Fourteen-year-old Dave was worried. Along with his parents he had been to the family big Thanksgiving dinner hosted by his father's parents – his grandparents. Everything at the visit had gone well. Not a dish was cracked; not even a glass of water was spilt and most important neither he nor any of his cousins, not even mischievous thirteen-year-old Joey, had been spanked. Yet Dave was worried. He was worried about the next holiday. It was a holiday with an extra special feature – presents. Yes, gifts from many but especially his grandparents' most generous gifts.
For the first ten years of his life (at least those he could remember) his grandparents had sent him wonderful toys. He remembered playing with them and they were of good quality for they outlasted most of the others he had. Now that he had outgrown them, a couple were parked like retired cars on his bookshelf. Although his friends and even more so his sister's friends kidded him about them sometimes they invoked good memories so they stayed as mementoes of happy times.
Things were different after that. When he was eleven, the gift sent by his grandparents was labeled: For ages 5-8 and similarly for the next two years. Each time his parents made him write a proper thank you note not mentioning the inappropriateness of the gifts. They took him to the local branch of the national toy store chain to exchange it. That worked well when he was eleven and barely when he was twelve. It totally failed the previous year when his parents used the store credit to get something for his little sister since there wasn't anything for him in the store that he wanted.
Dave's parents explained that sometimes Grandparents are a little forgetful about the maturity of their grandkids and that he shouldn't hurt their feeling but just be ever so GROWN UP and write a nice thank note. Last year he managed to get his father to promise to talk to his own parents to remind them their grandkids were all long out of diapers and a couple were already in high school and thinking about getting their learner permits and driver licenses. He even mentioned that Joey had the same problem to emphasizes the scope of the problem.
Before the trip for T-day, he had gotten a repeat of the promise and on the trip home his father had confirmed that it was done.© YLeeCoyote
* * * * * * * * * *
The long awaited holiday zenith had arrived and they were all gathered in the family room to open presents. One by one the nicely wrapped boxes were taken from the pile and opened. Everything was going well. Even the usual bedroom slippers and gloves that he and his sister had gotten for their parents were appropriate and appreciated. The thin envelopes from a couple of aunts and uncles with fat checks made Dave quite happy for he had a long wish list and cash was ever so useful. Then they were at the end. Torn wrapping paper littered the room and one box remained. It was for Dave from his grandparents.
Dave eagerly ripped the paper from the box. His happy smile faded. It was a great toy BUT it was for a kid half his age. The card was the straw that broke the camel's back for Grandma had written: "We are sure that you will love this for we checked with your dad."
Dave stared at the card for a long time like time had stopped. His day certainly and maybe even the entire holiday was ruined. He looked at his father. It was not the look of admiration or pride of doing something well for the first time. It was of disappointment and disgust. "LIAR! LIAR! You said you spoke with them about appropriate presents. YOU PROMISED me you would several times. AND YOU DIDN'T!" Dave ran off to his room and slammed the door so hard that the house seemed to shake. The frame on the back of the door that held his rules of conduct fell to the floor and the glass cracked.
* * * * * * * * * *
Dave was on his bed sobbing when his father come to him. He didn't want to talk but his dad did not give him that option. "We'll exchange it and you get what you want son. Don't let it spoil the holiday. Remember it's the thought that counts." It took several tries before there was any response.
The response was messy but the essence was packed into three short sentences of all the unhappiness the youth spewed out in his anger. "You did not tell them." "You LIED to your mom." "You LIED to ME." And then, after a bit "Take your damn rules and leave me be."
Dad saw that the frame holding the rules he and his son had agreed to was on the floor. He picked it up. He did not know how to respond for his son was upset in a profoundly different way than in the past. He looked at them for the first time in ages. He was reminded how they had changed some things like bedtime and curfew. And, more important, how the simplest rules remained as pristine as they were when inscribed five years earlier: «Lying is prohibited.» «Respect others.». The words his son had yelled earlier rang in his head, especially: "LIAR!", reflecting not only disappointment but betrayal. All he could think to say was: "I tried; really I did."
"There is no try." was all Dave responded. "I felt the strap when I just tried." The strap lived next the framed rules on the back of the door.
"I'm sorry, son."
"I was sorry too but it never make a difference." Dave had trouble getting the words out. "No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try." you told me like Yoda told Luke.
"I tried but Grandma is old and set in her ways. I'm sorry."
"That never was acceptable from me. Why do you treat me like a little kid but expect me to be grown up – when it suits you? Take your damn rules and leave me alone. If I busted them like you did my ass would be toast. I'll write that damn card tomorrow."
This was a crisis and Dad knew it. That a father would be considered a fuckup by his teen son was not a surprise. Often he had heard other men complain of that. The problem was his angry son was RIGHT! He had fucked up and not communicated with his own mom like a grown man should and gave her bad advice – like a little boy afraid of his mommy – when the time was ripe. Additionally he had lied to his own son. What to do? What to do to regain the respect of his own son who was proving that he was actually growing up? How could he expect his son to follow the rules when he didn't with impunity?
Then it came to him. Dave had provided the answer. Not only did he know what the punishment should be but he said so. It would be difficult. It would be very difficult but it had to be done. It was essential to regain the respect of his first born and it was best done immediately. He got the strap from the door. "Dave," he said "I've messed up badly. I'm sorry. I'm very sorry. You're right about your butt being toast if you had done this. But this time it's my butt that should be toast – not yours." This got Dave's attention as the strap was placed in his hand. There wasn't anything more that needed to be said. He went over to the desk, dropped his trousers and got into position. Something he had not done since he left home more than two decades before. Exactly what he had taught his son to do like his father had taught him. He waited for his due.
Dave was shocked. His dad had handed him the strap and had gotten into position. This was weird! Boys don't strap their dads. Dads don't ask their sons to strap them! But that was what was happening. "Dad, what is this?" Dave blurted out in his confusion.
"I messed up, son. I messed up badly. Do what we both know what needs to be done."
That was true; very true. Dave remembered a few times when he knew that he truly deserved to be strapped and had gotten into position even before being told to. He folded the strap and noticed how it felt different this time. Different from all the times he had fondled it worried that it was going to be used on him. What would it be like to swing it at a deserving ass; his dad's most deserving ass? And he must obey his Dad. "Yes, Sir." he said and stepped to his Dad's side.
Dave paused a second and raised the strap. Immediately it came crashing down with a loud WHACK. His father remained still barely grunting. He repeated the action a couple of more times and dropped the strap. He could not do any more.
They hugged. And then they talked. Really communicated. Tomorrow they would return the kiddy toy. They would use the credit for his young sister. They would combine the checks and refund value and get the game he most wanted. Together they would talk to his grandparents and explain things when they were together in the spring. But for now the crisis had passed. They were proud of each other.