To survive the ferry ride, I put aside my writer brain as best as I could. I brought a book so I wouldn’t just sit there in the seat and wonder if The Youngest had been eaten by killer whales or fallen into the lava engines that power the ferry and burned to death, or stolen by demented bikers who brought him up as one of their own, him becoming a hard-core one percenter who collected debts with a nailgun hooked up to an air compressor.
So, yeah, to survive, I had to put all that aside. But I may have put it aside too much. Looking back, I wonder if I adopted a too liberal supervision plan.
After I’d led him upstairs, fed him, I did what I dreaded to do.
He came up to me. “Can I go play with the team, please, Joe?”
“Sure, buddy. Make good choices.”
And off he went with his hockey friends. I chatted with a few of the parents, tried to read my book, but the truth is, every minute of every one of those two hours on the ferry, I wondered what the m***er-f***ing hell was he up to?
So, when he ran by, I asked him, “What are you up to?”
“Playing hide and seek.”
“Ok, but no running.”
The 2nd time he came by, I asked him, “What are you up to?”
“Not running,” he said with a face pink from exertion. “We’re playing tag.”
“Without running? Really? Then why are you panting?”
“Sorry, I’ll stop running.”
In hindsight, I should have asked better questions like, “You’re watching what on someone’s iphone?”
“Just where, exactly, did you play hide and seek? Did you play on the car deck? Did you bother other people?”
“Who’s throwing garbage off the freaking ferry?”
But I didn’t ask those questions until a lot later when bits of information began trickling in. It made no difference to the boys that we saw a pod of whales or a school of seals. Nope, they wanted to play in a place they had never played before and go a little wild. A little feral.
Because, you see, if left to their own devices, boys will very quickly become the kids from Lord of the Flies. I think if they’d have been left for any longer, there would have been a severed pig’s head, spears made from Whitespot toothpicks, and someone designated piggie and sacrificed to the beast.
In the end, no one died, no older people were knocked over, and I really should have twigged to what hide and seek could mean on the ferry, but that whole tossing garbage off the ferry was not cool. Not cool at all.
I asked The Youngest if he was a part of that, and he said no. He confessed, though, that he did nothing to stop it. Nor did he talk to any parents about it. Or me. Even though he knew it was wrong.
Oh, I get it, he didn’t want to be the one who tattled on his friends. He wanted to be with the cool kids, do cool things, have fun. But there are limits and he needed to understand those limits. Or rather, have them reiterated.
Just before we docked, we had a long talk about what making better choices meant, a talk I maybe should have had in earnest with him before I let him loose like a baby Godzilla. But if there’s one truism about me being a stepdad, I am constantly learning and constantly evolving. I improvise. I adapt. I overcome.
The only problem is, so do the kids and next up was the pool party.
This was going to be a hard weekend.