When you’re abandoning your four-year-old child, it’s important to leave him with the tools he’ll need for survival in your absence: a sippy cup of water, a bowl of Cheez-Its, the remote control, etc.
“Daddy has an important meeting in five minutes. It will only last thirty minutes, but I won’t be able to help or talk to you while I’m upstairs,” I explained to our son Evan, who leaned to the side to make sure his episode of Blue’s Clues was paused while I droned on about something.
“Evan, this episode of Blue’s Clues is going to end before I get back. You’ll have to start the next episode without my help. Do you remember how to do that?” I asked.
“Yes, I know how to do it. When this one ends, I just press up and then play,” he said, pointing to the correct buttons on the remote and parroting the advice we’d gone over several times.
“Very good. Daddy’s going away now. I’ll be right upstairs if there’s an emergency. Otherwise, stay on the couch, and please don’t call for me until I come back,” I said.
“Okay,” he replied, popping another fluorescent orange cracker into his mouth. He pressed play, and though I hadn’t left the room yet, I had already disappeared.
Last week, our youngest son Zack was sick for two days, taking his turn at his daycare’s favorite game: Whisper the Highly Contagious Pathogen down the Lane. My wife Kara and I rearranged our schedules, taking turns working from home to look after him and take him to the doctor. On the third night, his fever was down, his symptoms gone.
“Finally, life can get back to normal,” Kara said, exhausted.
Then our older son Evan walked up and said, “My throat hurts.”
It was Evan’s turn to play the game. Like any good player, he put his own spin on what Zack passed to him, tossing a little strep throat in there for good measure. So we spent the next few days rearranging our schedules and taking turns working from home to look after Evan and take him to the doctor.
On the afternoon of the second day, I had a teleconference with my boss and my boss’ boss while Kara had to be in the office. Fortunately, we had a babysitter in the house, one with a plasma screen and unlimited streaming episodes of Evan’s favorite show.
“The dynamic synergy of the stakeholders…,” I began upstairs, speaking in work language, which is like normal language, except it uses more words to make less sense.
“Daaaaaaaad-eeeeeee! My show’s not working!” came the screaming from downstairs, muffled through the door that I immediately swung shut. I disconnected my ears from my brain so that I could keep talking.
“…shows that our current implementation is yielding strategic…,” I continued.
“Daaaaaaaad-EEEEEE!!!” Evan screamed. I walked to the far side of the room, putting as much distance between me and Evan as possible.
“…action items which require due diligence…” I said.
I ended the sentence, and as someone else on the call spoke, I put the phone on mute, opened the door and yelled, “Daddy can’t help right now!” and shut the door again.
Amazingly, that didn’t solve the problem.
“DAAAAAD-EEEEEE!!!” he yelled, louder than last time. If I had pressed the mute button again, everyone on the call would have been greeted by the sound of a four-year-old mourning the momentary loss of his favorite blue cartoon dog.
I took the stairs three-at-a-time, trying to fix the problem and escape back upstairs before I had to speak again.
“Evan, I told you that I can’t talk…Dude, it’s playing just fine,” I said. On the screen, the little blue dog cooed and rolled over.
“It’s not the right episode. I just watched this one,” he replied.
Hopefully, in a forthcoming episode, Blue will help explain what constitutes an emergency.
You can scream down the lane to Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.