Crew Chief

crew chiefAh, parenthood. I can’t imagine any other job in the world that can make a person feel more powerful or more inept (usually within minutes of each other).

Last night, our youngest had a devil of a time getting to sleep. At first, I was accommodating (fine, one more hug). After an hour, I became annoyed (he’s had the same bedtime routine for 8 years – what’s different about tonight?). Then, long about 11:30 pm, I downshifted to empathetic (poor kid; even he can’t fake it this long). So, I put him in our bed, snuggled up next to him, and sang to him. By the end of the first verse, he was relaxed and still. By the end of the song, he was out like a light.

Fast forward six hours.

This morning, our oldest began his day with tears, begging to stay home. School is never fun for him, but it’s been especially hard the last few weeks. I cajoled him. I offered a reward for making it through the day. I pulled out the old standby, “Life is full of things we don’t want to do.” Nothing worked … until I did my best impression of a NASCAR crew chief. Our racing-obsessed son cracked a smile and I knew I was in. I proceeded to rattle off every phrase I know (which ain’t many) and referred to the rest of the morning routine in racing terms.

His breakfast was his “fuel” and “You need to pit, son. You need to pit.” was his chief’s way of getting him to fuel up. Telling him “So-and-so is gonna lap you, man,” got him to go faster. And the rest was me being ridiculous, but it worked. He and his brother made it out the door on time.

When the bus was gone and the house was quiet, I began thinking how much I like the idea of being my family’s crew chief – the voice in their ears, praising them when their race is going well, telling them about the dangers ahead, keeping them safe, but letting them do the driving. I must confess to a certain amount of pride when I can help my children work through moments like last night and this morning. At a time when my skills aren’t (yet) wanted in the work world, it’s nice to feel needed at home.

 

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