A Kid’s Creed

I’ve learned something in my first month as an actual Florida resident.  I’ve learned that people like to visit when you live at the beach.  I’ve pretty much had company for the entire month, and I love it.

My sister and her four children – Faith and Grace, the twins, are 9, Joe’s 8, and Kate’s 6 – are with me right now.   They arrived Wednesday evening in a Toyota Sequoia bursting  with kids, toys, petrified french fries, DVDs, bicycles, and about 34 pairs of shoes.

They pulled into my driveway, and petrified french fries, empty cups, and a jillion Skittles fell out when the doors opened.  The kids tumbled out of the car and went straight for my dogs.  Pancho, who is a shepherd, immediately began herding them and quickly tore a hole in Kate’s shirt trying to pull her toward the house.  Laverne and Shirley, the dachshunds, who are perpetually on the verge of paranoia, promptly hid under the golf cart.

“Everyone get your suitcase out of the car right now,” my sister began hollering in a voice like a drill sergeant.  “I mean it.  You’re responsible for your own suitcase!”   Faith, Grace, Joe, and Kate reluctantly trudged back to the car.

As the kids were unloading their stuff, my sister began to tell me about the trip.  “We were ten minutes down the road, and they started fighting.  So I turned the car around, went home, and told them the trip was cancelled because of them.  I even unloaded the whole car.  They were crying and begging and promising to be good.”

She secured promises that they would behave, loaded everything back into the car, and they headed toward the beach.  “And they were pretty good after that,” she said with a triumphant smile.

It had been a teaching moment.  Score one for my sister.  She’d taught her kids a lesson.

She finished telling me the story and watched with satisfaction as they trudged past her pulling their respective hot pink, purple, University of Georgia, and monogrammed pink gingham suitcases.   Then she walked back to the car, looked inside, and yelled back to the kids, “Who got my suitcase out of the car?”

They answered in unison:  “You told us to get our own!”

My sister’s suitcase is still sitting in her living room, right where she left it when she unpacked the car to teach her kids that lesson.  So for the rest of the week, she’s sporting a Japanese Tony the Tiger t-shirt that she got for $2 at Target.  Score one for the kids.

I passed their bikes parked in my driveway this morning as I left to go play tennis, and it reminded me of the bike my sister had as a kid.  It was orange, and I can still see her — pigtails and handlebar streamers flying — as she zipped down the street.  On the back of that bike she’d plastered a bumper sticker it with the old United States Marine Corp motto:  “Don’t tread on me.”

Which is exactly the creed her kids now live by.


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