Now Playing: Keep On Smilin’, by Wet Willie. “Keep on smilin’ through the rain, laughin’ at the pain, Just flowin’ with the changes, till the sun comes out again.”
I’ve blogged before about my life being a song. I met a real-life Beauty School Dropout. I’ve lived a song from West Side Story. And one by Skynyrd. (More about West Side Story another time. Not sure I’ll ever tell the Skynyrd one, though. Maybe in the memoirs.) And one from Led Zeppelin.
That one would be Dancing Days, from Houses of the Holy, a really underrated album (and that’s how I bought it back in the day, on vinyl). Here’s the key verse: “I told your mamma I’d get you home, but I didn’t tell her I had no car. I saw a lion he was standing alone with a tadpole in a jar.”
Nope. Never saw a lion with a jarred tadpole. But back in the day at the University of the People (I think this was over Labor Day in 1976, but the old memory isn’t too clear on the details of all this, which might be for the best), I did tell a gullible mom (whom I’d met all of about 30 minutes earlier) that I’d get her daughter home to Rocky Mount if she’d let her stay with her friend in my dorm. I didn’t have a car. But her friend and I did manage to get her home Monday night, thanks to another mutual friend – who wasn’t crazy about making the trip but did it anyway.
At any rate, it was perhaps the worst example of Bad Parenting I’d ever seen – until I became a parent. Disclaimer: Nothing that follows should be considered disparaging to the parenting abilities of my wonderful and supportive wife, who is a tremendous mom. The incidents were without question my responsibility.
One instance of my Bad Parenting came last week, when I allowed the kids, and myself, and Karen, to get so sunburned at the beach. It wasn’t that we didn’t use sunscreen. We used the spray kind and got all blotchy. Then we kinda had to even it all out (I know it was stupid, especially for someone who has been cut more than a dozen times for skin cancer – all the most benign kind.)
But I can top that with two incidents that also occurred at the beach. A few days ago, I talked about our trip to Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, 11 years ago. But I didn’t talk about the incidents that landed me in the Bad Parenting Hall of Fame (which I’ve got to believe would have a broader base of fans than the NASCAR Hall languishing these days in Charlotte. Maybe it needs some more members of the France family in it to draw those fans).
Incident No. 1 happened within the first five minutes of our arrival. There was me, Karen, the boys and Lauren and Nicki. Austin was 4, Garrett was 1, Lauren was 11 and Nicki was 8. So you can see – I hope – that I might have gotten a tad distracted. Distracted enough to close the automatically locking door behind me after taking the first suitcase in. With the keys on the kitchen cabinet. And Garrett in his infant seat on the kitchen floor.
Yikes. Now I’m a pretty fair lock picker and door opener. But I couldn’t budge this one. We got lucky though. Karen went to the realtor’s office. No one was there but they’d left a number, and they had a spare. So we got in with little damage – except to my nerves and ears.
So you’d think I’d be extra alert from then on. Really careful. Leaving nothing to chance. But you’d be wrong. About three days later, we were down at the beach on a typically busy day. The towels and chairs were five or six rows deep that day. We took Austin and Garrett down to the breakers so Garrett could cool off. We got him settled and headed back to our quilt. The girls said they’d keep an eye on Austin. And they did. For a couple of minutes anyway. Then he said he was going back to the blanket, too.
Only he didn’t. And when Lauren and Nicki came back about 20 minutes later without him, we were frantic.
Karen went in one direction down the beach, I went in the other – all the while getting more worried. It finally occurred to someone in our group to check at the lifeguard station. And there he was, sitting in the chair with David Hasselhof. Safe and sound, having an adventure.
We made it through the rest of the week without incident. And despite how hard I looked, without any sightings of Pam Anderson.
“It behooves a father to be blameless if he expects his child to be.” _ Homer