Cecil Turtle At McDonald’s Parking Lot

What are YOU doing at McDonald's?

In  a nutshell the difference between Conor, my 11-year-old and Mychal, my 9-year-old:

We’re going through through McDonald’s drive-thru at 8pm because it’s Little League season and the two of them need a break from concession stand hot dogs.  Yeah, yeah, we’re lousy parents who feed our precious children greasy garbage–my parents both smoked like chimneys when me and my brother were crawling around on the rug and we somehow made it to adulthood, so lay off. 

Past a row of cars there’s a patch of grass next to the parking lot, where Conor and Mychal spy a rather large turtle.  Before I can say Bugs Bunny in a dress the two of them are out of the car and running across the parking lot to investigate amid my cries of “be careful” and “there are CARS in a parking lot!”  Again, do not judge.  We used to ride  a Big Wheel down a neighbor’s steep driveway that was lined with hedges to the left and go directly into the road like a blind shot out of a cannon.  Except for that one time Joe ended up under some poor guy’s bumper, we never had an incident.

They disappear behind a car as the clerk brings our food.  All the teen workers are looking out the drive-thru window at the turtle as well, and a few have come across the parking lot to investigate the beshelled prehistoric beast, which means either that the average maturity level of a McD’s employee is about 10 or that McD’s employees will defend their establishment at any cost.  I will leave you, dear reader, to decide.

I start to pull over so I can chase the kids away from Cecil Turtle when, to my astonishment, I see Conor and Mychal headed back toward the car.  Conor says “It was a snapping turtle.”  How do you know?  “Because it bit me.”  He shows me a quarter inch blood mark near the bottom of his thumb on the back of his hand.  Story is Conor approached the turtle while Mychal laid back and watched.  Cecil retreated into his shell until just its snout was peeking out.   This universally accepted defensive posture was interpreted by Conor as a friendly invitation to touch his shell.  Conor gently touched the turtle’s hind shell, and the lizard in a tank twisted and extended his neck with his now well known blinding speed and snapped my unsuspecting son on the hand.  Conor seemed strangely unphased by this sequence of events, as if a nipped hand was the price the bold must pay for their bravery.  Mychal said something along the lines of, “I wouldn’t have touched that thing if you paid me in Star Wars figures.”

Hence the difference.  Thus has it been throughout their formative years.  Just after Mychal learned to walk, he was watching Conor taking a running start and hurling himself against the wall.  For all those aghast mothers and fathers out there who wonder how we could allow him to do such a thing…ah, forget it, we’re lousy parents.  Although my parents DID allow us to wail on each other with whiffle bats.  Conor picked himself up, returned to his original position and repeated throwing himself against the wall.  Being a dutiful and loving younger brother, Mychal admired Conor and figured throwing oneself against a wall was de rigueur for childhood activities, and might be an enjoyable experience for him as well.  He took a running start, ran headlong into the wall, and bounced off just as hard.  He didn’t cry.  He just shot Conor a look as if to say, “THIS is what you do for fun?”  From that moment, Mychal has quietly rooted his brother on in his exploits from the safety of the sidelines, as Conor continually flung himself headlong at life.

It’s not that Mychal is timid–he isn’t.  He just quickly developed a healthy sense of restraint that seems to have eluded his elder sibling.  Conor profiles to be somebody who follows his passions unrestrainedly, and frequently pays a deep price.  He will torture himself with the depth of his depression, then exult in the height of his elation.  His high school girlfriends will be dramatic, poetry-writing lunatics with black nail polish and eyeliner who my wife will hate fervently.  He will find a job in some artistic endeavor that will fulfill his soul completely and leave him as penniless as a Dickens hero.  He will live expansively and recklessly, and experience every moment, up and down, of life’s roller-coaster.

Mychal will be selective with his mates, in a search for the perfect blend of pretty and sassy that will be good enough for him.  His mother will love them.  He will keep a level head through the best and worst of times.  He will find a job that pays well, yet affords him time to pursue his many outside interests like singing and acting.  Hi will live moderately, yet extremely comfortably, and he will treasure the time he sets away to enjoy the good things in life.

I don’t know who I envy more. 



















    • Kae
    • June 9th, 2011

    So funny! As well as thought-provoking. I’m glad I had a very careful daughter, one who never took crazy chances like hurtling down a driveway into traffic.

    Your boys sound incredibly fun. Hope Conor’s turtle bite wasn’t too bad. BTW, I think you and Mary Ellen are wonderful parents!

  1. Thanks Kae. If nothing else we’re willing to let them make their own mistakes. And if that means we’re lazy, so be it!

    • Anonymous
    • June 10th, 2011

    Without ever meeting any of them you have described my three children perfectly. I would often find my son observing his sister as if she were an exotic insect as she scaled the height of a jungle gym laughing to himself quietly as she inevitably fell to earth. I also see my youngest quite clearly in your account of Conor’s future mate. Lucky for me this brief phase ended with her days at Spotsylvania Middle School.

  2. Conor and your daughter must never meet!

  3. Haha, those are my cousins to a tee! My older cousin ran at a million miles a second from the day he was born, straight up to getting himself kicked out of high school and finding himself with his own family on his 21st birthday. Luckily for them and all of us, he finally slowed down the moment he saw his son born. My younger cousin, on the other hand, has never hurried up for anything. He’d watch his brother, learn from him, and take the better road.

  4. Thanks Emily. For some reason the common sense between siblings is never distributed evenly!

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