The dude is working this summer as a counselor at a baseball camp. He’s coaching the five and six-year-old boys along with another high school friend. His first day went well. On the ride home he was full of parenting wisdom.
“It’s all about the C’s, Mom. Calm, Consequences, Consistent, and Carry Through.”
“I see.” It’s not that he’s wrong, mind you. His theory is valid. I’m just amused that he thinks he invented it.
“You have to tell them what behavior you expect, and what will happen if a they don’t comply.”
“And then what?” I asked.
“You calmly give them a warning, and if they do it again, they sit out their turn at bat. They hate missing their turn at bat,” he says.
“I expect they do.” I’m not sure if the Dude remembers that I managed the dugout on his first tee ball team. I made them sit it batting order. If they got up, they lost their place. It was the only way to keep some semblance of order. At least at six they don’t eat sunflower seeds. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near the dugout otherwise. I think they like the spitting more than the seeds.
“And when I want them to listen, I do the quiet coyote.” He makes a shadow puppet of a dog with his hand, opening and closing his fingers. “You see, quiet coyote. Mouths shut.”
“Have you ever heard a coyote, Dude? They howl. They used to hang out in the forest preserve behind our apartment in California. It would have been more quiet to have a frat house back there. “
“It works, Mom.” He’s offended by my lack of faith.
“I’m glad to hear it. Maybe you’re some sort of child whisperer.”
“That sounds seriously creepy Mom.” He’s right, it does.
The next day when I pick him up, he looks a little haggard. He’s also a half hour late. I’m not mad, because I know exactly what has happened. The first day the parents are always on time. The second day, they drop them off a little earlier, and pick them up a little later. By the end of the week, I suspect I’ll be waiting in the parking lot for quite a while. It’s okay, I bring my Kindle.
“The last Mom was so late! I thought she’d never get here.” I don’t say anything, because once or twice, I’ve been that Mom. Not often, but I try to cut the unknown mother some slack.
“Her kid is SO obnoxious. He yells, and he’s always right, even if he’s wrong. He’s like ‘but he’s out’ and I’m like, ‘but you have to tag the runner, and he’s like ‘but I touched the base,” and I’m like ‘he doesn’t have to advance if there’s no runner behind him, so you have to tag him when he’s not on a safe square.” The Dude alternates a high pitched whine with his calm, C-master voice.
“Did you show him the quiet coyote, Obi-wan?” He gives me the look. “I’m just asking.”
I hate to tell him the minute the third kid showed up he and his friend were already outnumbered. I tell him that it will get better. I neglect to mention that next week it will be a whole new batch of kids and he’ll start at ground zero again. I’m proud of him for having a job in the first place. I’m counting on it. I need new material.
“It’s still the best job ever, but it’s only Tuesday. I reserve the right to vent.” I nod and smile at him. He smiles back. It’s silent for a moment as he contemplates the day.
“You’re going to write about this, aren’t you.”
“Consider it Karma.” He doesn’t say it, but I know he’s thinking that Karma’s a bitch, but he’s not sure if I’ll think it’s funny if he says it. I do, but I’m glad he doesn’t say it anyway. It means he still cares about my feelings. For the mother of a sixteen-year old, that’s a triumph on its own.
“Just don’t write about the really embarrassing stuff.”
You can count on me dude. I’m one quiet coyote.
Words and pictures by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Along the Fence” © 2012