This was the year the Zapcics Version 6.0 (Michael is the youngest of 6…all boys) were supposed to travel to the Magical Kingdom of Disney for our first family adventure to that particular mecca. Me, at first I was ambivalent about going, as I find touristy throngs, long lines for short rides and constant noise and flashing lights excruciating, but I’ve been assured by many that the experience is truly exceptional and that I will LOVE it. During research, it does seem to be pretty cool, and so I move from ambivalence to tentative excitement.
Michael’s got a con down in Orlando, March, and we figure it’s a great time to tack on a few extra days and finally plunge into Disney. Plane rides, fireworks, cosplay — truly a perfect family getaway.
Then, just as we’ve made decisions about most things and are ready to hit the BUY NOW button for our package deal…Mitch, my almost 11-year old comes through the door from school, fist crammed into his book bag. Hand emerges, holding a piece of paper…an invitation to serve on the school Safety Patrol.
“Look Mom!” He hands me the paper. There’s a long list of requirements such as, always having your homework (written neatly –well, that would have been a deal-breaker for me, anyway), promoting tolerance and appropriate conflict resolution (his days promoting kindergarten cage-fighting are over), etc. all meant to instill and reinforce good citizenship, personal responsibility and a sense of duty to others.
Also on the list…..NO ABSENCES. NO EXCUSES.
Now, I suppose massive head trauma and plague would be excused, but the point is, as he explained to me with a very, very, very serious face, speaking very, very, very clearly and slowly…the point is,
“We can’t go to Disney until after school is out.”
“But Mitch, we can ONLY take this trip when we’re planning it. The summer’s no good — Dad’s and my work schedules won’t allow it. If we don’t take it in March, we won’t be able to go for at least another year.”
“Mom. I’ve made up my mind. This is the highest honor they give at the school, only a few people ever get picked and they chose ME. For a REASON. I HAVE to do this. I’ll never get another chance. Disney will be there next year.”
Now, there was no Safety Patrol where I went to school. ‘Safety Patrol’ was the playground where you learned how to punch or take a punch. And there was never any proof that it was me who ran the low-stakes card game at my grammar school, and at his age, any month where I was absent fewer than four days would have been a cause for a statue to be erected in the town square.
At first, I laughed. I thought he was joking. Then, I saw his face. Eyes steeled for a real argument — though his face crumpled a bit.
“Yes, Mom. Really. This is IMportant. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Disney will be a lot of fun when we do go, but it’s not IMportant. We have fun doing everything together. Safety Patrol is an honor. It means everything you and Dad talk to me about helping people and being fair and working hard for what you want really works. And I get privileges. I get to walk the halls without a pass because they trust me.”
The older I get, the easier it is for me to see and believe the signs and wonders all around. To understand what needs to be understood and let the rest go. Sometimes, I get to witness how the words I speak (or not) and the actions I take (or not) influence and help shape the people and the world around me. I struggle with balancing living in respect for ‘civilization’ and respect for working against it.
But I’ll tell you, it’s a heady thing to stand with your almost-11 year old son and listen to him argue for the opportunity to take on a commitment to serve, deferring a “trip of a lifetime” that many of his friends have already taken more than once.
M-I-C (C U Next Year, Maybe.) K-E-Y (Y? Because my son is just that Awesome.) M O U S E .