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  • Tucker Spolter

The Door or Beating Your Child Rarely Solves Anything


Someone told me that daughters at the age of 12 can be delightful. When I took a poll of twenty+ parents of 12 and 13 year olds, the result was daughters that age are rarely delightful.

Maurice Chevalier sang

Thank heaven for little girls for little girls get bigger every day!

Thank heaven for little girls they grow up in the most delightful way!

Those little eyes so helpless and appealing one day will flash and send you crashin' thru the ceilin'

Thank heaven for little girls thank heaven for them all, no matter where, no matter who for without them, what would little boys do?

Thank heaven... thank heaven... Thank heaven for little girls!

Through diligent research I discovered Maurice Chevalier didn’t have children of his own, not one 12 year old girl, and never in the most delightful way. He married a widow with three boys ……. Ah, but I digress.

Girls are soooooo much easier to raise than boys.”

“Yeah,” for the record, toss a boy a pair of Levis and a t-shirt with a strand of spaghetti embedded in the fabric and a swath of dried snot on the sleeve, and any young man considers himself appropriately attired for a game of football, a funeral, wedding or the first day of school. Try that with a girl.

Here’s another lie.

“Boys are made from snakes and snails and puppy dog tails,”

“Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.”

Yes, there are differences between boys and girls. During summer vacation girls will play school, mommy daddy and baby, have afternoon tea parties and read books. Boys will do the latter but usually begrudgingly.

Girls want to play teacher, nurse and doctor. Boys want to play superhero, basketball, football, a soldier from any war, cowboys and Indians, space pirates. Though lot of us could be talked into a game of doctor, or I’ll show you mine if you show me yours about the age of eleven.

Our home was small, three bedrooms, one bathroom, nestled on the morning side of the hill in the woods of Fairfax. Our oldest daughter’s room is right off the living room. Adjacent to our dining room table.

One afternoon I was grading papers on the coffee table when she bolted through the front. I tried a ‘Hi Honey, how was…” but she was pass me in a flash. I tried a “Hey” but our little sugar and spice SLAMMED her door so hard my students’ papers scattered across the carpet. Both cats scattered through the kitchen and out the pet door. Two books flew out of the bookcase, and mortar flaked off several fireplace bricks.

I will not mention the thoughts that went through my mind at this juncture.

Bobbie flew in from the kitchen drying a Pyrex bowl with a dish towel.

“And…? What, the heck was that?”

I pointed to ‘everything nices’ door.

“Why that. . . She scared the…” Bobbie, gently place the Pyrex bowl on top of our piano. And immediately started humming quietly to herself. Humming quietly to herself was never a good sign for the humeee. Ever so slowly she folded the dish towel into ever smaller squares and finally set it inside the Pyrex bowl.

I knew that whatever I was thinking or planning to do about the explosion paled with what might happen in the next few moments.

I intercepted her before she opened the door to our adorable child’s room. I gave her a hug her and lied, “Honey, let me handle this one, I have the perfect solution.” I had no idea about what I was going to do.

She looked me in the eye. I returned a confident, ‘you have no idea how well I have this situation in hand’ look. There was a brief look of doubt, but then she smiled, gave me a smart salute, and picked up the bowl. “Okay, soldier, she’s all yours, ” and returned to the kitchen. I stared after her. I still don’t know what happened, but I knew I’d better come up with something quick. I laid my hand on the door. Lurking behind it was an angry, smug, not delightful little girl.

I quickly dismissed the idea of a full frontal assault crashing through door an into a verbal confrontation. I had an axe and thought about attacking the door and our little cute, dazzling, delicate child cowering inside, as the blade shattered the wood. When I pictured a flame thrower, I realized I was losing it. Over- the- top. I was the adult here. And then it came to me. So simple. So devious. Such a calm and mature solution.

In the garage a few minutes later, I gathered a hammer, screw driver, vise -grips and returned to the scene of the slam. Subconsciously, taking a page from Barb, I started humming ‘KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN'S DOOR.’ Only two hinges held sweethearts door in place. I placed the screw drive under the hinge-pin, gave it a whack with the hammer and out it came. Voila! The second pin came out just as easily.

Barb joined me with a big smile, a thumbs up and joined me in the chorus of Knockin’ on Heaven’s door. I grabbed the door handle. Gave it a little jerk and slipped it off the hinges.

Our oldest gave us an angry look that quickly turned to puzzlement as Barb and I turned her door sideways and marched it out the front door and down the stairs to our garage.

Days passed. Barb and I avoided any comments and simply passed by the gap in our living room wall with a casual wave. Marshmallow and Smokey who were felines non grata in our daughter’s bedroom immediately had a whole new part of the house to spray their respective identifying scents and deposit the occasion hairball. Though she tried to erect a cardboard barrier, the cats went up and over or dug down and under. My side of the sofa, the cat’s previous preferred perch, was abandoned for her pillow and stuffed, Scottish terrier.

Her sister was not kind. Our youngest example of sugar and spice, would peek in to our oldest door-less room cover her mouth with her knuckles, let out sharp squeal and run down the hall giggling.

I was on the patio setting up the ping-pong table for a game of who does the dishes with Bobbie about a week later, when a very subdued daughter approached.

“Hi, Honey,” I offered. I had a feeling where this was going.

“Hi,” she placed her hand behind her back and did that foot thing that girls do. “Dad… When do I get my door back?”

I handed her one end of the ping pong table net. “Will you help me with this.”

She took the end a walked to the other side of the table. “Dad, when do I get my door back?”

I checked for tension on the net. “It’s broken.”

She looked up. “The net?”

“No, your door. It keeps slamming. Haven’t you noticed?

I just haven’t had time to fix it.”

Then she did it. “I don’t think my door will slam anymore.”

Those little eyes so helpless and appealing one day will flash and send you crashin' thru the ceilin'

Thank heaven for little girls

I put the paddles and ball on the ping pong table and said, “great, how about giving me a hand?” Together, we hauled her door up from the garage and four minutes later it was back on its hinges never to slam again.

An “If” for Girls

By Elizabeth Lincoln Otis

(With apologies to Mr. Rudyard Kipling)*

If you can dress to make yourself attractive,

Yet not make puffs and curls your chief delight;

If you can swim and row, be strong and active,

But of the gentler graces lose not sight;

If you can dance without a craze for dancing,

Play without giving, play too strong a hold,

Enjoy the love of friends without romancing,

Care for the weak, the friendless and the old;

If you can master French and Greek and Latin,

And not acquire, as well, a priggish mien,

If you can feel the touch of silk and satin

Without despising calico and jean;

If you can ply a saw and use a hammer,

Can do a man’s work when the need occurs,

Can sing when asked, without excuse or stammer,

Can rise above unfriendly snubs and slurs;

If you can make good bread as well as fudges,

Can sew with skill and have an eye for dust,

If you can be a friend and hold no grudges,

A girl whom all will love because they must;

If sometime you should meet and love another

And make a home with faith and peace enshrined,

And you its soul—a loyal wife and mother—

You’ll work out pretty nearly to my mind

The plan that’s been developed through the ages,

And win the best that life can have in store,

You’ll be, my girl, the model for the sages—

A woman whom the world will bow before.

Rudyard Kipling, wrote the remarkable poem “IF” that mostly relates to boys becoming men.


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