When the apocalypse comes

If you believe the ancient Mayans were clairvoyant or possessed magical powers, then you believe they predicted the world is going to end on Dec. 21. If you’re like me, though, you believe this is bunk, like the other predictions that the end of the world is nigh.

Thing 1 (the 12-year-old) is like me. She doesn’t believe the Mayans or anyone else has predicted the apocalypse, but, also like me when I was a kid, she thinks it’s spooky when her friends keep talking about it.

book-planetWhen I was a kid in the ’70s, I knew a lot of kids whose parents were evangelicals who believed the world was going to end in the 1980s, because that’s what it said in a book and movie (mostly a movie, because these people didn’t read) called “The Late, Great Planet Earth.” I think they talked about the book (or maybe just the movie) in church.

I remember once, when I was in 5th grade, someone was telling a story, and I said, “What’s the world coming to?” It was a rhetorical question, but this one girl answered, anyway. “The end!” she said, smugly.

I understand exactly how unsettling and annoying it can be when people, especially your classmates, talk about the apocalypse, so I decided it was time to have a father-daughter chat.

I explained that the world wasn’t going to end on Dec. 21. It didn’t end in the ’80s, it didn’t end on May 21, 2011, despite what all those billboards said, and it’s not going to end a few days before Christmas.

It’s going to end in 7.6 billion years, which is when scientists believe the sun will become what’s called a “red giant” and swallow the Earth in its fiery maw.

Some scientists think the Earth’s orbit may simply shift further out into space, but it’s likely that a larger, hotter sun will have evaporated every living thing on the planet long before that happens.

I told my girl my point was that when the world really does end, we won’t be around to see it, and there’s a good chance the human race will be extinct, so there’s no point in worrying.

Thing 1 thought about this for a moment then said, “You’re weird,” then started texting her friends.

I’m glad I could be there for her.

The worst Halloween ever (or, the night a girl and her mom stole my candy)

When I was 5, my parents took me trick-or-treating. It was drizzling, and I had a nasty cold, but I didn’t want to miss Halloween.

I don’t remember my costume, but I remember my bag. It was a paper, with paper-cord handles. This is important. It was a paper bag.

Trick or Treat?
This is not how I remember trick-or-treat. (Wikipedia)

I got a lot of candy, but there were a few duds. One woman was giving out pieces of popcorn — loose, not bagged, just reaching in a bowl and dropping a few into the paper bag — and there was a doctor up the street who gave out pennies.

So, there I am, sick, sniffling, coughing, with a slight fever, walking down the street in a drizzling rain, and I say, “Mom, my bag feels lighter.”

She says, “Oh, you’re just getting used to the weight.”

I stop and look at my bag and say, “No, it broke!”

The bottom had dropped out of my damp paper sack, and all my candy had fallen out.

We looked up the sidewalk and there, maybe 20 feet behind us, a girl and her mother were scooping up my candy and putting it in the girl’s bag.

I looked at Mom. She looked at the girl and mother stealing my candy and sighed. “OK,” she said. “Let’s go to a few more houses, then.”

We did, but we’d already hit most of the houses on the street, and I didn’t get enough candy to make up for the candy the girl and her mother stole.

A few years ago, my parents and I were talking about the kids’ costumes and about Halloween when I was a kid — like the time our neighbor’s big black dog chased me down the street, or the many times teenagers blew up our pumpkins with M-80s — and I asked Mom why she hadn’t tried to stop the woman from taking the candy.

Mom said she knew the woman, or knew of her. I’m from a really small town in eastern Kentucky where everybody knows everybody else, including their family histories and their family’s criminal history. “That woman was mean,” my mom said.

I understood. It would be a waste of time to get into an argument with an idiot over a couple bucks worth of chocolate. I imagine she would have claimed it was hers under the widely held legal principle of “finders keepers.”

So, this Halloween I’ll carve a pumpkin (yuck) and take the kids out trick-or-treating and, because they asked, I’ll wear a costume — Indiana Jones, because I have a jacket and a hat that would work — and if I see a kid spill some candy on the sidewalk, you can bet Things 1 and 2 and I will help him pick it up.

If a 9-year-old can climb Everest, then my kids can do whatever

Mount Everest (topgold)
Image via Wikipedia

Inspired by the example of the father who plans to let his 9-year-old son scale Mount Everest, I have decided to let my kids do whatever.

I have come to the conclusion that I’m a bad parent, that I’m too strict about things like safety and common sense and that my kids, ages 10 and 4, really do know what’s best.

Oh, sure, sometimes these things end badly and predictably, but if the 4-year-old suffers massive head trauma riding his scooter down the hill without a helmet, then at least he’ll have suffered massive head trauma while doing something he loved — defying me and Sweetie.

Because I believe we have to let our kids be true to themselves and follow that dream where ever that dream may lead, even if that dream leads to juvenile court or a long-term care facility.

The fact that our family could get a book deal, a spot on “The Today Show” and possibly a reality TV series out of this has nothing to do with our decision to absolve ourselves of all parental responsibility when it comes to the health and welfare of our children, although, really, without the support of the media, our adventure probably wouldn’t have happened be possible.

I know no one reading this would ever judge us for allowing our children to be true to themselves, and I hope you’ll follow our adventures — first, on our new website, LettingMyKidsDoWhatever.BecauseThatsHowIRoll.com, and then, fingers crossed, on our as-yet untitled reality series, probably on the Discovery Channel, but maybe on TBS or YouTube.