Originally created 02/10/02

Educating an 8-year-old is an arduous task

In every age "the good old days" were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time.

- Brooks Atkinson

I blame his mother.

My only son, the heir to my baseball card collection, the youngster who shares my name and DNA, celebrated his eighth birthday last weekend.

His mother decided to forgo the usual cake and ice cream party of loud little guys and do something educational.

This involved a family trip to Charleston.

She got to enjoy one of the South's most civilized cities.

He got to see an aircraft carrier - the U.S.S. Yorktown, an aquarium and Fort Sumter's cannons.

I got to see several hundred miles of variable road, small-town traffic lights and a couple of credit card charges I'll not soon forget.

Let me also say if you're looking for challenges, I highly recommend following a freshly minted 8-year-old up and down the chutes and ladders of an authentic U.S. aircraft carrier.

Actually, his mother and I took turns.

One would follow him around for 20 minutes while the other rested, then we'd change places.

She drew the line at the submarine tour, which I discovered was as confining and claustrophobic as a well-lighted utility culvert. It does not pay to be taller than 5'8" if you're touring a submarine.

The only highlight of this excursion was when I accidentally started down one of the stairwells and surprised three young men in Naval attire who were polishing the floor.

They saw my pressed khaki pants and my polished black shoes coming down the stairs and immediately stood up straight.

They relaxed when they saw the rest of me emerge, and one of them laughed. "Thought you were the captain."

"Carry on," I added formally, and went back up the stairs, looking for a soft place to sit down, which apparently is not a concern in Naval architecture.

"This ship creaks, and so do I," I said as we trudged to the parking lot after about six hours of shipboard explorations.

I slept as well that night as any in a long time.

The following day, we drove home.

The youngster played with his souvenirs in the back seat. I rubbed mine in the front.

All the while, I blamed old age.

I blamed a society that urges parents to encourage their children's interest.

I blamed myself for ever getting out of shape.

And, of course, I blamed his mother.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bkirby@augustachronicle.com.


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