How I discovered my son’s distraction reflex is part of a hunter’s nature. Or a golden retriever’s.
A few summers ago we were on a road trip down south. The highway stretched out before us, cruise-control was on, and my husband and I were three-deep into our game of “top five Bruce Springsteen songs.” Suddenly there was a shout from the back seat, where we thought our tween son had dozed off with his nose in a Foxtrot collection.
“Gaaaaah!” Or something like that; mostly vowel sounds. Or was it, "Oh, my God, look!"?
I tensed up and checked the mirrors, the car swerving as I gripped the wheel in preparation to save our lives from the danger Enzo had spied with his eagle eyes.
“That was a ’94 Mustang Boss 604! I read about it in my car magazine but I’ve never seen one on the road! Oh, my God! I can’t believe I just saw that!”
The Huz and I breathed a sigh of relief, and then, of course, turned around and yelled at him. “Enzo, we thought there was real danger!” “Don’t scare us like that!” “I nearly drove off the road!” “You interrupted my speech about 'Cadillac Ranch’!”
“Sorry, Mom, Dad. I just get so excited.” He went back to his book.
A few moments later: “Oh, my God, I can't believe it! A pink Audi Innie nine thousand! There are only eleven of those in the world!!!" (Or something like that.)
This went on for a hundred miles or so.
We asked him to stop, we told him to stop, and we threatened to pull over and make him hitchhike. (That just encouraged him, unfortunately.) He tried, he really tried to hold his tongue, but when a late-model Ferrari drove by — well, what’s a kid to do? Then a lightbulb went off in my husband's head and we realized exactly what we were dealing with. The week before, we’d seen the new Pixar movie, UP. When a cool car went by, it was no different than when Dug, the golden retriever with the voice-translation collar, caught a scent.
Our parental authority is no match for whatever powerful impulses light up the hunter-synapses in his brain — and he really is a good kid who tries to control himself. But what really helped was to find the humor in the situation, and now we can participate in his outbursts of delight. Now, whenever Enzo blurts out "Oh, my God, look!" — we translate:
And if it’s a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, we say it with an Italian accent.
(Which is on our list of top five favorite accents, by the way.)