“You still owe me an apology,” I said to my son, Zack, committing a major tactical blunder just moments before we arrived at the morning dropoff for his summer day camp.
“Humph,” Zack replied, crossing his arms tighter.
“Just apologize, Zack,” his brother, Evan, suggested.
“Humph,” Zack reiterated.
Ten minutes earlier, with sweat dripping from my forehead, I’d flung three bags filled with the day’s necessities for each of us into the car, completing step 997 of the simple 1,000-step process it takes to get out the door with children every morning.
As the car backed out of the garage with zero seconds to spare, Zack yelped, “Wait! I need my pin! The green one I made yesterday!”
“There’s no time to go back inside, buddy. Oh, okay, I’ll get it,” I said, throwing the car into park and sprinting back inside. A moment later, I emerged victorious, handing the pin to Zack and throwing the car back into reverse, then drive, with two quick motions.
As we squealed out of the driveway, he yelped, “No! I wanted my birthday pin, too!”
“What? You never mentioned anything about a birthday pin. There’s no time. One pin will have to do,” I said.
“I WANTED MY BIRTHDAY PIN, TOO!” he yelled, suddenly obsessed with a pin that had been sitting on his dresser untouched since his fourth birthday, sixteen months prior.
“When someone does you a favor, Zack, you thank them. You don’t yell at them for not guessing that you ALSO wanted another favor. You should apologize to me,” I explained.
I went on like that for the next ten minutes, until we arrived at camp, where thirty evenly spaced counselors waved thirty cars into the single-lane, one-way, horseshoe-shaped driveway – you stop the car, a counselor grabs your child, then you leave immediately, so that the next thirty cars can enter. In this way, they unload four hundred children in fifteen minutes each morning, a process that works with great precision, unless you have a disgruntled, birthday-pinless five-year-old gumming up the gears.
“Okay, guys, time to hop out! Have a great day!” I said, and Evan hopped out.
I looked into the rearview mirror to see Zack, arms crossed, giving me his stinkiest stinky face.
In front of us, the cars all pulled away. Behind us, traffic backed up onto the main road.
After a quick scan of the dashboard to make sure we didn’t have an EJECT button, I reached back with my right hand and unclicked his harness.
“I’m not goin’,” he said.
“You have three seconds to get out of this car, or you lose all screen time tonight,” I said.
A cheery camp counselor stuck her head into the open back door, not realizing that she was sticking her head into a hornet’s nest.
“Ready for a great day at camp?” she asked.
“I’m not goin’” Zack replied. The counselor smiled at Zack, then at me, then a glaze of panic spread across her face.
“One…two…threeeeeeeeeeeee,” I said, watching as Zack stepped to the edge of the door and refused to go further.
My options at that point were limited, since parents aren’t allowed to get out of their cars at dropoff time, and wrestling with your children in the backseat is frowned upon. I put my hand on his backside and gave a little push, but he held onto the door frame with his bendy kid arms. It was like trying to push Stretch Armstrong out the door.
“You lost your screen time tonight,” I said.
When he turned to protest, the counselor whisked him out of the car, shutting the door, and I zoomed off.
Step 1,000 complete. Back to step 1 in the morning.
You can take away Mike Todd’s screen time at email@example.com.