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Friday, October 21, 2005 

Turn the Page...

My son is 12 years old. He is developing his own styles, opinions, views and just plain developing. I feel that I have been bestowed a great gift & honor in being able to watch him grow (both upward & outward), and only hope that I can guide him to become an honest & productive member of society. So far, so good.

My wife and I have worked hard to instill good decision-making skills in him and his sister, and it has paid off. I'm not saying we've done the perfect job, but I think we've done a hell of a lot better than some parents.

A good example is his taste in friends. I have only had a problem with one kid he used to hang out with, but that wasn't because he was a bad kid. He just whined way too much. He's an only child, and when he doesn't get his way, he throws a fit. That's fine in a 3 year old, but 12? Come on, now. In any event, we don't see the kid much anymore since we moved away from that neighborhood, so that's a bit of relief.

Then there's Frankie. We call Frankie our "third child". He's a good kid, and quite the antithesis of the whiner. In fact, at one point, Frankie and the whiner even clashed for whatever reason (the whiner didn't get his way, if I remember correctly). Fortunately, things turned out that he became favored with my son over the whiner. Eventually, you'd hardly find the two apart, walking the neighborhood like they owned it, and for all I know, they did.

We came to be very familiar with Frankie, over casual discussion during many meals he shared with us. We came to know his manners (impeccable, I might add), his tastes and habits, which included carrying around a little black case.

On many occasions, I would find Frankie and my son engaged in a ruthless battles between G.I. Joe and Cobra for supremacy over the tree saplings in our front yard. The result was always the same - G.I. Joe eventually won. Unfortunately, that didn't translate to preferential treatment. In the end, all of them were put to rest for the next battle in that little black clase. During the summer months, the case became home to an assortment of water guns, water grenades, etc.

A couple of months ago, my wife and I returned home to find the case laying under the kitchen table. This was odd, as Frankie always had the case with him. My wife picked it up, noticing that it seemed a little light. Generally, it was jam packed with toys, which would have made it a little heavier. Out of sheer morbid curiosity, and half wondering if the case had outlived its purpose, she opened it. The fact that there was something in there didn't surpise her half as much as the actual contents did.

It was the June, 2004 issue of Playboy.

We just kind of stared at each other for a moment. We had known this day would come, but were nonetheless caught completely off guard.

I decided not to say anything to my son, at least for the moment. I needed time to collect my thoughts, and decide how I would handle this. I wasn't mad - just totally unprepared. I waited until the next day, when my son returned home from school.

He followed his usual pattern: walk in the door, get food, watch t.v. When he settled in to an episode of C.S.I., I came down the stairs with the magazine. He didn't immediately realize what I was doing until I had tossed the Playboy onto the coffee table. He knew the gig was up, and his entire demeanor suddenly reflected the abject horror and defeat.

I proceeded to deliver the spiel I had practiced several times the night before (and in the shower that morning, and in my head during the meeting at work...). I didn't go off the deep end. I figured it would be pointless, and would only push him into hiding shit from me. So I calmly explained to him that I didn't think he should be looking at this kind of stuff at his age.

"When you're older, I'll buy you a subscription." I offered. "But right now, you need to think about being a kid, and doing kid stuff. Save this shit for later." As a matter of fact, I had already decided to stash the magazine. I planned on presenting it to him on his 18th birthday.

My spiel probably lasted less than ten minutes. To me, it felt longer. I was worried about rambling, but wanted to be sure that my point got across. Through the entire thing, he sat quiet. His eyes rarely left the floor. When they did, it was to give me a quick glance. His shoulders remained slumped the entire time. Normally, he sits & walks with his shoulders high, almost with an air of arrogance.

He didn't say much during the ordeal, only speaking to answer my questions.

"Where did you get this?" Apparently, someone down the road had moved, leaving it behind in the trash. I could tell he was being honest about everything, and tried to show him that I respected him for that.

When it was over with, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was thankful it was over with. This was probably the second hardest thing I've ever faced as a father, the first place position being occupied by "Having THE TALK" with my son. I had already conquered that one almost a year before.

Realizing that I had a ton of shit to get done, I decided to end the conversation on a positive note, and make one more attempt at showing him that I respected his thoughts. I asked him if he had anything else he needed or wanted to say, and emphasized that I was working hard at being there for him when he needed me. As parents, my wife and I try to allow our kids to talk to us about anything and everything, with openness & honesty.

He paused for a moment, and then raised his eyes to me. I still can't figure out if his reply was a statement or a question:

"I guess you want the rest of them".

Excellent storytelling.

I remember being his age and finding myself in similar situations. It's totally embarrassing. That's cool that he was honest about it.

I went through the same thing at 6, but I found my mom's penthouse. (Long story) I'm a huge fan of Playboy now, and I try to pick up an issue here and there. The neighbours should have been more careful with their magazines. I have kids on my street and I make sure all naughty magazines are recycled at the bottom of the bin.

My son is going ot be 8 very soon.... I so do not look forwrd to moments like these... Yikes.

man oh man oh man. good storytelling, good dad-ship.

Ahahahah

That last line made me laugh.

18?! Wow, you drive a hard bargin.
C'mon... 14? 15?

Hahaha, that last line was great. Your son rocks.

And you did a great job as a parent. Hats off!

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