Life Lesson #6


In the act of asking your parents for something — something you really want but they don’t want to buy — there is a progression before you eventually can get a yes. Still, there’re certain things, in the asking, that children should never do. And the trifecta of “don’t do’s” is don’t lie, don’t cheat, and don’t steal. These are universal and transcend any race or national origin.

A fourth “don’t do,” when trying to get something from your parents raised its ugly head at our house just that morning. Don’t ever go behind your parent’s back. This, Dear Reader, is Life Lesson #6.

My request, I thought, was totally reasonable. I needed money for a red professional Frisbee, and Dad had money. The first time I asked, he replied with a predictable, “No.” Around our house we kids had learned early on that a “no” really meant “no, not right now.” So, I asked again, and his reply and explanation was equally predictable, “No, because I said so.” Hearing this answer, I started to get excited. It was the progression I’d see many times before, and I knew I was just one ask away from my new red professional Frisbee. So, I asked again for the third and final time.

Dad lowered the paper he was reading, looked me square in the eye, and took a big breath. When my parents stopped what they were doing to look any of us kids “square in the eye,” what they said next was really important. And to add a big breath? I just knew success was at hand.

“No. Don’t ask me again. I’m putting my foot down!”

And just like that, the size ten foot came down with a loud stomp on the living room floor that seemed to shake the entire room. The paper when back up, and all hope of my new red professional Frisbee flew out the window.

Or had it?

There was still Mom. She was in the kitchen fixing dinner. Being only seven at the time, I knew immediately asking Mom for something Dad had just refused wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Looking back, I should’ve waited at least a day or so. But I really wanted the Frisbee. So, ask away I did.

To be honest, I don’t know if she was so distracted cooking dinner or if it was my logical argument that, unlike the old Frisbee that we had, with a professional one we’d be outside more often and longer. Either way, I was thrilled when Mom said, “Yes, I’ve got to get a few things. We’ll all go to the store in the morning.”

With a sense that I’d outsmarted my dad, I ran into the living room and jumped on Twin Brother Mark wrestling him to the floor. Something I would’ve done anyway, no matter what Mom had answered. Dad told us to stop, but he hadn’t lowered his paper, looked us in the eye, taken a big breath, or put his size ten foot down. So we knew he really didn’t mean it.

The wrestling match continued until Mom called us in for dinner. I’d lost the match but didn’t care. I was still a winner because in the morning I would be the proud owner of a new red professional Frisbee. That night I went to bed knowing the next day was going to be perfect. Nothing could ruin it.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

As promised, Mom took us all to the toy store in the morning and gave us each three dollars to buy a toy — a professional Frisbee cost six. Lucky for me, I had saved three dollars in my pink piggy bank and brought the money with me. Dad came home that afternoon to find my brothers and me in the front yard tossing around my new red professional Frisbee. Surprisingly, he went directly inside without saying anything. A few tosses later, I looked up just as he came outside, stood on the front porch, pointed straight at me, yelled my first, middle, and last name and then added, “Come. Here. Now!”

Immediately, my brothers scattered — and I didn’t blame them. They knew what was about to occur. A finger point, followed by our full name, and then “come-here-now” was about the worst thing that could happen to one of us.

What happened next wasn’t one of my fondest memories from growing up, but I did learn a lesson: never, ever go behind our parents’ backs again. And from that day I never did. Let’s just say it was a lesson that left an impression …on my backside.

So which one of our sweet little granddaughters inspired this story? Well, I would tell you, but The Wife told me not to. (Yes, Dear Reader, there’s a whole additional list of “don’t do’s” for adults. But that’s a story for another time.) Besides, if I told you, it would be going behind The Wife’s back.

Not going behind people’s back is Life Lesson #6. A lesson I learned a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]