I picked Daniel up Friday afternoon from cross country practice. He plopped down in the passenger seat, bag in his lap, a smile threatening to take over his face.
“What’s so funny?” I asked. Daniel grinned and shrugged. I asked if he had a good day at school. Another grin and shrug. I asked if he wanted to stop at the corner gas station, get a bottle of orange Fanta before heading home. Grin. Shrug. Finally I asked if he had any homework. This was apparently the question he had been waiting for.
“No,” he said with a laugh,” but you do!”
One of his Language Arts teachers sent home a blue page addressed to parents. “You know your children better than I do. Please tell me in a million words or less about their passions and their strengths. How do you think their story will be written in the future?” Wow, I thought to myself, it’s been a long time since I had to write a theme for school.
“You really should sit down at the kitchen table and do this right away,” said Daniel. “Otherwise you’ll be working on it at 3:00 in the morning before school on Monday.” I took some comfort that – despite outward appearances – Daniel had actually been listening to me all these years about homework. I sat down and thought for a few minutes while Daniel set up a game on the Wii.
“You don’t have to mention Oscer,” said Daniel suddenly from the family room. Oscer is a stuffed blue dog. He’s been Daniel’s sidekick since Kindergarten. They used to go everywhere together. Lately I’ve noticed Oscer is more of a recluse; he only plays with Daniel when they are alone together.
“Isn’t he your prized possession?” I asked innocently.
“Yes, but – you know – you don’t have to write about that,” said Daniel. “And you don’t have to write about when I was a baby.”
“Aren’t you losing your game?” I asked. Police had Daniel’s car surrounded. He reset something and was off to the races again. I put pen to paper.
“Daniel, how do you spell ‘goofy’?”
There was a screech of tires from the family room.
“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll just get the dictionary. I make you look up words before asking for help. I should do the same.” Daniel was clearly focused on his video game, not at all watching me from the corner of his eye as I looked up various words – ‘diaper’ and ‘naked’ – and jotted them down on a sheet of notebook paper. I was leafing through the pages, looking up ‘booger’, when Daniel finally snapped.
“What on Earth are you writing about me?!” he demanded. I handed him my paper.
Daniel is a good kid. He has many strengths. However, he falls for Dad’s practical jokes all the time.
Daniel tried his best to scowl, but he kept smiling instead. Finally he laughed. It was the last laugh, by the way, as I didn’t finish the actual theme until 3:00 Monday morning before school.