Ah, Fathers, Part 7

, , , | Right | October 27, 2020

It’s the end of the day on Friday. Camp normally ends at 3 pm, the counselors leave at 3:15 pm, and my boss will stay with the kids in aftercare until the last kid gets picked up at around 6 pm.

However, on Fridays, the counselors all stay late to clean up, usually until around five or six. The kids in aftercare just play by themselves, or we put on some cartoons. My boss usually plays with them, but as mentioned, Friday is clean-up day. We are all cleaning up, and slowly the parents of kids in aftercare are trickling in to pick their kids up.

Two of the boys have the same model lunchbox. A dad comes to pick up his son, and goes to get his lunchbox from the table. He picks it up, marches up to my boss:

Father: “This is NOT my kid’s lunch box.”

Boss: “I’m sorry. We had another kid this week who had the same lunchbox. I guess that’s his lunchbox you’re holding.”

Father: *Scoffs.* “Obviously. Now get my kid’s lunchbox back.”

He starts to walk out with the other kid’s lunchbox. My boss rushes forward.

Boss: “Uh… I can call his parents, but I’m going to need you to leave his lunchbox here.”

Father: “Um… no. They have my kid’s lunchbox, I have theirs. This is my insurance I get my kid’s lunchbox back. I will give it back when they give me my kid’s one back. I’ll wait for them to come here.”

My boss is flabbergasted. All the counselors are listening, but pretending not to so we don’t get involved.

Boss: “Well, it might be a while to get a hold of the parents; they only left five minutes ago, so they could still be driving and not pick up the phone.”

Father: “Well then. I’m not waiting. I’m leaving. You have my address, I give you my permission to give them my address and they can come to my house and make the exchange.”

Boss: “I can’t let you leave premises with another kid’s property”

Father:Why not? You let that family leave with my kid’s property?”

Boss: “That was an accident. I can’t knowingly let you leave with that lunchbox.”

Father: “You guys are lucky I’m not calling the cops!”

Boss: “I’m sorry?”

Father: “Your negligence let another family steal my kid’s lunchbox!”

Boss: *A little upset.* “Sir. Mistakes happen. Again, I apologize for this inconvenience, but there was no crime committed here.”

This goes on for a few minutes.

Boss: “Alright, sir, I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, would you mind signing your son out?”

My boss hands the father a pen and a clipboard with the sign-out sheet. To sign it, the father has to set the lunchbox down on the table. While he’s signing out, my boss quietly takes the lunchbox and sets it safely behind him. The father never notices. Then, he checks the contact list, and calls the other boy’s parents.

Boss: “Hi [Other Parent’s Name], this is [Boss’s Name] from camp. I believe I have your son’s lunchbox here… Yeah, he and another kid had the same lunchbox, so you probably have his… No worries! When do you think you’ll be able to drop it off?… Oh… Really?… Uh huh… No worries. See you shortly. Bye.”

He turns and looks at the father and speaks in an impressively calm voice.

Boss: “They will be back shortly to pick up their son’s lunchbox, but they do not have your son’s lunchbox. Their son just forgot to grab his.”

It’s so silent, you can hear a pin drop. The other counselors and I freeze for a second, but managed to keep the facade of “we’re just working here, don’t mind us.”

The father freezes for a moment, unsure of what to do. I can see the little gears turning in his head. He comes to his epic conclusion:

Father: “Well then it MUST be HERE!”

Genius.

He starts tearing around the room, looking everywhere from the lunchbox table, to the play area, to the game shelves, to the office where the kids aren’t even allowed in, everywhere. Mind you, we had been cleaning up, and so everything “was” very neat and tidy – emphasis on the word “was.” 

While this is going on, my boss decides a different strategy. While the father is dismantling the last hour of cleaning and tidying, my boss crouches down next to the boy. During all this, he had just been quietly playing with some toys.

Boss: “Hey buddy. Do you remember where you put your lunchbox?”

The boy nods.

Boss: “Where is it?”

Boy: “On the kitchen table.”

Everything… stopped. The other counselors and I couldn’t maintain our indifferent facade any longer. We just froze, half of us staring at the boy, the other half glaring at his father.

My boss probably one of the most chill, funniest, silliest teachers/counselors you could find. Absolutely perfect for a job like this. However, when he stood up, there was a look on his face I had never seen before. Gone was the silliness. Gone was the fun. Also gone was the tolerance for this father. In the most deadly calm voice that practically shouted anything but calm, he says:

Boss: “Your son says his lunchbox is on the kitchen table. In your house. He says he never brought the lunch box to camp today. The lunchbox. isn’t. here.”

The father once again freezes. His face goes white, then red. He stutters for a bit, before turning to his son.

Father: “Now look at this! You’ve made me look stupid.”

It was at that moment I lost all little remaining respect for this guy. It was also the moment I felt bad for his son. Throughout the week, he had been… a less-than-stellar camper. He’d thrown tantrums, was entitled, didn’t follow the rules very well, etc. All frustration I had for him was replaced by pity. He had been raised in a house where his father’s mistakes and actions led to him being blamed. He had been raised by a man so entitled he would throw tantrums over a child’s lunchbox.

My boss manages to put a stop to that quickly by just stepping behind them and non-physically urging them towards the door. The father doesn’t get the memo. I still have some hope that the father would apologize? Nope. Time for small talk.

Father: “So… you in college?”

Boss: “Yes…”

Father: “What are you studying?”

Boss: “I’m getting my Master’s in Elementary Education.”

Father: “Oh, cool. What’s that like?”

Boss: “Great. We learn how to deal with childhood behavior all the time such as exploration of the world, strengthening communication skills, tantrums…”

He puts emphasis on the last part. The father finally got the hint and walked out.

I want to emphasize that the boy did eat that day! We later learned he had bought his lunch with him in a disposable container.

Related:
Ah, Fathers, Part 6
Ah, Fathers, Part 5
Ah, Fathers, Part 4
Ah, Fathers, Part 3
Ah, Fathers, Part 2

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