Pizza Bagels, Video Games, and Batteries

I needed to drop one of my children at their friend’s house last week. I know the father, so I stayed for a bit and talked over a beer. We were in the living room, where one of his kids was playing video games.

Video Games

I’ve met a lot of kids over the course of parenthood, foster parenting, coaching, school pickup and drop-off, and a variety of other circumstances and duties. I think teens are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school was no exception. Loyal daddies and mommies are familiar with our friend Wilt. Wilt was a child of another friend who seemed to know everything about life, especially basketball. Check out the link I so generously provided. If you have teenagers, you’ll understand what I’m telling you.

I think teenagers are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school is no exception.

My child and I arrive at the house and the younger children quickly disappear upstairs. I remain downstairs, where “15” is dealing with one of the many challenges you face when trying to assemble a team on a video game. Dad is also in the living room finishing up work before getting ready to go out for the evening. It’s not an easy time for “15”. He’s playing a soccer game on his console, and he’s trying to assemble a national team. Apparently American soccer players are few and far between, and the good ones are even harder to find. I would like to help him, but I know nothing about who plays soccer, let alone where they hail from.

My friend and I watch “15” scroll through lists of players and their attributes. I offer whatever advice I can, but nothing works. The game works in a certain way, and you can’t just create a player and place him on your team. I literally haven’t played a soccer video game since last century, so I’m pretty much useless.

The Smoke Alarm

It gets harder for “15”. Not only does the field of available players lack what he needs, but the battery in the living room’s smoke alarm died, and there is an annoying “chirp” signaling the need for a new one. Each shrill call for a new battery is grating on the virtual general manager, who is having enough headaches with his lacking roster. He’s finally had enough, and he marches to the smoke detector, pulls it from the wall, and then the real struggle begins.

“15” has the smoke detector in his hands. The battery needs to be replaced, but first the old battery needs to be extracted. The Chinese water torture is getting to be too much for the lad, who can get the compartment open, but can’t get the battery out. Dad is enjoying this and so am I, to be honest with you. Finally, I show mercy to the poor child and take the battery out for them. After said extraction, I hold up the 9-volt nemesis and sing, “Ta-daa!” Now it’s time for a new battery, but there is no 9-volt battery in the house. So, the smoke detector sits on the end table sans battery for the time being.

A New Battery

I return home to take care of some chores and duties while my child is away at her friends. My friend has plans that evening, so I am sure to be there promptly to take my child home. I arrive at the house with a gift for “15”. A brand new 9-volt battery. To this day, I am mad at myself for not putting a bow on it.

Loaded and ready

I proudly present the lad with the gift and the life lesson. He installs the battery and places the smoke detector back in its proper place. Dad and I are proud of the child for doing his part to keep the house and his family safe and secure. Now, it’s back to video games where he has moved on from soccer to basketball. Dad and I are watching him scroll through teams and players. “15” makes some comments about Larry Bird, causing Dad to educate his child about Bird and Bill Russell. Meanwhile, we continue to watch him play.

“Hey, Auerbach,” I say.

“What?”

“I called you ‘Auerbach’.” Dad laughs. The child has no idea what I’m talking about, nor does he understand the reference to his basketball personnel moves.

Pizza Bagels

It’s time for a break in the action. “15” needs food. His dad follows him to the kitchen for a beer. “15” wants to make a pizza bagel. Dad and I watch the child struggle to slice a pre-sliced bagel. We remind the child it’s already pre-sliced, but this doesn’t matter to him because it’s not, “pre-sliced enough”. He gets the bagel sliced and prepares with sauce and toasts it. When it’s done, he has enough grated parmesan cheese for a dozen pizza bagels.

“Hey, Fieri,” I say after a sip of my beer, “Do you want some bagel to go with that cheese?”

One of the beers I received.

He tells me he has a solution and carefully shakes some cheese from one slice of the bagel onto the other slice. He then proceeds to eat the bagel while standing up, back turned to the counter. Crumbs fall to the floor. I tell him I’m willing to bet Dad has invested in some plates for the house. Dad tells me he needs to constantly remind him to use a plate when eating. I had no idea it was so chronic.

Driving home with my child, I ask how things went for them. I get home and enjoy one of the beers my friend sent home with me. My daughter and I watch some important, informative video on Harry Potter. While sipping my beer, I wonder if parents of teenagers were really meant to survive.

My new book, “A Collection of Short Stories” is now available on Apple Books.

Prince of the Road

Being a foster parent gives you numerous challenges everyday. There are things to deal with for school. There are doctor and dentist visits. Meetings with social workers. Another wrinkle being a foster parent can bring is a change in the order of milestones.

Our children range in ages from 17 to six. We will be celebrating a driver’s license before we will celebrate graduation from elementary school. We will help prepping for a high school final exam before dealing with middle school orientation. Things like these are perfectly normal for a family that doesn’t exactly do “normal”.

One of the Gaggle has their learner’s permit. This person has made Wife and I proud. They have shown initiative in their life and work. They looked for and got a job. They sought out how to get their permit and they are looking into driver’s ed.

The child and I have been out on the road getting practice and experience whenever we can. They do well most of the time. Then again, there was this one time…

I fancy myself an amateur craft beer and bourbon critic. One time nearly became a “Four-finger Night” as a neighbor likes to say. We were driving around town. The Gaggle had a few rounds behind the wheel under their belt and kept improving. We were making our way home. On our right was one of those glaring-red stop signs. Painfully obvious to me right away. Somehow, the Gaggle didn’t see it until we nearly passed it. Being the diligent person and stickler for rules, they slammed on the breaks as soon as they recognized their folly. I exclaimed an expletive and put my hands up to shield myself from the dashboard in case the seat belt didn’t work.

The Gaggle apologized. I reminded them to keep their eyes open when driving. They promised to do so and thanked me for the advice. As we continued our way, the route called for a left-hand turn. Unfortunately for our driving novice, this was one of those clearly visible streets that somehow remained hidden until you were halfway by it. Most people would continue on and make the next turn and make their way back to it. Not the Gaggle. Our driving dynamo saw the nearly passed street, slams on the brakes, and cuts the wheel for a hairpin turn that would make Vin Diesel proud. If they ever start casting for “The Fast and the Furious 17”, I think I’m signing the Gaggle up for it. Wait. They haven’t made part 17 yet. Have they?

We continue. We’re almost home, much to my relief. I think the car’s relieved, too. I instruct the Gaggle to make a turn. Maybe they were thinking about the turn they almost missed. Whatever it was, they make this one a little premature and we’re on the left side of the road, practically on someone’s front lawn. I thought I heard a mailbox scream and a lawn gnome reciting a prayer. I tell the child the laws haven’t changed and we’re still driving on the right side of the road. He apologized and literally rights the situation. We get home. He apologizes again before we get out of the car. We get inside the house. People inside ask how it went. We both say it went great. I poured a bourbon.