Making the idle comment that my 9 year old boy likes building forts, is much akin to saying the Easter Bunny is vaguely attracted to eggs. He is consumed and obsessed with his fort building passion. Our sofas and beds spend a good part of the weekend and all summer looking like discarded skeletons in the desert.
My wife and I were surprised to discover this obsession had also moved to school. We recently learned of a major fort building project he was involved in that seemed to consume most of his recess time. After years of trying unsuccessfully to get him to talk about his day at school, now we couldn’t get him to cease. Every day after school, we each were treated to long attention span reports about the ups and downs of maintaining a fort at school.
“Pops, you know the fort’s in trouble, right?”
“It’s in trouble?”
“The 5th grade girls are sabotaging it at recess.”
“And you can’t stop them?” I ask.
“They have a different recess than we do.”
“Oh, bummer. So how do you know it’s them?”
“Oh, we know.”
“You just know? How do you know if you’re not there?”
“We have spies,” he replied.
“Spies?” Clearly, this was more sophisticated than I’d imagined.
“You know, spies! Ears and eyes. Intelligence gathering?”
“But you’re in the 3rd Grade.”
“So. I’ve had spies since Kindergarten.”
“Well, they weren’t very reliable. You know how hard it is to trust little kids.”
“Yes, the truth is a moving target with them.”
“Exactly. Anyway, we know it’s the 5th Grade girls, so we set a trap.”
“Should I be concerned?”
“The 5th Grade girls are the ones that need to be concerned,” he said.
“That’s what I’m worried about.”
“Pops, chill. It’s all part of a larger plan.”
“And how is that supposed to help me relax?”
“The larger plan is we lay a trap that catches them in the act. Jeff, the yard monitor is in on it. He busts them, my team confronts them after school, and then we form an alliance.”
If a human being is truly capable of a Tex Avery, cartoon double take, I’m sure I just did one. I hope my chiropractor can fix it tomorrow.
“An alliance?…” I asked, with not the tiniest spec of rhetorical tone.
He puts his arm on my shoulder and with great compassion and just a hint of pity says, “Pops, you don’t know the kid world very well, do you?”
“In the olden days, I used to, but that was before language. Fill me in?” I asked.
“Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer, right? We build an alliance with the 5th Grade girls who we’re in competition with, and suddenly BINGO!”
“No more competition. We all work together to keep the fort maintained. Besides, I need some more scouts and messengers.”
He must have noticed the slack and uncomprehending nature of my face.
“Pops, you can’t expect to lead kids unless you give them jobs and responsibilities. I have scouts, messengers, builders, gatherers, lieutenants and more. I formed committees so I would only have to communicate with the leader of each committee.”
“Okay,” I said not really knowing what else to say as he scampered off to his room.
Honestly, I don’t know which is more worrisome. That my 3rd Grader is running a sophisticated operation at school with yard monitors and 5th grade girls, or that he’s quoting Sun Tzu and the Art of War.