I am the father of eight children. As their father I am their leader and a role model. I take this very seriously and desire nothing more than to set them on a path in life that will lead to productivity, healthy relationships, and happiness. In spite of the seriousness of my role as Father and Dad I sometimes fall short of the bar. When I do there are consequences.
One of my great weaknesses as father is the wedgie. Yes, it is true. When underwear peaks above pant-line I have a nearly irresistible urge to grab and pull. To my credit I mostly do resist. That is the reason I am still allowed to abide among the civil. However, there are moments of weakness that threaten to dislodge me from my high position and bring an ignominious fall.
About two years ago I was passing my six-year-old daughter in the family room. Glory is the cutest little girl with big brown eyes and a wide smile. Those of us who live with her, though, know that this cuteness is sometimes just a shallow disguise to her impish nature. I tell you this in my own defense to let you know that she is not a girly girl who is easily traumatized. She is the youngest of three daughters which means she gets a lot of hand-me-downs from her older sisters. On this day she was wearing hand-me-down underwear which apparently, from how much stuck out above her pants, was too big for her. Her attention was on a doll and her back to me as I passed. I didn’t think twice, although I should have—I grabbed and pulled. Even as I let go I knew I had done wrong. She turned and wordlessly gave me an icy glare as she made adjustments.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, failing to find justification for my action, and walked off humiliated.
The memory of this humiliation kept my behavior on the straight and narrow for two years. But as time can heal wounds, it can also cause forgetfulness. Recently I was sitting in my wingback chair watching movie on the TV. My six-year-old son was sitting on my lap. He is my youngest and last child and is as cute as a puppy. He is smart, too. He has learned to make good use of his position as youngest child and has grown wise in the use of manipulation.
Story (as in “end of story” the last child) is a joy to have around. All of the older children adore him. He has childish, but knowing, perceptions that are always illuminating. He can quote from movies with the best of us and he can mimic what he sees with precision. He is a load of fun. On the darker side he is young enough where throwing crying fits is still acceptable. He seems aware of this and uses it to his advantage whenever it is in his advantage. It seems I am the only one who can see through these fits and that leaves me at a disadvantage. While I am glaring at him thinking “I know what you are up to!” everyone else is glaring at me “How can you be so hard?”
Story had a bowl of cereal on an end-table that he was eating as he watched the show from my lap. He was in a good mood and had been all day so how was I to know better? As he leaned to get another spoonful of cereal I saw his “Cars” underwear sticking out above his pants. I did remember when I did this to Glory, but Story was a boy. It would be all right. I pulled. Story gave a little gulp as the effect of the wedgie hit him. He immediately began making adjustments as he looked up at me. There were no words spoken, but there was plenty of communication in our eyes. I saw him consider laughing. I saw him consider a minor complaint. Then I saw him see Mom over my shoulder at the kitchen counter and I began to fear. Mom is a staunch believer that wedgies are evil. Not only are they evil, they are dangerous. Story knew how she felt about wedgies and I saw him decide to let me have it.
“Dang,” I thought.
Tears welled up and he began to cry. He slid off my lap and ran to Mom. Even before he could say a word she asked, “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong is that he is about to execute revenge upon me by manipulating you,” I thought miserably wondering when I would ever learn.
“You gave Story a wedgie,” she yelled incredulously. “Don’t you know how dangerous that is?”
“It isn’t dangerous,” I said, stating a truth that should be clear to everyone. I mean, it certainly isn’t nice, but it isn’t dangerous.
“You know how sore his little bottom is,” she said. I knew that Story had suffered from diaper rash and occasionally a sore bottom like the rest of my children, but this hadn’t happened in years.
“His bottom isn’t sore,” I said.
“It hurts,” he cried, big tears rolling down his cheeks.
“I can’t believe you do these things,” my wife said.
I was a little angry now at all the fuss. “There is nothing wrong with a wedgie!” I said. “Other than they are annoying.” I saw Glory, now eight-years-old, come into the kitchen to observer the fracas.
“Come here, Glory,” I said. “It’s time for your yearly wedgie.” In my attempt at self-defense I had turned to defiance. I didn’t want to give her a wedgie, but I had to show my disdain at the idea of wedgies being dangerous. To my daughter’s credit she shook her head.
“Girls can get yeast infections from wedgies,” my wife said. Glory nodded vigorously in agreement.
I doubted this, but what does a guy know about yeast infections.
“Now you take Story and put some Vaseline on his bottom,” my wife said.
“What?” I asked. Story had had no problems with his bottom in years and suddenly, because I had given him a wedgie he was wounded? I looked at Story wondering if this sounded like a good thing to him. There was triumph in his eyes behind the tears, but also doubt as to what the prize was to be.
“I’m not going to put Vaseline on his bottom,” I said with as much authority as I could, but the fact that I had given a wedgie had weakened my position considerably.
Story, with a little less enthusiasm, came over and took my hand to take me to the bathroom where the Vaseline was. Even at six-years-old he knew that to back out now would undermine his power. In the bathroom we couldn’t find the Vaseline. We could have looked harder, but now, out of Mom’s view, he figured I had had enough. I could sense the case was not quite closed and that he might try harder to find that Vaseline yet.
“Look,” I said. “Why don’t you give me a wedgie and we can call it even.” He was still snuffling as he thought about this and decided this sounded fair. I screamed appropriately as he grabbed my underwear and pulled. His snuffling changed to giggling and we walked out friends again. Luckily his mother didn’t ask for proof of the Vaseline therapy. I still believe that wedgies are not dangerous, but in any case that was the last wedgie I will ever give.