Stacy and I have three children. This story is about two of them, Preston (age 13) and Zach (age 10). Our kids are what many people call MKs, missionary kids. Preston has lived just about 3 years in the US in his life, while Zach only has about 2 years in the US. The rest of the time has been spent in other countries, places with different rules and opportunities. This is important for our story.
Zach came up to me last week to tell me about something in the parking area behind our apartment. Now, you have to understand how different my children are. Preston is the math guy. Zach is the artist. Preston analyzes. Zach has feelings. Preston makes his bed while Zach does not even use a top sheet. Preston buttons his shirts. Zach just got used to wearing underwear every day in the last two years. Preston uses judgement to reach conclusions about the best course of action. Zach says “You know what would be cool?” Preston’s favorite outfit is his Tennessee Titan shirt and some denim shorts. Zach’s favorite outfit for years was his skin.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Zach has been to the ER more than 10 times in his 10 years on this earth. Zach falls off of roof tops. Tumbles down stairs. Hits himself in the head trying to copy moves from “Revenge of the Sith.” Takes off his clothes and runs in the rain across the playground and among the houses on a Baptist seminary campus.
Zach is the one who, upon arriving at our new home last week, promptly climbed the fence, scaled the wall, and stood on the neighbor’s roof. “Get down from there! That’s not our roof!” prompted him to reply with “But why? There’s nobody up here.” Preston, on the other hand, helped me mow the yard. On a side note, Emily was in the still-empty house pretending to shop.
In essence, circumstances and situations have given me ample reason to fear Zach’s judgement abilities, and to rely heavily on Preston as the voice of reason when Mommy and Daddy are not around. This, too, is important for our story.
So Zach is telling me about the parking area, and how the 25 foot high walls around it are not perfectly straight. It seems there is a ledge about 10 feet up or so running all the way around the parking area. ”So, there’s this ledge, ya know? And that big board down there? Well, if you put the board against the wall, right on that ledge, you can just walk right up and onto that ledge! We walked all up and down the wall on that!”
Great. Kids can barely walk and chew gum without tripping each other. Now they want to walk on a 12-inch wide ledge 10 feet off the ground.
“Well, that small house down there where that other family lives is right at the same height as the ledge. I mean, the ledge ends at the edge of their roof top. Since the roof was flat, we just walked right on top of the roof.”
So I said it. ”New family rule: NO walking on other people’s houses or roof tops, even with permission. Zach, you’ve fallen off a roof before, so this goes double for you.”
Then Preston, the voice of reason, chimes in. “You know the back wall of the property is really high? And on the other side is, like, another house? Well the people from that other house put an electric fence on top of their wall!” Bells begin to ring. Sirens. In my mind, I can clearly see the triage nurse at Hospital Voz Andes on Calle Villalengua. She’s saying “Senor Parks? Back again? Que paso?”
“Well Dad, we touched it. The fence.”
Did it hurt? “Well, not at first. Zach didn’t touch it for long. I held on the longest, and then something happened and the shock just THREW me off. I couldn’t have held on any more! It THREW me, Dad!”
Did anyone fall off the roof? No.
Was there a sign, one that said something like “DANGER! LITTLE BOYS SHOULD USE THEIR BRAINS AND CLIMB DOWN RIGHT NOW BEFORE THEY DO SOMETHING STUPID”? Preston again. “Well, of course there was a sign. That’s why I made Zach touch it first!”
I’m crushed. This is what I expect from Zach. But Preston? Oh, my son….tell me that’s the end.
“Anyway, Zach was finished, but I went ahead and touched it with my forehead. That really hurt.” Long pause. “We got down after that.”
I recovered long enough for my next pronouncement. “OK…new family rule. No touching of electric fences, especially while standing on someone else’s roof top. I should not have to make this sort of rule. I work too hard to have think of these sorts of rules. If you were normal kids living in the normalcy of the United States, I’d have to make rules about the new words your friends at school taught you, or about which side of the street is best for skateboarding. Here? I get saddled with electric fences and who gets to eat the chicken heart for supper.” (We actually have to take turns on that last one. Family rule.)
People say to me, “It is so great that your kids have the chance to live in other countries, where they have such unique opportunities! Isn’t it grand?” Yeah. Laugh a minute.