root down

Photo by Dlemieux

My son started kindergarten today. He’s nearly six but as my wife has tried to explain to me several times, his November birthday just misses the cutoff. The cutoff has always proved something of a mystery to me, I’m not sure why. (I think it is a guy thing – MLB trade deadline, check, cutoff man, check, birthday cutoff, not so much.) Cutoff or no cutoff, today was the day, and I’m proud to report that Matthew handled it like a pro. Which I thought he would, but you never can tell with him. Our eldest is a boy who on one hand would jump off a diving board, smack a fastball with ease or climb to the rafters, but at the same time looks at dark clouds in the sky or a breezy day with deep trepidation. I guess that just means he won’t be a meteorologist. It was nice to see him raring to go as he charged onto the bus, ready for an exciting new chapter of his life. (Can you have chapters when you’re not yet 6?)


Matthew walking to the bus

One thing that I have learned in these nearly 6 years being a dad, is that just when you think you understand your kids and try to predict their actions, they go and do something screwy. (I guess that’s true for adults as well but that’s another post.) I need only look back at incidents in my own childhood for proof. Walking Matthew to the bus today, I was reminded of the uncharted path that undoubtedly lies ahead. 

I remember when I was five and waiting for the kindergarten bus at the end of my neighbor’s driveway. One morning I devised the wonderful plan to throw rocks at all the cars zooming by. I clearly remember the thrill of trying to hit those speeding cars and how the wrongness of it never seemed to penetrate my young skull. I must not have been a very good aim as the cars escaped my errant throws. Except for one. Our little game came to an abrupt halt one morning when, with a giant “Bang!”, I nailed the side of a big blue van which immediately screeched to a stop and the driver jumped out of his seat. That wasn’t a good feeling.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I never got a chance to face his fury for the next thing I knew I was yanked by the arm by my mother who’d sprinted across the yard after seeing my little exploit. I sat down gingerly for the rest of the day. The irony of this story is what happened a couple years later. Like most little boys, I always loved to trail any workers that came to our home and see what they were doing, ask them questions – basically pester them. The chimney sweep was no different, so when I asked him in the driveway what the big dent in the side of his van was, I was completely blindsided when he answered that some kid hit it with a rock. Whoops. I moseyed back to the house and told Mom the news, only to be promptly marched back out for a full mea culpa. I’ll give him credit – he took it well. I think he may have been suspicious and was baiting me for a confession, but who knows.
Ready to go

Ready to Go


The point is, looking back now as a parent, I find the whole incident very troubling. I’m confident that my mom and dad never did anything to infer that pelting unsuspecting motorists with gravel was a “good decision.” Why would young Steve do something like that and what will my boys do at any given moment that will defy explanation? I was a good kid. I’d like to say that I was lured by the suggestive wiles of the neighbor girl, but she really wasn’t that exciting. My son has heard the rock-throwing story (yet again this morning), so I feel like I’m safe on that front, but only time will tell when and where he’ll decide to jump the tracks and act like a five year old! For now I’m just glad he made it on the bus.


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