Friday, June 15, 2007

Fletcher Family Friday Fun [Frustration] Day

As I mentioned a week ago, I have decided to use some of my days off this summer (which for me are Fridays) to devote to my children. I've decided to call these days Fletcher Family Friday Fun Days, but I'm afraid I spoke a little too soon concerning today. It has been an experiment in frustration and futility that makes me wonder if I really want to continue this newfound tradition.

I am an early-riser, so I relish awakening before other family members to get a solitary start on my day. This morning I was up by 6:00 AM, and by 7:00 was ready to get the last-minute grill items we would need for today's picnic lunch at historic Fort Ridgely. As youngest son Dominyk and I were driving out of the driveway we discovered our front passenger tire flat. Knowing how a change in scheduled plans upsets our family's day, I shuddered for more than one reason. I am no mechanic and fortunately we have a AAA membership, so my devoted wife called AAA for us, and they were here to replace the damaged tire with the spare within minutes. In the meantime Dominyk and I went to the store to purchase our necessary items, and by the time of our return the spare made the van ready to roll. I sent our second oldest son in the van to the tire dealership to repair the tire and put the spare back. Our second youngest son, Tony, was emotionally distraught because of today's diagnosis that he has strep throat and could not accompany us. By the time the six of us rolled out of the driveway we were only thirty minutes later than our scheduled departure time, so I felt pretty good about that.

Currently our home air condiitoning is not working for this, the first hot week of summer. Each day the highs have been nearly 90 degrees with high humidity, so its miserable being home (for more than one reason occasionally, but right now it's our interior temperature of 88 degrees). Our trip to the Fort was uneventful and pleasant, but the blistering heat coupled with intense moisture in the air made our time there less fulfilling than we had all hoped.

While we were viewing the outdoor parts of the fort it appeared we were alone, and in minutes I heard the bellowing voice of our oldest son, "Dad, Dominyk's peeing on the old fort walls." Sure enough, Dominyk decided he needed to relieve himself (little did he realize that the largest building near him did have several Minnesota Historical Society employees inside, but thankfully all the shades were pulled because of the heat). As I reprimanded him his attention wandered, and as he came bounding up to me he said, "Whoops, Dad, I peed all over my shirt." Sure enough, his raggedy (anyway) shirt was now wet from the navel down. I issued my disgust and moved on, hoping it would dry quickly in the summer heat without an abundance of odor.

Our visit to the interpretitve center was interesting, and a couple of the kids got to dress in period costumes to see what it would have been like to live in the Fort at what was then the western borders of the burgeoning USA. We learned the reasons for the Sioux Uprising of 1862 and talked about ways native peoples have not always been treated very well by those in power. At least we accomplished some social justice learning today.

After visiting the interpretive center and surrounding area, we traveled to the picnic area to fire up the grill. Unfortunately the lighter we brought to start the charcoal did not work well, and after numerous attempts to produce a flame I threw it into the trash in a fit of rage and frustration. Fortunately the children accompanying me have learned over the years when to give their father space, and this was one of those times. They were several picnic tables away, watching their overly hot, irritated, hungry father as he stomped way to the van, calling over his shoulder, "You stay here. I'll go buy a new lighter." The closest (small) town is nine miles away, so as I drove there I blasted the air conditioning and enjoyed my momentary solitude.

After pumping gas and entering the convenience store to purchase my lighter, I received a cell call from our oldest son telling me that the charcoal was actually now lit, and that they were able to get the lighter to work enough for the task. By the time I returned the hot dogs were well on their way to completion, and the food had been carefully set out by our fastidious daughter and her compatriots.

One of our sons, whom I won't name but identify by adoption history -- our first international adoptee who is now 15 -- continued his perpetual verbal drivel with his slightly accented English, "Rand, you know you have stretch marks? You know where those come from? They come because you are fat." And "Dominyk, you can't drink all the strawberry milk" (this from the person who had already had two full glasses himself). And "Sadie, you are very ugly. Your teeth are so crooked you look like a clown." Even his fellow adoptee from Guatemala, Ricardo, was not immune from harasshment, "Ricky, you don't even speak that good English. Just shut up."

So, my Fletcher Family Friday Fun Day rapidly evaporated into a day characterized by another "F" work ... frustration. The oppressive heat, the incessant nitpicking behaviors of one child in particular, the peculiar irritants of the day, did nothing ot improve my mood.

So, after surveying the historic cemetery (for Minnesota history it dates back fairly early ... to the 1860s), I suggested we simply pack up and return home. Typically we would spend the afternoon hiking or exploring other areas of the park, and with full interest and cooperation of my chidren, but today no one argued. We piled into the van, cranked the air conditioning, popped a movie into the DVD player, and headed home.

What a great beginning to our eleventh wedding anniversary! I'm hopeful that Claudia and I will have a much more enjoyable time together tonight than I was able to provide for my children today.

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