Monday, June 26, 2006

Legal Emigrants

Benjamin and I were reading the book Honkers.   In it, a girl, staying at her grandparents farm for a time, helps them hatch and raise some goslings from abandoned Canada Goose eggs.

We've read it a few times, so Benjamin is very familiar with the story. On one of the pages, the grandparents first show the eggs to the girl in a barn. In the picture, some white geese are standing near the Canada Goose eggs.

Now, I must mention that I told Benjamin (regarding the migration part of the story) that the Canada Geese, flying south, are off to spend the winter in Mexico. I now realize this is not accurate. Maybe I was thinking about many songbirds and Monarch butterflies (eastern populations). It turns out most Canada Geese only migrate to the central and southern U.S., though some do go as far as Mexico.

Anyway, Benjamin looked at the picture of the white geese and the eggs and said to me, "Those farm geese can keep those Mexican geese's eggs warm until they hatch."

¡Muy bien!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Say Nothing

It's funny I should mention my "answering service" (in the last post). Today Benjamin answered the phone and shortly thereafter announced that his dada was going poo and that I could talk after I was done going poo. Gosh, I sure hope the window was open wide enough. I wouldn't want to keep the neighbors out of the loop.

So we're working on "can't come to the phone" or "not available" a little more. I also threw in a brief discussion of traditional ideas about privacy, what information people may or may not want to have, etc.

Now, Benjamin has watched a "Bob the Builder" episode (from a library DVD) a lot lately. It's one where Mr. Bentley has an anniversary surprise for Mrs. Bentley, and the machines must "say nothing" to preserve the surprise.

When my wife was home for lunch, I told her today's telephone story. "That's really funny," was her addition to the "teachable moment." By contrast, I quizzed Benjamin, "So if someone calls and one of us is on the potty, what could you say?" (Yeah, I know. I'm no fun.)

Benjamin grinned and responded, "Always say nothing."

That, indeed, was Muck's summation of the lesson for that "Bob the Builder" episode.

I propose a modified version: "When it comes to surprises [and poo], always say nothing."

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Very Affordable Answering Service

Our son likes to answer the telephone. Not only do I enjoy listening to him answer — in his cute little, 4-year-old, but educated way—, I'm not above taking advantage of it . . . a little.

He easily learned, "Who's calling, please?" and to tell us whom it is. (Also, he is now learning to not be quite so candid when he answers and I'm indisposed. "He's in the bathroom; he needs privacy" [or more vivid descriptions] are being replaced by, "He's not available right now.")

Anyway, when telemarketers call, Benjamin can come in quite handy. He is fully in the habit of asking who it is. And, stickler that he can be, he'll keep asking until he understands sufficiently to repeat to my wife or me what the caller has said.

I haven't had the heart, yet, to have him lie to them. It's not that I feel that guilty about fibbing to the solicitor. It just seems sad to have an innocent child do your dirty work. I've thought a number of times of telling Benjamin to tell the friendly new caller all  about our trip to Disney world, about how his train set works, or about what happened in our last game of Candyland. Benjamin has become remarkably long-winded in his descriptions and storytelling of late (don't know where he gets that from), so I'm sure he'd have a lot  of interesting things to say. But, again, I don't want to exploit his good-natured interest in sharing with others, nor do I want to have to unteach this strange phone etiquette.

Nevertheless, I savor some of Benjamin's natural phone interactions with telemarketers. Sometimes businesses call and representatives either can't hear Benjamin (perhaps because of a bad connection somewhere between here and Bangalore); or they mistake his cute little voice for that of a 2 year old; or maybe they just don’t want to give the upper hand to a child. Whatever the reason, they insist on speaking to Benjamin in a slow, loud, condescending voice: "I need to talk to your mommy. Please get your mommy."

Meanwhile he's been trying to nicely ask, "Who's calling, please?" He answers their request politely, but firmly, "My mom's at work; my dad's here. I need to know who's calling, please."

"Can I talk to your daddy?"

Benjamin now becomes, louder and slower, realizing he's dealing with someone not quite at his level, "WHO'S CALLING, PLEASE?"

After a few exchanges back and forth, the caller finally identifies her/himself, "Well, … MY . . . NAME . . . IS 'MARY.'"

Of course, I don't know "Mary," so I must whisper to Benjamin, "Ask them, 'From where?'"

Usually they revert to "I need to talk to your daddy" a few more times. Then they give in, "OK . . . I'm from 'Cap - i - tol One.' Will you be able to say that?"

"Dada," he turns to me, "It's Mary from Capitol One. She wants to talk to you."

"Thank you," I politely respond. Then and only then is the helpful representative permitted to speak with me.

'How do I know what the caller is saying to him?' you ask. I'm listening on speakerphone, of course. But far be it from me  to rudely interrupt the cordial conversation my son is trying to have.

Why do I thus allow telemarketers to waste even more of our time by going through all of this? I guess I take a secret formerly-secret pleasure in the whole thing, especially with the ones who talk to him like he's 1-1/2 years old. Yeah, I know, it's a sad state of affairs. I'm far too easily amused and have too much time on my hands act like I have too much time on my hands.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Out of the Closet, Finally

We spent quite a while today closed inside a little closet.

I had Benjamin pick out his shirt today. He chose a campground
shirt that, as he quickly reminded me, glows in the dark.

He wanted to see it glow, so we "charged it up" next to the light bulb and closed the closet door. "It's glowing!" Glowing stars, fireflies, a lantern and a moon.

He wanted to do it again. And again. And again. Our closet light has a pull-string switch. He had a hard time finding it in the dark, so he began asking the fireflies to help him find the string. (I helped the fireflies.)

He wanted to do it again. And again. And again. I could see that I — literally — needed an exit strategy.

I could just say, "All right, enough of this. We're done." I could if I wanted to hang out with an angry 4-year-old for the next half hour. It always works better to ask something like, "How many more times?"

In this case the answer was, "Three." I could deal with that. We charged up the shirt one last time and he got to wear it . . . glowing. And out we went.

Finally, out of closet. With a few stretches I've almost got all the kinks out of my back, legs and neck.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Heaven of Peace Tower

Benjamin: "Dada, this is one of the tallest towers in the world. "
Dad: "Wow! What is it called?"
Benjamin: "Well, it's called the 'Heaven of Peace Tower'"