High Performance Parenting: The Hairy Eyeball

In this episode, we learn how to apply the time hon­ored heavy artillery of father­hood: the stare, the look, the dad­face. Also known as, the Hairy Eye­ball.

Last night, the kid ratch­eted his online kill ratio up into the stratos­phere right up to the legally agreed-upon bed time. I had checked his grades online and they had improved, but I’d had a long day and  didn’t check his assign­ments. Appar­ently, nei­ther did he.

As he was going to bed last night he says this to me:

Kid: Dad, can you wake me up at 7:30 tomorrow?

Dad: So you can go online? I don’t think so.

Kid: No, no. It’s just, I hate rush­ing in the morn­ing, you know, I hate just jump­ing into the shower then run­ning out to school. I want a lit­tle time just to hang. With you.

Dad: Oh, prog­eny! Oh, won­drous off­spring! Oh, son of mine, thy wis­dom knows no bounds! The sun, it doth radi­ate from thy nether orifi! (Or some­thing like that.)

This morn­ing, after stay­ing up all night mak­ing sure the girl was doing her sleep ther­apy, I hauled my noble car­cass out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:30, as requested by the boy. He shuts his door and I go make tea and I’m think­ing, oh well, at least he’s inter­ested in something.

I open his door to tell him he’s run­ning out of shower time and instead of the harsh stac­cato of gun­fire and the hor­ri­fied screams the dig­i­tal dead and dying, I get total silence. I peek around the door and there he is, bathed in the radium glow of his open lap­top, writ­ing a report. That lit­tle .  .  .

Dad: Is that homework?

Kid: [unin­tel­li­gi­ble]

Dad: It bet­ter not be.

Kid: Come on, dad! This is the first time this semes­ter I didn’t do my homework.

Dad: So what? That doesn’t make it right.

Kid: Alright!

So I go do my thing. He runs up the stairs a few min­utes later.

Kid: Dad, print this right now!

I open the doc­u­ment, a book report, and start read­ing. Usu­ally, five sen­tences into one of his reports, my teeth are ground down to nubs from the frus­tra­tion and tedium of cap­i­tal­iz­ing names, respelling sim­ple words, and chang­ing there to they’re. But the time it starts out like this:

The exe­cu­tioner works on Tuesdays.”

The first page sets the mood for this haunt­ing work of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, which is based on the life of Hel­muth Gud­dat Hub­ner, a mem­ber of the Hitler Youth and the title char­ac­ter of THE BOY WHO DARED. Susan Camp­bell Bar­to­letti has taken one episode from her New­berry Honor Book, HITLER YOUTH, and fleshed it out into a thought-provoking novel.

Wow! The kid’s get­ting good! He’s even got thought-provoking hyphen­ated. I scroll down, wait­ing for the tell­tale squig­gly crim­son under­lines, but they’re not there. Instead, I’m read­ing per­fectly spelled gems like this:

Life is not easy for his fam­ily or for the Ger­man peo­ple after los­ing the Great War (World War I). At school Hel­muth learns how the Treaty of Versailles—the peace agree­ment that ended the Great War in 1918—has forced Ger­mans to make costly repa­ra­tions, which have led to unem­ploy­ment, poverty and infla­tion. Even more, the treaty has caused shame and humil­i­a­tion to the once proud and cul­tured Ger­man peo­ple, who gave the world Brahms, Beethoven and Bach.

Holy awe­some, bat­man! This kid’s got some chops! I keep reading.

After see­ing a class­mate scorned and beaten up for being Jew­ish, and later watch­ing a Jew­ish neigh­bor who served nobly in the Great War get hauled off by Nazi stormtroop­ers, Hel­muth becomes dis­il­lu­sioned and vows to take action. But can one teenage boy stand up against the Nazis? If so, how and at what risk?

    THE BOY WHO DARED is a story about hav­ing the courage to act upon one’s beliefs, no mat­ter one’s age or the risks and con­se­quences involved. Bartoletti’s use of flash­backs builds the sus­pense, and her inclu­sion of numer­ous pho­tos, along with a Third Reich time­line, com­ple­ment the expe­ri­ence of read­ing this mem­o­rable novel.

Jesus Hat-trick Christ! I’m beam­ing. This is my “That’s my boy!” moment! I finally got … I … wait a minute. He not only used Chicago Man­ual of Style ALL CAPS for the title of the book in the body of the story; he not only used dis­il­lu­sion­ment; he used com­ple­ment. With an E. Cor­rectly! Crap, even my Eng­lish pro­fes­sor got that one wrong sometimes.

Dammit.

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It is at this point that I swivel slowly around in my desk chair, gaze into his highly sus­pi­cious face, and apply, gen­er­ously, the hairy eye­ball.

Dad: What’s dis­il­lu­sion mean?

Kid: I don’t know, hurry up!

Dad: Spell complement.

Kid: Duh, C-O-M-P-L-I-M-E-N-T

Dad: No, the other one.

Kid: Huh?

Dad: Did you write this paper?

Kid: Dad!

Dad: Did you?

Kid: [floor stare of shame; hardly speak­ing] No.

Dad: Did you read this book?

Kid: [Star­ing a shame-hole through the floor, hop­ing to escape; barely audi­ble] No.

Dad: [furi­ously restrain­ing a tor­rent of invec­tives. Voice full of mali­cious dis­ap­point­ment. Eye­ball full of hair.] Get back down there and write a report on a book you’ve actu­ally read.

He slinks down the stairs. I call the school to report him Tardy—only his sec­ond tardy of the semester—and go about my biz.

He comes back forty min­utes later and turns in the fol­low­ing, which I present unabridged:

It all strarts when anna­marie and ellen are rac­ing home from school. Two men stop them. They are nazi sol­diers. (this takes place dur­ing world war 2 in which nazi sol­diers were tar­get­ing jews). Luck­ily they get away even though ellen is a jew.

That’s my boy.

About Bull Garlington

Christopher Garlington is the humor columnist for Chicago Parent magazine, Seattle Parent Map, and New York Parenting magazine. His stories have appeared in Atlanta Parent, Baton Rouge Parent, Parenting ABC (U.K.); Florida, Orlando, Orlando Weekly, Catholic Digest, Retort, Another Realm, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and other magazines. He is the author of the infamous anti-parenting blog, Death By Children; co-author of The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats.