Tahoe Dad: The snow took your shorts
“Sorry buddy, the snow took your shorts.”
“Yeah, you’ll have to wait until spring when all the snow melts.”
“OK.” Sniff… sniff.
Michael, our 4-year-old, loves wearing shorts, specifically, “soft shorts.” It is generally a battle royale to get him to wear anything else. The line that Wifey and I have developed is that the snow came and took his shorts away. Deceitful? Maybe. Effective? Most certainly.
When a big storm arrives sometime in November that promises to drop accumulation at lake level, we plan it out.
“Is tonight the night?” Wifey asks.
“We should get it over with. Where do you want to stash them this year?”
And once Michael is down for the count, we sneak in and pilfer his entire wardrobe of shorts, realizing that if we miss even one pair, those will be the ones he wants to wear everyday.
If we’re not the Tooth Fairy, I guess we’re the Shorts-Eating Snow Trolls.
It would be preferable, of course, if this wasn’t a covert past-bedtime operation. And I do have some reservations about making up these little white lies. But like other childrearing myths and duplicities such as the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Tahoe Tessie, the big man in red and white, it’s endemic in our culture and ultimately furthers the greater peace and stability of our household.
Sure I’d like to be honest and open with my kid. I’d like to engage him in an intellectual discourse about the hypotheticals of snow and bear legs, but this has historically resulted in his unwavering assertion that “I’m not cold” and that “no, I don’t have bumpy geese.” Maybe this year he will understand that the amount of time that he spends with large swaths of his bare skin exposed to the elements is in direct proportion to the likelihood that he will get sick. Maybe he’ll get it. Maybe Wifey and I can start treating our soon to be 5-year-old with some independence and dignity instead of manipulation.
I also don’t want to fall into the “because I said so” trap.
“Michael, buddy, it’s just too cold for shorts right now.”
“But Dad, I’m not cold.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just not the right time of year, there’s snow on the ground and you could get frostbite or sick or all sorts of bad things.”
“But Dad, I’m not cold.”
“Look son, no more shorts.”
“But Dad, I want to wear shorts.”
Eventually this devolves into me taking his shorts as an ultimatum and for the rationale that “I said so.” This isn’t good for either of us. And being a Shorts-Eating Snow Troll just saves us both from even needing to have this conversation and saves me from needing to be a dictator.
In the back of my mind though is a concern that our present deception will result in a teenage shorts rebellion. I’ve seen it. On street corners, waiting stoic and frigid at 7a.m. They stand there, defiant, brave, and most certainly freezing cold; teenage boys in shorts, with jackets stashed in bushes, waiting for the school bus in the dead of winter. I think to myself, “yeah, his parents must have taken his shorts away when he was a kid.”
When and where to be honest with children? What did Socrates call it: a lie in the service of the truth? In this case, the greater truth, being household tranquility and the lie is such a small one: “The snow took your shorts.” But, at what point do I decide to treat Michael with some independence and the ability to weigh the pros and cons of a situation on his own? Isn’t that ultimately what all of us parents are striving for, to raise children who can evaluate the merits of a certain course of action and make a decision based on a careful measurement of possible outcomes.
“Can I take Cinder for a walk?”
“Maybe,” I look up from the computer to find Michael, clad in naught by loose rope tangled around various parts of his naked frame with that rope also twisted around our 13 year-old dog’s collar and his hand on the door knob. Meanwhile Cinder, always eager to go outside, looks at me with an expression that says, “What could go wrong?”
“Whoa, there buddy, let’s get some clothes on you and talk about how to hook up a leash.”
Yeah, maybe the Shorts-Eating Snow Trolls will hang around for one more year.
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