I’m supposed to be the adult.
I’m expected to take the high road when it comes to my children, and avoid drawing from my strong desire for counter play. I’m supposed to understand that children are just that, and I should act according to responsible parenting standards.
But, I tend to go out of my way to agitate the young people in my life. It’s my therapy.
I wasn’t always this way.
For years, I bit my tongue when a 5-year-old would pour the proverbial pee down my back and insist it was raining. Or when a 10-year-old would get me dressed down like a soldier gone AWOL right in front of the troops because she caught me drinking from the milk carton. Unfortunately — for them and me — such double-crossing antics have only become more commonplace as my children have aged. And so has my spitefulness.
Not so long ago, I received a voicemail from the high school STEM academy counselor.
‘Hi Mr. Holland,’ the gentleman said to my voicemail via speaker phone. ‘Christopher came by my office this morning and said that you and Mrs. Holland cannot afford the $200 enrollment fee for his dual credit course … I can give you an extension, but we’ll need that fee or else we cannot enroll him this semester.’
After hearing the message, I felt exactly how one should feel — when such a message comes from a co-worker … A man with whom I interact on a regular basis. Floored. Embarrassed. And wanting to smack my son into the next day.
The original conversation with Chris went more like this:
‘We’re going to pay for this course,’ I told him as he rolled his eyes. ‘But we cannot afford to be dropping $200 if you are going to sit in there and play grab-ass.’
‘I get it Dad,’ he said, frustrated.
‘Well, you got it last year and the year before that … yet I never received my notice to attend your National Honor Society induction ceremony.’
‘OK!’ he countered.
‘Good,’ I wrapped it up.
Christopher also has some culpability for the contents of a recent conversation with our lawn guy. But not nearly as much as I do, as I learned.
‘Just worry about the front,’ I instructed Tony before he tackled the job for the first time.
‘Just the front?’ he confirmed.
‘Yeah,’ I replied. ‘Chris can take care of the back yard.’
‘Sort of like he took care of the front?’ he asked rhetorically, laughing as he spoke.
‘I know,’ I said. ‘I’m a crappy parent.’
‘No,’ he said. ‘But you need to work some overtime on your job so that you can afford me to mow the back yard too.’
As it goes, Tony is an old friend. Our children were in Cub Scouts together and now both boys are high school seniors. He knows me. He knows our boys. And his oratorical prowess allows him to let one know how the cow ate the cabbage with only a feigned sentence, or two.
Our 5-year-old grandson also recently got in on the act of embarrassing us at any cost.
We were expecting a crowd and Catherine did a quick but thorough cleaning of the front part of our house. (This came at the cost of not being able to walk through the bedroom without stepping on something, but that’s another essay.) The wood floors shone almost to their original gloss; the dust on the end tables was safely sucked away to the vacuum cleaner bag; and the simmering apple-scented wax had the living room smelling like an orchard.
I was in the kitchen preparing snacks while Catherine sat on one of our couches speaking to a guest. Then, all of a sudden — bang!
If you’ve ever heard a firearm discharged inside of a structure, you know how deafening it is. Not to mention, it scares the hell out of you.
‘Why you little son-of-a—’ I blurted out without thinking.
‘What was that?’ Catherine interrupted, leaping from her seat.
I’d caught only a glimpse of the boy running down the back hallway as the smoke concealed him. The smell of sulfur was a dead giveaway.
‘Kaiden Wescott Holland!’ I yelled. ‘Get your little butt in here! Now!’
‘What was that?’ Catherine frantically repeated herself.
‘It was a damn firecracker!’ I growled. ‘Remember Chris spending $80 of his paycheck on firecrackers? Kaiden must’ve found the stash!’
‘How did he light it?’ she asked.
‘There’s a candle burning in the bathroom,’ I answered.
As Catherine began calling on Alexandra to complain about lighting a candle in the bathroom, I had my sights set on the boy. Our company, meanwhile, sat silently in our ‘red’ room.
‘I ought to tan your little hide right here and now,’ I barked at him.
‘I didn’t do anything,’ he cried.
‘You didn’t light a firecracker?’
‘No! I didn’t!’
With that, he began screaming hysterically and running down the hallway toward the apparent safety of his bedroom. Instead of chasing him down — which came later — I calmly walked into the living room toward the guest.
‘Can I get you something to drink? Something 80 proof, perhaps?’
If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. Hawkins at The Underground Writer for editing this piece.
There’s a world of difference between the curries of Thailand and the more common Indian versions. Though both feature some similar spices, Thai versions include more fresh herbs and aren’t nearly as fiery as their Indian counterparts.
Thai Shrimp & Eggplant Curry
1 – Lemongrass stalk, smashed
2 – Garlic cloves, smashed
1 – Galangal root piece (about 1 inch)
1 – Ginger root piece (about 1 inch)
1/4 cup – Fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
1/4 cup – Cherry tomatoes, halved
4-5 – Thai Basil leaves, torn
3 – Kaffir Lime* leaves, torn
1 TB – Chili garlic sauce (or Sambal Oelek)
1 TB – Fish sauce
1 TB – Thai red curry paste
1 TB – Low-sodium Soy Sauce
2 tsp – Fresh mint leaves
2 TB – Oil, divided
1 – 14 oz. can, Coconut Milk
1 lb – Thai Eggplant**, quartered
1 lb – Shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 – Bell Pepper, sliced into 1-inch chunks
*Substitute 2 tsp lime zest
**Substitute Italian eggplant
In a 2-qt. Saucepan over medium-high heat, saute lemongrass, garlic, galangal and ginger in 1 TB oil until fragrant – about 1 minute. Add next 9 ingredients and coconut milk. Simmer covered over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and allow mixture to sit for about 15 minutes.
Strain mixture through a fine sieve, discarding the solids. Bring liquid to a light boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. (You want to reduce the sauce somewhat.)
In a wok or deep skillet, heat 1 TB oil over high heat. Add eggplant and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add pepper and continue to stir fry for another minute. Add coconut milk mixture to wok/skillet, then lower heat to medium. It should immediately come to a boil, then taper slightly.
Cook mixture until eggplant and peppers are crisp tender – about 5 minutes – stirring regularly. Add shrimp and continue cooking until shrimp are pink, about 2-3 more minutes.
Garnish with chopped green onions and/or cilantro, if desired. Serve with Thai Black Jasmine (pictured) or any other rice.
Makes 5 servings.