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Saturday, Apr 19, 2014
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Jackson: Successful anticipation needs helping hand

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Like any self-respecting adolescent, the heir apparent has been anticipating since August the date of the eighthth-grade getaway. Who wouldn’t?

What’s not to love about the idea of spending a day of district-sanctioned hooky at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, bookended by rides on a luxury motor coach?

In summary, as the lad himself would say, “So, yeah.”

However, as in all things planted squarely and blatantly on the calendar, anticipation is not the same thing as preparation — as anyone who has visited a mall on Dec. 24 can readily attest. Here, as well, it probably is worthwhile to put in a word on behalf of organization.

In the best of worlds, the three — anticipation, preparation, organization — comprise a formidable partnership. Throw in some capable execution and you have the formula for achieving almost anything, from winning a global war to competing for a Super Bowl berth to growing prize watermelons to finally repairing the back porch steps.

This, alas, is a small story rich in anticipation, but largely bereft of its helpful cousins.

The heir apparent is not yet a month past his 14thth birthday, and while he has grown a head taller than his mom and his shoe size recently surpassed his father’s (it took me until I was 16), there is much within him that remains stubbornly 9.

He would be perfectly content, for instance, whiling away a Saturday in the company of a “Rugrats” marathon. (Although that may not be the best example; the more you get to know life, the deeper becomes your appreciation for the wise ideological compromises struck by Chuckie and Tommy — Butch and Sundance in diapers.)

There’s also this: He completes his homework assignments, then neglects to turn them in. And this: Asked to check the garage freezer for bread, he returns to report the presence of two loaves, but is empty-handed.

They — among them parents with older sons and middle school guidance counselors — say this is “typical.” A noise in the brains of boys of a certain age drowns, apparently, all but the most explicit instructions. Even he’s bought in: “I’m going through puberty, Dad. What do you expect?”

Which brings us to Wednesday morning, less than 45 minutes before the long-awaited departure of luxury motor coaches from the middle school parking lot, and the case of the missing wallet.

Not yet a habitual wallet-carrier, the heir apparent likes them for special occasions. The one-time-only daytrip to celebrate the approaching close of his middle school career certainly qualified. But despite knowing the date since August and having spent at least two weeks counting down the days (it’s genetic; his parents are anticipation junkies), the simple task of preparation (knowing where his wallet was), aided by organization (because it has a place set aside for it) eluded him.

Now it was gone, seemingly, triggering an accusatory inquisition. Had we seen it? Did we move it? Did you hide it? Could someone have taken it? Who’s been here recently?

Suddenly, a sinkhole of despair threatened to swallow every bit of joy that was nine months in the earning, an expectation built upon pop quizzes and midterms and semester projects and FCATs and — thanks a bunch, John Legg — mind-crunching end-of-course exams.

All over a wallet? Not just any wallet, as it turns out, but the wallet holding long-hoarded gift cards for a popular electronics game shop found along Universal’s CityWalk. His funk, then, had a legitimate source: the prospect of being the only member of his posse returning without a piece of digital memorabilia.

As he sat in a depressed lump, nudging breakfast around with his fork, the house overturned and his world collapsing, his dad — playing a hunch — thumped up the stairs to his room and tugged open the drawer to his nightstand, the vortex in the lad’s universe of All Things Not Nailed Down.

There, beneath an aging paperback collection of early 1960s Peanuts cartoon strips, was the coveted wallet, along with a reminder about the truth of this passing, hopefully brief, phase mentioned above: Because of a condition that inhibits logical extrapolation, it is not enough to ask a 14-year-old boy if he looked in the drawer where his wallet is supposed to stay.

You also must say: “And move stuff around. Lift stuff out. Look under stuff.”

So. To our elixir of anticipation, preparation, organization and execution, add explicit communication. Stir. Apply as needed for reliably happy endings.


tjackson@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1851

Facebook: www.Facebook/#!/TomJacksonTribune

Twitter: @tjacksonTBO

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