The Wife smiled and said, “Did you really think you’d win?”
She walked over, kissed me on the cheek, then patted me on the head. “You didn’t have a chance.”
Looking back, I should’ve known it was foolish even to have the conversation. But I thought if I spoke slowly and explained things on her level, our granddaughter, Sweet Caroline, would understand. Surely logic would win out in the end.
Instead, I was the one who got an education … an education about the illogical logic of a seven-year-old. We’ll start this story not at the beginning nor at the end, but somewhere in the middle. I know that may seem a little odd, but then again, so am I.
It was the start of the second day of our three-day vacation in Chattanooga, TN. That night we would spend hours walking through the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City and, if we’d been good all year, visit the real Santa in his North Pole village toy workshop located high atop Lookout Mountain.
But first we had to get past the morning, which was proving difficult at best. Having awakened earlier than her older sister, Sweet Caroline and I had already gone down and gotten our breakfast. Returning to our room, Little One was ready to get breakfast but was watching a movie on her iPad waiting happily for The Wife to finish getting ready.
Sweet Caroline sat on the other end of the couch and started to play a video game on her iPad. We could tell the game featured trains because every ten seconds, a loud, “DING, DING” echoed through the small room.
For the first five minutes, we ignored the constant dinging. After ten minutes, the “not so annoying” dinging became very much so. I asked our little redhead to please turn the sound off. And that’s when the wheels fell off the video train game, and our delightful vacation.
I’m a child of the sixties and was brought up that when your parents or an adult ask you to do something, the proper response is “Yes, Ma’am or “Yes, Sir.” Anything else was unthinkable — at least to me, my brothers, and The Sister. When my dad told any of us kids to do something, he never explained himself. We just did it. So, when I made my simple request, imagine my surprise when the response was “It’s not fair, Papa. You didn’t tell her to turn off her sound.”
After taking a calming breath, I explained that her sister was watching a movie, and the sound was so low we couldn’t hear it over the constant DING, DING, DINGING of her game. I was proud of myself for the clear reasoning. I was proud of myself for not getting upset. But it has been said, “Pride goes before the fall,” and I was about to fall flat on my face.
Obviously, my reasoning wasn’t clear enough because the DING, DING, DINGING continued. The Wife kissed me on the cheek, whispered, “Good luck,” in my ear and took Little One down to breakfast leaving me, and the argumentative little redhead, in the room alone. The DING, DING, DINGING continued.
After taking a few more calming breaths, I devised a strategy that my dad never employed. I repeated my request, and added another, “Please turn the sound down on your game. Don’t talk, just listen.”
A “But, Papa…” floated up from a tearful redhead. Stopping her in mid-sentence before she could say it wasn’t fair again, I hugged her and explained why she needed to do what I had requested.
“When I was about your age, sometimes I didn’t want to do what my parents told me to do either. I didn’t think it was fair, but I still had to do it. That was simply the rule. And my parents had done what their parents told them to do also. And one day if you have kids, you’ll want them to do what you say.”
I went on to explain how she will have bosses that tell her to do stuff that she may think is unfair, but she will still have to do it. That’s just how the world works. As the Wife and Little One came back up from their breakfast, they walked in just in time to hear, “But, Papa. It wasn’t fair you told me to cut my sound off, but you didn’t tell her.”
Totally frustrated at this point with Sweet Caroline’s illogical response and my failure to communicate, I replied, “Guess Santa needs to bring you and your sister a pair of headphones for Christmas.” Then The Wife informed me that I had been arguing with a seven-year-old for half an hour and getting nowhere.
The rest of the day we enjoyed watching the girls scaling the many walls and buildings at the climbing gym across from our hotel and then, after dinner, walking through the Enchanted Garden of Lights. The evening was ending when the girls sat across the desk from the man himself, the real Santa. When asked what they wanted for Christmas, Little One said she wanted a Hoverboard.
This made Santa chuckle as he replied, “Santa tried one of those before and you know what I found out? Santa’s too old and got too big of a belly to stand up on one of those things.”
With another hearty laugh, Santa then turned to our Sweet Caroline and asked what he could bring her for Christmas. She looked over at me then back to Santa and replied, “A pair of headphones.”
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]