that shed on warm nights while another slept in a hammock under the stars. The fourth child, my young son Zack, usually preferred to sleep indoors, but that certainly didn't mean he forfeited his partial claim to the play shed.

Zack assumed a quarter ownership in that shed, and on the day in question, we were about to see him stake his claim.

On that day, we looked out our kitchen window to see Zack pacing around the yard, seemingly talking to himself. Now this could have been entertaining enough on its own, but he seemed to be directing his loud words toward someone.

We soon knew who the 'someones' were when Zack picked up a large rock and placed it in front of the door – and only entrance to – the shed. Our two oldest boys, the teenagers, high school boys at the time, were inside the shed. Zack jiggled the door a bit, but saw that the rock was not high enough to block the door, so he stomped away – still talking up a storm – to find another rock.

After returning with the second rock, young Zack gently placed it on top of the first rock, and then he tested the door again.

Now, Zack quickly saw the flaw in his plan as he pulled the door outward knocking over his heavy, and carefully placed rocks.

At this point I looked toward my then partner who was with me in the kitchen and before I had my head fully turned she had already burst into laughter, as had I. What we didn't know, was that the best was yet to come.

Zack clearly hadn't noticed his new audience as he paced around the yard still barking words at the teenagers inside the shed, who were apparently either refusing to leave, or refusing to allow Zack to join in. The worst hit to a young boy's ego can be the exclusion from whatever the big boys are doing, and it was clear that Zack was determined to mend his ego.

Suddenly Zack stopped pacing. He was standing directly in front of the little door to the shed, and he stood there, ever so briefly, but long enough for me, his father, to know that Zack had just come up with a plan.

In a flash, as we stood watching still unnoticed from the kitchen window, Zack whipped open the door to the shed with one arm, and in a stealth-like move I didn't know the boy was even capable of, he reached into the shed with his other arm, pulling something out quickly and slamming the door shut.

Young Zack stood with his back leaning against the door of the shed in which the two evil older boys were trapped as he caught his breath.

Just as Zack had caught his breath, and a smile began to spread across his face, my confusion about what his plan was disappeared, because at that moment I saw the something in the hand that had been thrust into the shed – a drumstick. No, not a chicken drumstick, a wooden drumstick, which Zack quickly jammed into the latch on the door, preventing it from opening.

With his chest puffed out, Zack resumed his pacing in the yard, and his barking at the older ones became louder and louder, as our own laughter inside the kitchen also became louder.

Now we could hear banging coming from inside the shed, and the muffled voices became louder as our two teenagers realized they had indeed been trapped by the smallest member of the family.

From inside the kitchen, as we saw the windows on the shed moving as the older boys tried to plan an escape, we knew we had to end the fun.

As Zack paced back toward the shed, we knocked on the kitchen window.

Zack's head snapped up and toward the window, and he stopped right in front of the shed door. In yet another uncharacteristic flash of quick-thinking and physical speed, his right elbow flew into the air behind him, and at ten years old, he was just tall enough to be fortunate enough for his elbow to have come to rest atop the door latch, blocking it from our view, while his other hand flew into the air with a wave as an oh so innocent smile beamed from his angelic little face.

With his elbow firmly leaning on the shed door, with the evidence of his activities hidden from our view, Zack waved again, shrugged his shoulders, and giggled. Zack knew from our laughter that we knew what was behind his little elbow. He shrugged again, and then he turned around and like a good boy, removed the drumstick from the latch.

And then he ran.

Happy Father's Day, everyone.


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