14. Ultra-urgent Nothingness

Many times, boys have something important to say.


This is important.

“Dad, remember the other day when Mom drove backwards and ran into your car?  Well… she just did it again.”

Also important.  (One of those actually happened.  You guess which one.)

But you know those times when you ask a group of kids a question and boys are frantically, desperately, urgently begging you to call on them because they absolutely MUST provide their answer?  Yeah, do not be fooled.  Boys have nothing to say at this point.  For lack of a better term, I call this moment “ultra-urgent nothingness.”  Because boys could not possibly be more urgent…but pretty much nothing is about to happen.

Our most recent example of this occurred just this week, during our Tuesday “family meeting night.”  Family meeting night is when we play some fun games or do a wacky activity with all five kids, then pretend like we’re teaching them something that will make them into better little people.  I tell my wife this exercise is futile due to the fact that 87% of this time is spent telling the three boys to stop wiggling and pay attention, and 13% of the time is spent ignoring the boys wiggling and not paying attention.  My wife tells me it may be possible – but highly unlikely – that the boys are learning something during the family meeting, but the real purpose is to get the boys “in the habit” with fake learning now, because at some future point they will actually begin to non-fake learn some of the things and be better little people.  Interesting strategy, but I digress…

The Tuesday night meeting is in full swing and we’re pretending to teach on the topic of respecting others’ property.  This is a problem area of catastrophic proportions for boys, as well documented in previous writings.  We have read some Bible verses about how God wants us to respect others, including their things.  We have talked in the sad, scary voice about terrible things that boys love to do, like drawing on the walls and their bellies, riding metal scooters on the trampoline, and using the curtains for mountain climbing devices.  Now it’s time for questions.

“So…who can tell me one way they can be respectful of another person’s property this week?”

All hands in the room go up.  The brothers are now violently paying attention for the first time all evening.  They are thrusting their hands repeatedly upward like pistons in a motor.  They are gasping for breath.  They are gradually seeking higher elevation in the room, inching their way toward the top ridge of whatever couch or chair they’re on.  If they do not get picked to provide their answer, mankind may cease to exist.  It’s that important.

Mom calls on their big sister, of course.  After a minute or two of discussion about sister’s answer, which I don’t remember, probably because it was absolutely logical and thoughtful, it’s time to find the next contestant.  Again the brothers go into convulsions.  Again Mommy asks the question about how you can show respect for others’ property this week.  She chooses Nathan (5) because he’s starting to turn purple.

“Yes, Nathan: what’s your answer?”

Nathan: “Um…  One time…”

Nicholas has now collapsed into a quivering heap in the floor because again he’s not been picked to give his urgent answer.  Nathan starts sliding one foot in the shape of a triangle on the carpet and stretching his shirt over the back of his head.

“One time… um…  One time Nicholas had the blue scooter but it was my turn… and then… um…”

Mommy attempts to steer the train back toward the track.

“Nathan, we’re talking about respecting property.  How can you respect someone’s property this week?”

Nathan: “Oh! OH!! OH!!”

His squeaky little five-year-old voice goes up another few octaves.

“If somebody gets on fire…if-if-if our house gets fired with smoke and then we see a police man in our yard…well…if we tell him we can get the phone and push 9 and then 1 and then 1 and then the green button and a fire truck can come if they can save our house from the fire getting it!”

I collapse on the floor next to Nicholas.  Connor wants to know if it’s time for ice cream yet.  Mommy drags her hand over her face slowly.

Nathan has already returned to wiggling and paying zero attention.

When it all boils down, boys usually don’t have any relevant thoughts to share.  But they are always obsessed with making sure they get picked to share them.  Go ahead and pick them.  After all, you don’t want to see them get injured.  And you might get surprised and hear the perfect answer that really was urgent and really did save mankind.  But if you do, let me know.  🙂


5 thoughts on “14. Ultra-urgent Nothingness

  1. Hi, Tony– now that I’ve taught one of your boys & have now spent a week with “the brothers,” I decided to go back & read your older posts. I have to say that you are right on! This year I have ELEVEN boys, so the ultra-urgent nothingness is a frequent occurence. In all fairness, I have to say that a few girls are in on this as well, but it’s primarily “stuff boys do.” I think I’ll be reading these often during this school year in hopes of saving my sanity!

    • Hope your days off this week give you some good recovery from week one! Also hope your reading on here is helpful in dealing with the brothers… We’ll do all we can to help you survive!!! 🙂

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