My 14-year -old son, Ethan, attempts to scare his dad every morning.
Every day, Ethan wakes early, makes his way downstairs and he hides. It’s never the same place two days in a row. That’s the only thing that changes. The rest of his routine stays constant.
On this particular day, for some reason, I’m up early to observe the ritual.
Ethan positions himself on the couch, with a blanket over his head. He peers out at me while he waits. “No,” he tells me, he hasn’t fed the dog because Max always makes Dad feed him, regardless of whether or not Ethan already has.
I’m learning all sorts of things by waking up early.
Ethan watches for the shadow to fall at the base of the stairs. I hear the stairs squeak and turn to Ethan. He subtly shakes his head. “That’s not Dad. Dad comes downstairs at 6:17.” How does he know this?
I didn’t know this. I make a quick calculation. If Nathan comes downstairs at 6:17, that gives Ethan exactly 13 minutes with his dad before Nathan needs to leave for work.
It’s 6:17. Right on time, Nathan walks down the stairs. Ethan pops up from his hiding place, drums his fingers together, and says, in his most sinister voice, “I’ve been expecting you.”
He follows Nathan to the kitchen. I hear the clatter of the dog food being poured into Max’s bowl. Nathan makes his oatmeal while Ethan trails him around the kitchen. Ethan hasn’t stopped talking since 6:17. He has 780 seconds. Each one is optimized. These 13 minutes are what compels my son to get up before 6:00 every morning. 13 minutes of conversation with his dad. I don’t even know what they talk about, but I have a feeling that’s not really the point, right?
Ethan doesn’t stop talking.
I don’t stop smiling.