This time last week the boys were starting a new school year. Ian started first grade. Elliott started third in a brand new school, Gandy Elementary. The first thing I noticed when Katie shared the first day of school pictures above was their hair. It looked like the boys had actually devoted time shaping it into something. I don't know exactly what that something was, only that whatever it was wasn't what it used to be: get out of bed and rush off to school completely unaware and unconcerned with where their hairs might be hanging out that day. Or if they'd even brought them along at all.
It can't be a good sign can it? Surely this means they've set their eyes on one of the little girls in their classes who over the summer suddenly became worthy of a comb and some styling gel. And next weekend their sights will be set on my car and fifty bucks. I don't mind admitting that's where my mind raced off to.
That is until Katie sent me this text message below:
The "in" in her text refers to Siri's misspelled and clearly soon to be expelled Ian, a quote Katie captured while driving Ian to school on just the second day of the new school year. Nothing brings you back to the here and now quicker than realizing your 6 year old son isn't dreaming about girls at all, but instead formulating the true meaning of getting kicked out of school. As if the length of the sentence is the part of getting kicked out of school he most needs to understand. Or fear.
But that's our Ian. Where Elliott seems to just generally accept getting kicked out of school is a road you don't want to go down, Ian seems to pause and say, "not so fast on ruling this idea out brother." Let's at least allow ourselves the opportunity to collect all the information before we rashly dismiss a possible extension to summer vacation. And lest you think I favor one of these ways of thinking over the other, when I read this text, much before I could stop and then ultimately scold myself, I was smiling with a bit of a warped sense of pride in Ian's "thoughtfulness."
The truth is both boys are very capable of examining the "what's in it for us" angle of life. I remember coming home earlier this summer and finding both boys excitedly engaged in some form of slightly organized and mostly productive chaos throughout the house. I was so confused by this, Katie had to translate the scene for me.
"They're doing chores."
"Why," I asked, appearing as dazed as if I'd just met a Mike Tyson uppercut.
Katie answered, "I told them if they demonstrated they could be responsible, the chances of you letting them get a dog would improve." I asked her if they were afforded full disclosure, that even if that was remotely true, the chances would only improve to be on par with the chances of Vegetarian Times Magazine featuring me on its cover.
Katie assured me they were aware of this. What she didn't assure me was that my opinion carried any weight at all in this adventure. (The kindest one-word description I can offer for what eventually took place).
Little did I know at the time Katie was doing what she does so well. Researching and shopping. The internet is the greatest enemy of any salesman wanting to unload a foolish sale on my wife. Then, once she identifies the perfect buy, she goes all in. And in the case of the dog she and the boys had been searching for - very quietly I might add, and with every effort to avoid the word secretly - they chose to go all in together a couple of weekends ago when I went out of town.
That's when Katie posted the photo below. The photo of Fritz. The rescue dog she and the boys had quite coincidentally planned to visit while I was out of town. And just to make sure she had plenty of support for the Fritz visit, she posted this picture on Facebook. What ensued was a flood of support for the puppy and a tsunami of borderline harassment toward the dad that was resistant to bringing a dog into our lives.
The next step was less secretive. It had to be. When the rescue organization wants to meet the dad of the soon to be rescued's family you sort of have to tell dad their coming to visit, even if for no other reason than to make sure he's fully dressed and not sprawled across the couch watching Cujo when they show up.
You know how this story ends. Fritz and handlers came to visit. Dad was dressed. Television off. Two boys made over a puppy in a natural way that made it impossible to call our house anything other than the perfect home for Mr. Fritz.
Saturday Elliott came to me and says, "Dad, when you heard Fritz was coming to visit, you didn't seem too excited, but now that he's here you seem OK with it."
You need to understand, Elliott is always very in tuned with people's feelings, either because he's reading them or concerned for them, which will one day develop into a wonderful gift I know will touch lives. In this case, I think it was more out of concern than perception. So I had no choice but to tell him the truth. I told him that nothing ever equals the kind of smiles I saw on his and Ian's face when they were playing with Fritz. And if Fritz was the source of those smiles, it was very hard not to be excited about him. Elliott took that in like he always does, with a fair amount of contemplation. Then, with a face filled with child-like sincerity, he said, "Thanks dad."
You're welcome buddy. You too Fritz!