The first 2013 home football game at Appalachian State didn’t end well.
I’m not referring to the game, a huge upset loss to visiting NC A&T. That was bad. But this was worse. I had to fuss my eight-year-old daughter out. And I did it as only I could – as terribly nerdy as possible.
“Thanks for ruining what was a fun night!” I snapped at her, as we walking through the low-lit stadium parking lot. We were alone. Fireworks exploded behind us as part of a special post-game show. “We’re not seeing fireworks. We’re not on the field. We’re going home, thanks to you!”
She never responded. She just cried. We were halfway to my truck.
It all started as the game ended. Soon after players and coaches exit to locker rooms, ASU allows fans access to the field. They can pose for photos, play catch, or run around as obnoxiously as possible until
officials decide it’s time to close up shop.
We always hit the field. The kids love it. It’s a highlight of the game experience.
As the clock ticked down, my 6-year-old son was psyched. He had his football and his kickoff tee. He was ready to attack the field goal posts. He loves kicking on the field. It’s his kidnip.
My eight-year-old daughter? She wants to meet cheerleaders and do cartwheels. Right now she’s …. um … uh .. where is she? … she was, uh, she was just right here.
“Honey, do you see your daughter anywhere? Where did she go?”
She wasn’t with us. It took three minutes of scanning the crowd below to find her. She had, on her own, left our seats near the top of the stands and headed into the student section. She was alone standing by the gate to the field, waiting for her cue to ski-doo.
Before I could react the wife marched off. A couple of minutes later mom and daughter return. Mom looked angry. Daughter looked vindictive. Son was oblivious. He was too busy in mental la-la-land, a huge
smile on his face.
As she returned to our seats, my daughter angrily grabbed for the iPad she had been playing with earlier. One problem – brother was sitting in her way. So she reached behind him and, with her elbow, shoved him off the bleacher.
One knee hit concrete. The other slammed into the steel bracketing of the bleacher back in front of us. He screamed. So did I.
“We’re leaving! Now!”
My daughter jumped at the order. I pointed “go.” She started crying. I didn’t care. “Go!” My anger was incited by the unexpected pain inflicted on an unsuspecting brother by an unjustly angry sister.
My wife and I had driven separate vehicles. I said I would see her at home. Off I marched my daughter. And I mean marched. Out of the stands, out of the stadium, through the parking lot, up a flight of steps, and
across campus to my truck.
I exploded at her thrice. Once to let her know we were missing fireworks. Again when I heard the A&T band playing its postgame show (I was missing the Machine!)
The third time was right as we were approaching my truck. And, in retrospect, it was the worst angry dad moment one could imagine.
“Do you remember when we talked about cost-benefit analysis? Do you?” I expelled. My seminar was just warming up. “Everything you do has a cost you weigh against benefits! Next time you want to do something stupid like leave us to get lost in a crowd, then hurt your brother because you’re mad, think about what that’s going to cost you! What are you gaining to suffer those costs?”
Am I proud of these words? No. No father should be. Behavioral economics is best presented in the aisles of Wal-Mart, calmly contrasting allowance with that can of silly string she HAS to have. Teaching effectiveness is diminished under street lights, surrounded by traffic on one side and dark woods on the other.
But nonetheless class continued. I delivered every line as if I was Walter White. “I AM the danger!”
“We were all going to go down on the field, but you wanted to get there faster. You thought it was no big deal to let us know so you could benefit by getting there faster. Did you not think the cost would be angering mom and I because we have no idea where you were? Where was the benefit in that? And what was gained by hurting your brother? What!?!”
My daughter never responded. She just cried.
We got in the truck. I drove for 10 minutes before saying anything else. I calmed down. Angry dad left. Time for reconciliation dad.
“I love you, sweetie. But what you did was wrong. You need to ask permission before you run off, okay? And don’t hurt your brother just because you’re mad mom’s mad at you. If you want to talk about it, we can. I’m
not mad anymore. If you don’t, that’s fine too. I won’t bring it up again. It just wasn’t a good way to end the day.”
Again she never responded. She just cried.