’Twas the hour before leaving town for Thanksgiving, and all through the house, suitcases were packed, snacks were divvied, and the kids were marching out to the minivan. My heart brimmed with gratitude for the adventure we were about to have. I turned to my wife, Hailey, and said, “We couldn’t have done it without you.”
She rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah, no kidding.”
Sensing that this conversation was only going to get worse for me, I slowly backed away, as she said, “You really need to learn how to do this someday!”
Hours later, once we arrived at our hotel, 5-year-old Luke was content. If all he got out of this trip was to push the button on the elevator, he would be happy. Fortunately, his older siblings played along and let him push the buttons, even if sometimes he accidentally pushed 2, when he should have pushed 3.
The next morning, Luke passed up the eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy and opted for cold cereal instead. When Hailey came down to join us, she asked him what he had eaten for breakfast.
Ever the playful one, Luke said, “I had ‘Wosted Wakes.’”
Playing along, Hailey said, “Wexcellent.”
Just to make sure his linguistic joke hit home, Luke said, “Do you know what I mean by ‘Wosted Wakes’?”
The next day, we began a reunion with farflung nieces and nephews I hadn’t seen in years. And then, the season of gratitude was over. We were back in the minivan, stuck in traffic, heading back home.
Just like that, shopping season had begun. For Luke this week, that meant pulling up a chair at the kitchen table, with a pen in one hand and a toy catalogue in the other.
I watched as he analyzed each item on the page. First he circled a toy on the upper right. Then he circled the toy on the upper left. Then he gave up and circled the entire page.
“Luke, time to help unload the dishwasher,” I said.
He shook his head, no.
“You know what happens to kids who don’t help?” I asked. Then, just to make sure my parenting point had hit home, I said, “No presents.”
He jumped to his feet, plucked handfuls of plastic cups from the dishwasher and chucked them into a cupboard at 90 mph.
Just like that, bribing season had begun.
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