Jack walked into the living room to find Lyle lying on the couch face down. He knew that when his son got that way, things weren’t going that well for him. He often felt overwhelmed by the things Jack found simple.
“What’s the issue, bud?” Jack asked Lyle as he sat on the couch next to him. “You seem upset.”
“It’s too much work, Dad,” Lyle replied. “I can’t handle it.”
“How much work did she give you?” Jack asked.
“I have to write what’s good about hiking,” Lyle replied.
“Can you tell me anything good about hiking?”
“I don’t like hiking,” Lyle replied.
“Listen to the assignment,” Jack said, “You’re supposed to write about what’s good about hiking, not what you like about hiking, right?”
Lyle shrugged and nodded.
“So, can you tell me anything good about hiking? Try to think about what people that like hiking would say about it,” Jack said.
“You lose weight when you go hiking,” Lyle replied.
“It can improve your mood,” Lyle said, his eyes darting around the room. “And I read somewhere that it’s good for cario-cardiovascular something. Whatever that means.”
“That means it’s good for your heart and lungs,” Jack said with a nod. “You still think you can’t come up with anything?”
“I don’t know,” Lyle said.
“You can start with writing what you just told me,” Jack replied.
“I wrote one sentence,” Lyle replied, “That’s all Mom told me to write.”
“Okay,” Jack said, motioning for more. “And?”
“And the teacher only asked for one, too,” Lyle replied with a shrug.
“Why not just write down what you told me then?” Jack asked.
“I don’t like doing extra work,” he replied, grabbing a book from the table.
“But if you do more on the regular when you really don’t feel like doing any work, the normal assignment won’t seem as bad,” Jack replied.
“Nope,” Lyle replied, shaking his head.
“Alright, bud,” Jack replied, “It’s up to you, man. Just saying that the work isn’t that bad right now. Especially for an eleven-year-old.”
“I know,” Lyle replied as the door opened into the other room.
“Hello?” Gwen called through the house. “Lunch is here!”
Lyle got off the couch and ran from the room toward the sound of his mother’s voice, leaving him sitting in the living room alone. Jack heard Hugo run down the stairs and into the kitchen as well.
“Where’s your father?” he heard Gwen ask.
“I’m in here,” Jack called out.
“Come eat already,” she yelled back, “it’s going to get cold!”
Jack sighed and walked into the kitchen, feeling a little defeated by his conversation with Lyle. Gwen saw it instantly when he entered the room.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” he lied, “we can talk about it later.”
“I promise,” Jack said with a nod. “So, what’s for lunch?”
“I grabbed some pizza from the place you all like,” Gwen replied, pointing to the two boxes he hadn’t noticed on the counter. “I figured that we should have a good lunch with everything going on. It’s beautiful out, so after lunch, we’re going to go outside.”
“Do I have to?” Lyle asked.
“Yes,” Jack said, giving him my best ‘dad face.’ “We could all use some outside time.”
Hugo was already digging into the pizza. Both he and his mother preferred the cheese, while Lyle and Jack preferred the Pepperoni. After lunch, the boys went outside, and Gwen hung back for a second.
“So, what was that look earlier? What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I don’t know what to do about Lyle,” he admitted. “I know he’s a smart kid, but he seems to have the hardest time getting his schoolwork done.”
Gwen nodded. “He’s got some self-esteem issues going on that I don’t understand. I think that’s what is getting in the way of his work.”
“I don’t know, Gwen. I feel like this is something bigger. I think he might be hitting his pushback phase already,” Jack said, looking out the window at the boys as they ran through the yard. “Hugo just wants to be like his brother, and Lyle seems to argue over everything. I don’t know that I’m ready for this.”
“We are ready for anything the boys throw at us,” Gwen said, wrapping her arms around his waist as she looked up at me expectantly. He kissed her forehead and hugged her back as she put her cheek against his chest. “Besides, they have a great father that cares about them. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“So many things,” Jack said, “Hugo could steal the car, while Lyle burns down the safety station. They could develop superpowers and take over the world. They may just decide they don’t need us anymore and move out. So many things!”
“You’re being ridiculous,” Gwen said.
“You’re ridiculous,” Jack replied, a smile on his face. “But seriously, I get it. They are growing up, and they are two totally different kids. I’m just concerned is all.”
“That’s why you’re a great dad,” Gwen said, “The boys are lucky to have you.”
“I’m lucky to have all three of you,” Jack replied, “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
“Don’t start that again,” Gwen said, imitating the Beatle vultures from The Jungle Book.
“Dad! Come here! You have to see this!” Hugo yelled from outside as he skidded to a halt in front of the window. “It’s totally awesome!”
“I think we’d better get out there and see what he’s talking about,” Gwen laughed.
“Lyle probably smashed a window in the car to teach me a lesson about trying to get him to do his homework,” Jack teased.
“The only one that breaks car windows around here is you when you do the weed whacking,” Gwen prodded as Jack opened the door.
“Nice, Gwen, Nice,” he said, sticking his tongue out at her.
“I told you to let me do it,” Gwen replied, following him outside.
“Hurry up, Dad!” Hugo yelled as he ran around the back of the house.
Jack and Gwen held hands as they rounded the corner of the house to find Lyle throwing small stones at a large metal object floating ten feet off the ground. The near-perfect reflection of the boy mimicking his behavior.
“What the hell?” Jack muttered as he stepped forward. “Lyle! Stop that and come here, now!”