When Jonathan and Bryce were preschoolers, we lived in Dallas. Well, Mesquite, to be exact. We made the 30 mile round trip to our beloved church, Park Cities Baptist, on Northwest Highway every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. The boys particularly enjoyed the midweek trip because Wednesday night had not one, but two, highlights for them. First came the chicken leg and mashed potatoes at the church supper. Second to the chicken leg was Mission Friends during which they learned about how missionaries spread Jesus' love around the world. The best part of Mission Friends was the "cwaft." Every Wednesday night after Mission Friends, the boys would skip to the car wagging some "cwafty" item ranging from pinto beans glued to a paper plate representing the average food intake of a child in a third world country to construction paper collages of faces of children from "all over the world" that had been cut out of old copies of Parents Magazine.
On one particular Wednesday night the boys came running out of their classrooms proudly waving some sort of craft involving paper plates and tongue depressors. As we walked to the minivan, they chattered away about the thrilling things that had occurred during the Mission Friends hour. "Cwistopha wouldn't share any of the cwayons until Miss Suzie came ova to da table and had a tawk wit' him! While she was tawking, I gwabbed all of the gween ones." "What did Christopher do without any green crayons?" "He had to make aw of his gwass bwue." The thought of a paper plate covered with blue grass sent both boys into fits of laughter as they began to march to the cadence of their chant, "Cwistopha had bwue gwass! Cwistopha had bwue gwass! Cwistopha had bwue gwass!"
Handing me their "cwafts," they scrambled into the back seat of the minivan, a lovely 1991 Mazda MPV, and climbed up into their carseats ready to be buckled. Once they were both safely buckled in, Jonathan said, "I wanna hold my cwaft! Mine's the one with the gween gwass!" Bryce, chuckling at Jonathan's "quick wit" echoed, "I wanna hold my cwaft, too!!!" Having distributed "cwafts" and sippy cups filled with apple juice for the long ride home, I climbed into the driver's seat, cranked up the Wee Sing tunes, and headed the MPV eastbound towards Mesquite.
Upon nearing the on-ramp for Central Expressway, I made the decision to head towards I-30 just south of downtown. This was the fastest route home, but the least desirable. If I had stayed on Northwest Highway, I could have then turned south on Buckner Boulevard. While that route was better lit and more heavily populated, it always seemed much more tedious than skimming east on I-30. The I-30 route was more "treacherous" because there was a long stretch of industrial warehouses in which a mother alone at night with two small sons bearing Mission Friends cwafts could get murdered by some sort of industrial warehouse strangler if a flat tire or overheating motor forced her off the road onto the shoulder of darkness. That stretch of highway became my Forest of No Return in the dark of night as I sped home from church. I alternated prayers for travel safety with thoughts of strangling Alan for passing up an evening of chicken legs and cwafts for an evening of working late at the bank.
Zipping past the lights of downtown Dallas, I double-checked my gas gauge, took a deep breath, and veered into the "I-30" lane. Just about the time that I eased onto I-30, I began to hear a noise. A soft "pop......pop......pop." Just above the happy Wee Singers I heard Bryce. "'Top it, Ja-shon! 'Top hittin' me!" The popping stops. Just past the State Fair grounds, the popping resumes. "JA-SHON, 'TOP IT! I'M GONNA TEWL ON YOU!" Guess what, Bryce. You just did. Turning down the tunes, I glared at Jonathan in my rearview mirror. "Jonathan Lackey! Stop hitting your brother with your Mission Friends craft!" Silence. Sweet, sweet silence. Problem solved, I cranked up the tunes and concentrated on the dark journey ahead.
A couple of miles down the road it began again. Pop.....pop.....pop! "MOM! JA-SHON KEEPS HITTIN' ME WIT' HIS CWAFT! MAKE HIM 'TOP!" Hmmm. I considered those words. "Make him stop." Make my strong-willed firstborn stop abusing his brother in the third seat of a Mazda MPV. I turned down the music and said what most mothers would say at this time. "JONATHAN! Didn't I tell you not to hit your brother!?" "Yeah." "You mean 'yes, ma'aam?!'" (I threw in the "yes, ma'am" in an effort to kill two birds with one stone.) "Yes, ma'am." "Well then, why are you still hitting him?" I'm not sure where I picked up this parenting technique - the ever so effective "didn't-I-tell-you-not-to-why-are-you-still" line of questioning. Jonathan yawned and responded, "I doan know." "Well, DO NOT HIT HIM AGAIN!" I punctuated the command with a stiff "AND I MEAN IT!" There. That should do it. Oz had spoken.
Warehouses whizzed past the car windows. Minutes passed. Then, again with the popping. Simultaneously, my heart began to pound in my chest as my blood pressure rose and my eyes widened in disbelief as I began to question my firstborn's intelligence. Think, Carolyn, think! What is the most powerful thing you can say to this child to take all of the joy out of popping his brother? I tried to think of the exact words Moses used to part the waters of the Red Sea. No good. He just whacked the ground with a stick or something. Aha! I had it! "JONATHAN LACKEY!" (This is the introduction to my "big idea.") "IF YOU HIT YOUR BROTHER ONE MORE TIME....I'M GONNA PULL THIS CAR OVER, COME BACK THERE, AND SPANK YOU!" Now, I had done it. I had given him the scariest ultimatum a mother can give. The dreaded threat of a spanking. Silence from the third seat. I smuggly declared maternal victory.
With the exit signs for Dolphin Road ahead, I calculated the minutes remaining until I could hand off the boys to their father. Out of the darkness of the third seat it came. Pop....pop....pop. As I took a deep breath getting ready to repeat my threat, Bryce hollered from the back seat, "'TOP DA CAW! 'TOP DA CAW! 'TOP DA CAW!"
Hearing the shouts of my little Brycie who depended on his mother to keep him safe from all evil, I realized that I had gone and done it. I had thrown down the gauntlet of the empty threat. That little 4-year-old knew that his odds in my game of poker were good. He knew that the chance of my pulling over onto the shoulder of I-30 in the dark of night in a deserted area was nil. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
So what did I do? I began to laugh hysterically. Belly hoo-ha's errupted loudly, as I slapped my hand on the steering wheel. There was no way in heck I was going to pull that car over. My child had just given me a lesson on the Power of the Idle Threat. It had none. We had had a moment, he and I. He brought me to a new understanding of the faulty reasoning behind the threat to spank. He knew good and well that, indeed, no matter how brightly lit or safe a road's shoulder might be, I did not want to spank him.
I laughed all the way to San Saba Street. I laughed as I pulled into the garage. I laughed as I told the story to Alan. Well done, Boy Wonder. Touche.
Guess what? The whole time I was laughing, not once did Jonathan pop Bryce with his "cwaft."