Note: In this classic "Grounds for Insanity" column, The Lively One analyzes the vagaries of masculine (and the offsprings') visual acuity. There's a reason she uses flip charts around here.
With a combined 44 years of parenting under my belt, you would think that any naïve and idealistic views I once had about the job would have been skewered by now. For the most part, this is true. It’s just that every once in awhile after a particularly fractious day, I find myself involuntarily heading to the safe where we keep important papers and reaching for the file labeled “return policy info.” And then reality hits. Oh, that’s right. This is a no-return, you’re-stuck-with-‘em deal.
Over the years, I have often said to my husband, “We sure didn’t know what we were getting into when we brought that little baloney loaf home from the hospital, did we?” Depending on what the little “baloney loaf” has pulled that day, his father will mutter darkly, “We should’ve dropped him and run like mad.”
Actually, the same “no return” policy applies to spouses as well. So does the whole “I sure didn’t know what I was getting into” theory. How was I supposed to know when I said, “I do,” that the blue-eyed package I was getting included a bloodhound-quality nose and intermittent glaucoma? Surely I’m not the only living female who knows that men of any age are prone to sharp swings in visual acuity.
For instance, my husband, who is a big IU basketball fan, can call fouls, pick out a player’s mother in the bleachers, and spot a mole in number twenty-three’s hair line from the other end of the house. Imagine, then, my utter perplexity when I find him staring blankly into the pantry, looking for the sugar bowl that is completely “obscured” by a single teabag. When I lift the teabag and point out the sugar bowl, he mumbles, “Well, it wasn’t there when I looked.”
Then there was the day he was searching for the all-important blanky. He looked high. He looked low. He tore apart the room wherein it was last seen right down to the studs, but all for naught. Once he managed to rebuild it again, I walked around the end of the bed and there was the object of baby’s desire lying in plain sight on the floor.
He also experiences a dramatic restoration of his eyesight in the aisles of the local video store. Movie buff that he is, he can happily spend hours looking for videos with nary a blind spot or myopic attack. He’s a veritable hawk, tracking down the latest action flick while we, his loving family, wait through birthdays, graduations, and season changes.
In fact, one night when the boys were very small, we were out shopping and we made the mistake of stopping off at the movie store. The boys were being stinkers, as I recall, and by the time he ran in to look, I was at the end of my rope. “I have one nerve left, and you guys are standing on it,” I said through gritted teeth.
We waited and waited. The boys were getting restless, nearing the riot point. Just as they were about to flip the car over on its side, I lost it. From the back seat, a small voice said, “Snap!”
“What?” I said, incredulous.
“I said ‘snap.’ Your last nerve – it just snapped.” Which is when my own vision blurred and things took a sharp downhill turn.
Unfortunately, Mr. Schrock’s occasional visual glitches have been inherited by his sons. These kids would be a researcher’s dream. On certain occasions, they have perfect 20/20 vision. For instance, they can spot a package of Ding-Dongs at 120 yards, roughly the length of a football field. Throw them into the garden, though, with instructions to weed it, and they suddenly go legally blind.
That’s exactly what happened recently. After pitching the middle two out the door with orders to clean out the garden, I resisted the urge to lock it behind them and trudged upstairs to tackle my reports. When they presented awhile later declaring that it was clean as a whistle out there, I grabbed my inspector’s hat and went to verify their claims. I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, you know. Some things cannot be taken at face value.
Sure enough, it was still a jungle out there. There were weeds in the tomatoes, weeds in the marigolds, and weeds in the jalapeno plants. As I began pointing out their omissions, their eager little smiles began to fade. When someone passing by on the road shouted, “You missed one over there,” they became downright sullen. And when the neighbors started gathering, waving and pointing with foam fingers at weeds they’d missed, they were reduced to banging their heads in despair on a nearby maple tree.
I guess I’ll be spending the rest of the summer doing drills with flip charts filled with pictures of weeds, actual vegetable plants, and sugar bowls. Maybe I’ll throw in a few pictures of candy bars and soda pop just to keep their vision laser sharp. I don’t know if this will work, but Lord knows it’s worth a try.