Sticking to the Plan
On the Saturday Iron Man came to COSI, I got there at 10 a.m., right when it opened. I figured my son, Liam, and I would be one of the first in line to meet the armored superhero.
It took us 20 minutes just to turn into the parking lot. When we finally got inside, more than a hundred people were already in line ahead of us. My heart sank. This was supposed to be a special treat-a rare Liam-and-Daddy outing.
So I gave Liam a choice: We could wait here for as long as it took to meet Iron Man, as promised. Or we could leave and go to a couple of shops where I'd get him his first comic book and look for a new superhero T-shirt.
Liam pondered. Unexpected presents are no small thing for a 5-year-old. But he didn't agonize long.
"Let's just wait, Daddy," he said. And so we did. Four hours later, he posed for a picture with Iron Man.
If you're conjecturing that Liam chose to wait because his love for Iron Man runs deep, you're wrong. Sure, kids love superheroes. But Iron Man isn't even his favorite, and he's pretty much figured out that costumed characters are exactly that-regular people in costumes.
No, Liam chose to wait because seeing Iron Man was the original plan, and the stated plan always trumps. Liam is never content to see how the day (or the week) unfolds. "Let's wait and see" and "We'll figure it out later" are not acceptable. There must be a plan, and we must stick to this plan.
Part of this is age. A level of predictability is comforting for almost all preschoolers and preKs. But his younger sister, Maggie, doesn't freak out when I decide on a whim to stop by Target before the gym. If Liam had his way, our family life would run with military precision.
I'd like to say Liam gets this trait from my wife, Kate, and to a certain extent he does. Her job involves a level of scheduling and planning that would give me Tony Soprano-esque panic attacks. She doesn't wake up on Saturdays wondering what we'll do. It's all been thought out and often presented to me in list form for approval. She's a planner, through and through.
But I must admit I see more of myself in Liam's plan cravings. People have told me I'm laid back, so I used to believe them. What I've discovered, though, is that while my demeanor is laid back, my optimal lifestyle is anything but.
I like order. I like a clean house. My Gmail inbox must be viewable on a single page. I started out as a copy editor, for crying out loud. Can anyone who gets worked up about Oxford commas truly be laid back?
Liam's desire for an orderly life has only confirmed I'm not as laid back as I once thought I was. My plans will never be at the near-neurotic level of Liam's or Kate's, but I have to admit, deep down, I wanted to wait for Iron Man, too.
-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer. His two kids refer to Bob Evans as Bob Dylan's and still don't know the purple dinosaur's name.