'How would you like to be trapped in a cage?!'
Because I now have three elementary-school-age children, my early-morning wake-up-the-kids routine involves a lot of tickling feet, tickling sides, protecting my face from sleepy kicks and punches, flicking lights on and off, pulling off the kids’ blankets, hauling bodies from beds to couches.
By the time I’m finally convinced that everyone is moving in the right direction, I go get myself ready for the day, hoping that, when I return, the kids aren’t sitting around in their pajamas reading comic books.
“What are you doing?!” I say. “Don’t you realize it’s almost time to go?”
“We don’t have a clock in our room,” they say.
Then it’s time to inspect the lunches that they have carefully packed in their zipper pouches. “You call this a lunch?” I ask. “Chips and crackers?”
Somehow, we end up in the car on time, but the fun doesn’t stop.
“Why do I have to sit in the middle seat?” one child will say to the other.
“Don’t touch my leg.”
“Dad, he’s holding his foot over mine, and it’s like he’s about to step on me.”
Sometimes we get into heated discussions, like we did one morning about the pros and cons of zoos.
“How would you like to be trapped in a cage?!”
“But they rescue the animals. If they weren’t in a zoo, they’d be dead!”
Then come the facts: “Did you know that 18 million tigers escape from zoos every year? Hmm?! Hmm?!”
“Yeah, right. Where did you hear that?”
“From a video.”
“Eighteen million? That’s like the same number of people who live in Florida. That’s a lot of tigers.”
By the time we arrive at school, everyone’s brains have been sufficiently wrung out, and hopefully they’re ready to sponge up some actual learning in the classroom. They climb out of the car as I say to them, “Be good, don’t be bad, only be good, have a good day,” and they slam the door, and I finish my sentence in the sudden quiet: “I love you.”