Getting the Point

For the longest time, our biggest challenge when we were out with the boys was the fight over who got to be first. Both boys wanted a chance to be the leader, and neither one wanted to let the other one lead. This inevitably ended with two boys racing to get in front and shoving at each other.

One day, as we were hiking along a lake, I had a burst of inspiration. The boys were really angry with each other. Neither wanted to go another step unless he was in front. When we put them both in back, which was our normal response to such an event, we ended up with two boys sitting in the dirt refusing to walk.

“Look,” I said. “Whoever’s out front has to point things out to the rest of us. That’s the leader’s job.”

The boys nodded, but neither one looked happy about it.

I pointed to my oldest. It was his turn to lead. “Okay, you’re first. You lead for the next five minutes, but if you don’t point things out, if you don’t stay close to us, I’m gonna pull you back and your brother’s the leader for the rest of the day.”

He gave me his angry look and stomped off. I decided to let him go.

After 30 seconds or so, however, he was getting too far out front. “Hey,” I called out. “Don’t forget, you have to point things out!”

He shot me a glare. “Okay!”

I put a hand out to stop my wife. Usually, we tag team. When one gets spoken to in that tone of voice, the other lands on the child with both feet. “I’m sorry,” I said. ”Are you really going to talk to me like that? You really want that kind of a fight?”

His little shoulders slumped. “Sorry.”

We started walking again. Suddenly, one of his hands shot out and pointed to the side of the trail. Two steps later, his other hand pointed randomly away. A few steps later he was jabbing his fingers in all directions around him as he walked. He didn’t speak or look backward, just kept jabbing as he walked.

My wife and I started to giggle. “Well, at least he’s pointing things out,” she whispered.

Suddenly he started hopping, pointing to a rock with his right right toe. After a few hops, he went back to walking and pointing. His little brother started laughing. “He pointed with his toe! He pointed with his toe!”

As bizarre as it was, that signalled the end of hostilities when it comes to who gets to be the leader. Yes, they still jostle each other, but with not nearly as much hostility.

And yes, I’m claiming credit for it.

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