Doing Your Job: A Scooter Story

Not only does Mr. Ornery love anything with wheels, he loves anything that doesn’t involve someone telling him what to do. This, of course, means that he does not appreciate the four-walled brick building called “elementary school” in which he is sentenced to six hours each day.

Last week when I picked him and the Little Guy up for their check-ups, Mr. Ornery skipped and jumped in the beautiful sunshine and said, “Yay! Thank you, Mom, for rescuing us from juvie!”

So, to encourage a better attitude during the school day, his teachers place great hope in a “behavioral chart” on which he receives a “star” for “following directions,” “staying on task,” and so forth. Mr. Ornery thinks this is a stupid piece of paper. Because I am also hoping to encourage him to shift more interest into academics, I recently decided to connect his behavioral chart with a monetary reward.

That he understands. As his allowance and earnings crept close to $40 one night, he came running upstairs to me hiding in my bedroom and exclaimed, “Mom, I can order a scooter now. Quick, get on Amazon. Please, please, please let me push the buttons and order the trick scooter.”

And so we did. Oh, how exciting it was.

This is all we talked about for the next forty-eight hours. “My scooter is coming in two days.” “When will it arrive?” “When is it going to be Saturday?” “Is it Saturday yet?”

And then the day arrived. We looked up “track package” on Amazon. It was to arrive by eight o’clock. We went to soccer and returned home right afterwards to see if the package had arrived yet. No. We out to play for a few hours at a friends’ house and returned home. No package yet. We had a late night soccer tournament and drove home at 9:30. “It’s got to be there,” Mr. Ornery said excitedly as we drove. “It definitely should. It definitely should,” I agreed, “but I would never say 100% on anything.”

Crushed. The boy was crushed.

No package on the door step. Checking Amazon, I saw that the USPS delivery person had marked, “Unable to deliver due to no access to the door.” What?!!? There is an 8-foot slab of cement patio in front of my door; that is it!

Nothing blocking the doorway (except an old scooter!)

I was on the phone with customer service pretty quickly (while walking the dog so that the boys couldn’t hear my intonation) to inform them of such foolishness. I was on for a long time regarding my displeasure at the clear lie of the delivery person, the fact that USPS would not be able to deliver again until Monday, and the sadness of my 8-year-old who had been waiting so eagerly.

The agent asked to speak to my sad child to ask him if they could send him a toy. “What would you like?” she asked. “A mini rocker,” he requested. I laughed. He wants a $300 “mini rocker” or “Fatboy” BMX bike. He wasn’t going to get that for free from Amazon, but they gave him $20 credit.

As Mr. Ornery lay quietly in bed that night venting his displeasure and sadness, we talked about how disappointments come in life. We talked about patience in waiting for the next opportunity. And we talked about the importance of doing one’s “job” to the best of your ability. The delivery man clearly did not do his job and gave a fake reason. We spoke of how people rely on each other to do their jobs. When you don’t, there likely is someone who will be sad or disappointed. We talked about school being the current “job” that Mr. Ornery has and it’s important for him to do his best at his job. We talked about how I try to do my best in my job. And as he drifted off to sleep, I thought about how challenging the job of parenting is, when the days are long and the years are short and you never really know how well you’re doing at this job. But I sure do know that my boys depend on me to try to do my best at this job. Their life, their love, their future depends on this job.

And then we waited another 48 hours until after school on Monday for the glorious scooter to arrive. I missed the joy while at work, but I did find out that the excitement lasted approximately 9.2 minutes until the glorious scooter was unusable — tiny ball bearings popping out of the handle connector.

Off went the glorious scooter back to Amazon….

Fortunately Target had one for sale!

 

 

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“Last Child in the Woods”: Living in a Toxic Environment

We are in the suburbs of a large city and in an expensive townhouse and apartment community. There is a brand new playground in the middle of the community and the pool just re-opened. And it is toxic. Every couple months, threatening notes are placed in everyone’s mailboxes that focus almost entirely around the fact that children are playing outside. The most recent mandate, “effective immediately,” is that no child shall be outside at any time without supervision.

The mandate itself doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t define the age of such children or what constitutes supervision. It stems from complaints by other tenants that there are occasionally bikes or toys left around the community. That sometimes children cross someone’s back patio. That kids are riding bikes on the dead-end lanes in the community and that someone feels their rights are being fringed upon by having to slow down.

It is exactly what Richard Louv refers to as “the criminalization of natural play.” It is the attempt to keep children inside and not seen or heard. It is the thought that parents must have eyes on and helicopter around their children at all moments. According to his report, “Most housing tracts, condos, and planned communities constructed in the past two or three decades are controlled by strict covenants that discourage or ban the kind of outdoor play many of us enjoyed as children.” (pg 28) It goes against every concept of parenting, but emerges from the adult world of entitlement. To me, it stems from a belief that an individual should be able to have full control of the environment around his or her property and not be impacted at all by others in the community.

This environment is toxic to my soul and to the way that I want my boys to grow in independence, self-sufficiency, creativity, and respect. It goes against my desire for them to develop friendships and negotiate conflict by having space to interact with other kids. It takes away their opportunity to develop responsibility and an understanding of consequences. I expect them to make mistakes and to have to deal with the consequences. When Super Tall Guy accidentally slid his scooter handle into the neighbor’s car, he shouldered some of the cost to repair it.

Richard Louv discusses the importance of spending time in unstructured play. Building a tree house brings together the skills of math, science, spatial relations and a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Exploring the habitats of wildlife engenders an understanding of the species coexisting with humans and a respect for protecting the environment.

Instead, as more children are forced to be inside due to the pressures upon parents, their natural tendency is to turn more and more to screens as a way to pass the time. The consequences of extended screen time are becoming drastically apparent. It is something I struggle with daily as Super Tall Guy has given up on the outside world and shifted towards passive entertainment. I continue to seek opportunities for him and the younger two to stay engaged in the outside world.

Clearly I can no longer foster outside play in my own housing community. Instead I look for chances to pack up the boys and head out to the nearest county park or other spaces (and I continue to look for more acreage in a house for the boys!).