Y’all know I like to have a good laugh every Monday, here at More Cowbell, right? In honor of that tradition, I’m going to share the funniest parenting story I’ve ever heard.
Any of you who’ve ever hung out with twelve year-old boys know that when smart mouths were handed out, the “tween” boys were first in line.
Their hormones are flowing faster than their brains and nine times out of ten, a 12 year-old is a mouthy demon. It takes parents with a dash of scary and a dash of genius to keep up with these boys.
I used to be close family friends with a man we’ll call David, and his son, who we’ll call Brian. This is their story, in all its glory. David was one of the best dads I’ve ever seen in my life, and well able to stay ahead of his kids, as you’ll see.
One day, during a huge home remodeling project, David rounded up all three of his children for a trip to Home Depot.
It was summer in Southern California and the two younger kids came running out to the car in shorts and t-shirts. Twelve year-old Brian came out of the house in jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt.
The conversation between father and son went like this:
David: Brian, you can’t go to the store in that sweatshirt. You need to go change.
Brian: Dad, I’m fine! I like this sweatshirt. It’s cool.
David: It’s 90 degrees outside, Brian. CHANGE your shirt, please.
Brian drew himself up to his full height, straightened his sweatshirt with quite a bit of dignity and said, “Dad! I’m twelve years old. I think I’m old enough to decide what I want to wear.”
David stared at him long and hard (a less hormonal kid would have run for cover.)
But Brian was a 12 year-old in a “cool” sweatshirt so he just stared back, full of sass.
David: You don’t care that the people in the store will wonder WHY you’re dressed like this on a hot day? You don’t care that they’re going to look at me like I’m a bad father because I LET you leave the house like this?
Brian shrugged his shoulders. “This is what I want to wear.”
David said, “Really.” He pinned Brian with one more long stare, but the kid wasn’t budging. Finally, David said, “O-kay, son” and got in the car without another word.
Brian’s two younger siblings looked at their older brother like he was on crack and started whispering in the back seat.
As predicted, once they were at Home Depot, three separate people commented on Brian’s attire:
- Son, aren’t you warm in that?
- Are you sick? It’s 90 degrees out!
- Aren’t you dying in that sweatshirt?
And even though he started sweating at the end of the 2nd aisle they walked down, Brian doggedly insisted he was fine.
Like any father worth his salt, David said nothing more about the sweatshirt and quietly plotted his revenge.
Fast-forward to an afternoon in October…
Brian bolted inside his front door after school, yelling at the top of his lungs for his dad. It was his first parent/teacher conference in middle school and he was all fired up. “DAD!!! Are you home? Hurry up, we’re going to be late for my teacher meetings. Da-a-a-a-d!”
David strolled down the hall like he had all the time in the world. “Throttle back, dude, I’m ready. Is there any paperwork we need to take?”
Brian remained frozen in the entryway, staring in horror at his father, who was dressed like a combination of these two guys below.
David’s 2x belly was inadequately covered in a tight tank top and he wore black board shorts with flames shooting up his legs. Birkenstocks covered his pale hairy feet. He smiled at Brian and jingled his keys. “Earth to Brian! Is there any paperwork I need to fill out before we go?”
“Dad,” Brian croaked. “You CAN’T go to the meeting like that!”
David remained cheery. “Why not, son of mine? I LOVE these shorts!”
Brian couldn’t muster anything more than a horrified whisper. “Dad, you CAN’T. You just can’t wear that to see my teacher.”
David leaned down close, so his son had to look him in the eye. “Brian. I’m forty-three years old. I think I’m old enough to decide what I want to wear. Isn’t that what you told me the last time I told you your clothes were inappropriate for the occasion?”
And with that, he walked out the front door, whistling.
Brian flew outside, babbling about the shorts and the flames and the Birkenstocks. He ran over to stand in front of the driver’s side door, his arms splayed out to block his dad’s entrance to the car.
David gave him the ol’ Dad hairy eyeball and said, “Get in the car, son. NOW.”
None of his kids ever disobeyed him when he used that tone and Brian dragged himself around to the passenger side, with tears starting to leak out of his eyes. After they fastened their seatbelts, Brian started wailing: “Really, Dad?? You’re REALLY going in dressed like that? I can’t walk into my classes with you dressed like that!”
David turned his head to back out of the driveway and glanced at Brian. “We’re going.”
Brian just sat in his seat, a blubbering shaking shell of his former self.
Halfway down their cul-de-sac, David pulled the car over and turned and looked at his son. “It would really mean a lot to you if I changed into a different outfit, wouldn’t it?”
Brian was nearly incoherent by now. He hiccuped and nodded, tears streaming down his face.
“And the next time I ask you to change your clothes, what’s your answer going to be?”
David flipped a u-turn and parked back his driveway. “I love you, son,” he said before he went into the house to change.
When I heard this story, I laughed so hard I started crying. At the time I wished to be that tricky some day when I had kids. I’ve got one now, and I hope to do half as good a job as David did.
What do you think? Was he too harsh or was this the perfect way to deal with a pre-teen? I want to hear from the parents AND the non-parental types. Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!