Teaching the Tykes

Teaching the Tykes

I was brought up around the time that the notion, “Children should be seen and not heard,” was waning in popularity. At least, it was around our house. My parents will probably tell you that I was heard rather a lot, as were my two sisters.

So these days, I normally try to arm myself with the same tolerance, as my gang of bread-snatchers runs rampant around the house looking for something to do. As they grow older and stronger, I find that duct tape is less effective in holding them to the hardwood floors. I think I’m feeding them too much.

More serious than that, She Who Must Be Obeyed has cottoned to the idea that they might be getting big enough to hit the links. “Nay, nay, and thrice nay, say I,” which is Shakespearish for, “Say it ain’t so.”

I spend a lot of time away from home, and recently, when I’ve been back, I’ve noticed that I have a lot of children. I think I’m a pretty regular parent. We do the usual things, you know: movies, grocery shopping, swimming, feeding the ducks, they change my diaper, etc. So I’m driving down the road the other day, with a partial load of sprouts in the truck, coming back from a school concert. A hundred rhythmless white kids singing out of tune, but somehow, because my little Rory was up there, it was achingly sweet.

Shey, my eldest boy, is complaining that I am the cruelest dad in all the world because I won’t buy him an Audi TT roadster for his first car. (He’s 12.) Rory, my youngest son, is asking me to turn up ‘N Sync on the stereo, and in the rear-view mirror I spy Erin, my baby girl (and undisputed ruler of the universe), with her finger so far up her nose that it looks like she has discovered a way to change her mind manually. Willard, The Wonder Dog, is seated on the arm rest between the front seats, looking like an indoor hood ornament. Everything is normal.

I’m sick of listening to ghastly, spotty teenagers warble the same five chords over and over again on the sound system, so I shut it off and initiate a good old-fashioned game of who-can-burp-the-loudest. We’ve just had a greaseburger session at McDonald’s, and the boys are armed with Cokes, so I know I might have a run for my money. But, as yet, no one has beaten Dad, so, with the honor, I let the big dog burp.

Shey immediately disqualifies himself by burping a french fry projectile against the windshield, and Rory laughs too hard to generate any kind of gaseousness. Erin grins and claps her hands. Time out is called. Then, out of the blue comes the request: “Dad, can we go to the golf club tomorrow?”

“What, to swim?” I reply cheerily.

“No, to play golf.”

I give a slight swerve and Willard The Wonder Dog puts a paw on my forearm and gives me his would-you-like-me-to-drive? look. I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but since I quit competing, golf has felt like work to me, and I hardly ever feel like doing it in my spare time.

The thought of my kids taking up the game is kind of scary. What if they like it? She Who Must Be Obeyed would be packing me off to the country club on a regular basis, with a pack of squealing weasels in tow.

I know I’m a bit of a cynic even during the best of times, but Tiger has a lot to answer for. Crawling out of the Woods’s work comes every kind of grub, it seems, each one younger than the next. We have tantrum-throwing, golf-club-swinging toddlers on talk shows and diaper-wearing duffers in magazines. What’s next? I can see the strongest sperm in the shoal, grabbing one of the tiddlers by the tail, and using him like an oversized driver to whack an unfertilized egg around the ovary. I don’t know about you, but I find that image somewhat disgusting.

The fruit of my own loins are impressed with me, at least by the fact that Tiger knows who I am. Come to think of it, I kind of like that too, but it’s all leading me toward the rather disturbing realization that one of these days (like today), they might want me to teach them how to play golf.

I’m not sure that I even remember how to play golf. Sure, I do an on-air tip for most of our CBS shows, but that’s different. No one answers me back, and I hardly ever feel like slapping a viewer upside the head. Up until now I’ve been blessed, in that none of my kids have expressed a desire to follow in their dad’s footsteps, with the exception of the who-can-burp-the-loudest thing, at which I am glad to say I am still the man. Hey, every kid needs a dream.

The raising of children is one of the very few things at which I do not consider myself a world-renowned authority, but then again, this could be one of the very few things I am wrong about. The only things I really try to force them to do are listen to music and read.

Harry Potter has really captured my boys’ imaginations with his broomstick and wizardry, and I enjoy reading these books, too. I resent the fact that the same people who are prepared to believe that a guy turned water into wine, fed 5,000 people with three kippers and a bagel, and skated on unfrozen water, want to take these books away.

I think both Harry Potter and Jesus are good for kids, and so is Tiger Woods. As far as I am concerned, his occasional profane outburst is perfectly acceptable, and I have told my kids this: If they ever find themselves in a situation similar to that which caused Tiger to explode at the U.S. Open, their father would be disappointed if they did not curse like a fishwife. Boys, if you’re leading a major championship by a dozen or so after three rounds, and you rip the ears off one dead left into the Pacific, go right ahead. Otherwise, zip it, you little ratbags.

Now that’s parenting. But as for teaching them how to play, my jury’s still out. I feel pretty confident about my ability to improve a non-relative’s chances of getting it airborne and straightish, but the couple of lessons I have given my boys have done little to help their swings or my mental health. I’m sure it has something to do with their opinion that I am their father, obviously a moron, and, naturally, that they should do the exact opposite of what I say.

Hang on a minute there, Ethel. I think I’ve been laboring under a misapprehension! Why, I’m a member of Royal Oaks here in Dallas, which has one of the finest junior programs in the country. The director of golf is Randy Smith, Justin Leonard’s coach, and by God, if he can steer that boy (who is not right in the head) to a British Open victory, then he must be perfectly capable of babysitting for me.

Sorry, I’m thinking out loud here. That’s it! Well, knock me down with a pair of boxers if I’m not a foolish, carefree, and hideously wealthy young announcer who can let someone else do his chores.

God, how I love this country!

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