I've been on vacation for the past week. My kids are finally old enough that I don't have to glue my eye to them at all times, and they're strong enough swimmers where I don't have to be in the water. For the first time in almost 18 years, I feel like I've been able to relax.
One of the resorts we stayed at had an open turf area where people could play baggo, ping pong, soccer and participate in contests and activities organized by the staff. By the time we got down to the pool, most of the lounge chairs were occupied with the exception of a small corner that was between the activity center, a giant slide and the lego section. Not exactly the remote solitude island I was hoping for, but it was a place to slide into and observe the action.
There was one little boy that was having a blast playing ping pong. He was totally animated and squealing with delight when he actually made contact with the ball. I'm thinking he was about 10. His mom was nearby, carrying a gazillion bags and fumbling with a camera. She made her way over to the table and I observed their conversation.
"SPENCER - Spencer - Spencer - look at me. Go down the slide, I want to get a picture"
"No, I really just want to play ping pong"
"SPENCER, I need to get a picture. Can you go to the lego table first, so I can get a picture over there too?"
"Mom, I just want to play ping pong"
"I know, but I want to get pictures of you doing everything"
"I don't want to do everything, I JUST WANT TO PLAY PING PONG"
She walked over, grabbed him by the arm and brought him to the lego table and she snapped away. The poor kid looked miserable - all I could think of was what kind of crappy pictures did the woman want to end up with? As she walked by tugging him again, I heard
"Now come on Spencer, I want you to do the sponge race - it will make a great picture - then the giant slide. They'll be so fun to look at later."
"Noooooo. I JUST WANT TO PLAY PING PONG"
He went to the sponge race and walked the whole thing while the kids around him ran and splashed the water. Those pictures had to have turned out terrible. I lost sight of them for a good 20 minutes. I could only assume she was posing him with something else. I never saw poor Spencer smile once except for when he was playing ping pong.
When they came back, I saw him running toward the table and wait in line for his turn, jumping up and down with anticipation. But sure enough....
"SPENCER! Come over here, I still haven't gotten a picture of you on the slide. I NEED that picture. COME NOW!"
"I JUST WANT TO PLAY PING PONG!"
"No - I want to get some great pictures - the slide will be great!"
"I DON'T WANT TO GO TO THE SLIDE!"
Once again, she grabbed him by the arm and put him in the slide line. She rushed back over by my side since I was located at the end of the slide basin gearing up for the perfect shot. About ten minutes later (where I could only imagine Spencer was getting more and more irate that he wasn't playing ping pong), he arrived to the top of the slide. Of course his mother screamed out:
"SPENCER, CAN YOU WAVE WHILE YOU'RE COMING DOWN?"
As the lifeguard at the bottom gave the all clear thumbs up, I saw Spencer make his four-story plunge down the slide. The most amazing thing happened next and one of my biggest regrets in life will be that I didn't have a camera ready to take the perfect shot. Spencer came flying down the slide, looking straight at his mother with arms straight out and both hands balled up into a fist with the middle finger prominently sticking straight up, displayed for a great picture for his mom's Facebook page.
His mom gasped, and I couldn't help but burst out laughing. I normally don't encourage disrespect, but it was simply awesome. I loved Spencer at that moment.
Unfortunately I didn't see him for the rest of the day. I'm not sure what his punishment was, but I'm sure it didn't involved pictures. I hope his mom saw this all as more than just an act of rebellion. I hope she realized that sometimes we have to just enjoy the moment and put the camera down. Sometimes we just have to let the kid play ping pong.
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