Just before 8:00 a.m., the first argument of the day was well underway at our house: which one of our granddaughters would control the remote for the television.
The second argument happened moments later, even before the first had been fully resolved: who would choose what program to watch.
With an almost endless number of channels and thousands of programs for kids, I must admit the choice about what to view is mind-boggling. Growing up back on Flamingo Street, the decision about what to watch was much easier.
At our house we had one black and white television, and it was limited to whatever Mom and Dad wanted to see. There was one channel that broadcast cartoons for three hours Saturday morning, and that was our time. Hard to fight over what to watch when there’s only one TV in the house and only one channel with cartoons.
As our two granddaughters sat down for breakfast, the argument intensified with no evidence that they would be able to find a solution. So being the kind and wise Big Papa that I am, I found one for them.
Thinking back when my three brothers, The Sister and I argued around our breakfast table, I remembered some of the ways my parents came up with to settle arguments and decided to do the same. They worked then, so they should work now. Welcome, Dear Reader, to the Flamingo Street way of disarming summertime arguments.
First: the grand take away. Growing up back on Flamingo, whenever one of us kids argued over a toy, my parents had a brilliant solution. They would simply take away the item being argued over and walk out of the room – problem solved.
With that wisdom flowing through me, I calmly walked over, took the remote, tossed it in a drawer announcing, “No television this morning.”
What happened next was instant … and loud. Apparently, my parents’ brilliant solution to resolving arguments between us kids had lost a lot of its brilliance over the last fifty-plus years.
“Papa! We’re just talking. Now what are we going to do?” Ignoring this question, I asked what they’d like for breakfast. And that’s what started the third argument of the day: what they did and didn’t want to eat.
Whenever we argued over what we wanted for breakfast back on Flamingo, Mom had the perfect solution. I decided to do the same.
Second: reading is fundamental. Placing a banana, bowl, spoon, glass of milk and cereal box down in front of each, I responded, “There. Now you have something to read and eat.” Their response to Mom’s “perfect” solution was anything but perfect.
They said, “Papa, we’re not back in school yet,” then started arguing over who would eat what cereal.
After breakfast they fought about who would brush their teeth first, making up beds, and what clothes to wear. When they started arguing about who was to get their hair fixed first, Big Papa had had enough.
It was 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, and I was done. The way things were going it was going to be a very, very long day. Finishing up hair, I wondered how in the world I was going to survive. Then I thought, How did our parents survive through such days?
That’s when I remembered another early Saturday morning from long ago, and everything made sense. Suddenly I now understood why my parents said what they said and did what they did when we all were fighting. It was the best way they’d come up with to solve any summertime arguments. Mother Nature.
Third: let Mother Nature handle it. “You kids go outside and play. Don’t come back till dinner time.” During those seven magical years us kids spent growing up on Flamingo, our parents used that statement many times. Their objective was for us to play so hard that when we got back to the house, we’d have no more energy for fighting. It worked so well back then, I decided to try it now.
“I’ve had enough! You girls have gotten on my last nerve. Get outside and play and don’t come back till dinnertime!” I screamed this … in my mind while packing drinks and snacks.
“We are going outside,” I said nicely, “and we’re going for a hike.” During our hike in the woods, the Girly Girls delighted in watching a lake full of mud turtles swimming over to meet them, lost count who caught the most baby frogs, and fought over who’d be the line leader and who would have to be in the back.
After two hours, they were done with hiking, so we headed to the local sandwich shop founded by firefighters for lunch. Over lunch they still had enough energy to argue (about what I never really found out) so I decided they still had too much energy to return home.
Growing up back on Flamingo, I remember that climbing up and down boulders and trees really wore us out and decided it was time for the Girly Girls to go climbing — minus the trees.
Fifteen different rock walls in the local air-conditioned climbing gym each reach fifty feet to the ceiling. There are four different walls equipped with special self-belaying safety harnesses so climbers can climb without the fear of falling. And parent/grandparents can sit and watch from benches far below.
If we had something like this back on Flamingo, we’d have spent hours here. The Girly Girls did just that. During the drive home, they ate their snack and were too tired to argue. When we got home, they played with their toys without arguing. When supper was placed in front of them, they didn’t argue about the food – they ate everything.
After bath time and watching a little TV, by 7:30 p.m. our Girly Girls were begging to go to bed. They slept all night. Mother Nature had sapped all the arguing out of them — just like she had done for us kids back on Flamingo.
Soon it’ll be back to school time. Between classes all day, homework and then soccer practice, there’ll be little energy left for arguments. But that still leaves the weekend. Thankfully, Mother Nature is always ready to help out, and the climbing gym has extended hours.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]