The elements? A 1950's two stage wooden ladder that weighs at least 75 pounds, a home that has a walk up first floor so the roof that we were working on was really about a story and a half off the ground and one easily distracted boy.
On to the brief guide for understanding the elements contained in 12 year old boys.
1. They're Ninjas. I do not remember ever receiving advanced convert infiltration and camouflage techniques in elementary school but then I did not go to private school like him. I would go up the ladder, get to the top, realize that I needed the clippers, shout down to "Luke" and ask him to throw them up. I would look down to find out why he is not answering and *poof* he was gone. It was less than thirty seconds and somehow he got from the base of the ladder and into the house without making a sound. I didn't even see the front door open and it was in full view! I would then, clomp, clomp, down the ladder yelling his name and find him in the house in the bathroom or in the kitchen fixing a snack, sneaking television on the second floor bedroom or walking behind the garage in the alley behind the house. I would yell at him for a bit, then bring him back to the ladder. And...*poof* he was gone again. I half expected to look up and see him escaping by hopping from one roof top to another, into the distance.
2. They don't think past the immediate moment. Luke was very excited to help with our project but it was clearly evident that it was not because he wanted a father-son day but rather he wanted to get on the roof. I had to stop him from climbing the ladder directly behind me and multiple of times I had to answer the question, "When can I go on the roof?" with "when we have a second." My final answer shot me straight back to when I was 12 and with my Dad. "If you ask me one more time there will be no __________! (roof in this case)" I tell Luke to hold the ladder. I have to get on the roof and check a few things and try to find out how the birds are getting into the chimney. So I am up on the roof for about five minutes doing my best not to fall off and I look up and there is Luke (see item 1) standing next to me. I look at the ladder nestled at an extremely vertical angle on one side of the house, which is why there needed to be a man holding the ladder at the ascent and the decent. I look at my son and ask, "So the third man on our team is now holding the ladder?" He looks at me and says, "Um there are only two of us..." I look at him long and hard and ask, "right, so...since your here with me, who is going to hold the ladder so we can get off the roof?" His response? "But I wanted to get on the roof." Flash forward, I am laying on my back on the roof, one foot in the gutter, the other thrown as far as I can to the side of the sloping wall to brace myself, while I pull back on the ladder with one hand so that dumba#$, I mean, my son, can crawl over me, get on the ladder and descend to the bottom safely. Oh and by the way he stepped on my leg in the process.
3. They do not look at you when your talking to them. This happened about a hundred times. I would say, Luke we need to do, this and that. You need to get this and go there. I would be pointing at what I wanted him to take and where to go. Each and every time...I mean, EACH AND EVERY TIME, he would start off in the wrong direction or could not find the item he needed. I would have to say, "look, look at me I AM POINTING AT WHERE IT IS!!!!!!!!!" Luke would then say, "Oh ok I did not know it was over there." I would then remind him, "THAT's WHY I AM POINTING TO IT!!!!!!!!!!"
4. They edit your conversation to suit their needs. When I say, "Ok I am at a bad angle here, stay at the bottom of the ladder so I do not fall off". Translates, "Hey when I get to the top of the ladder, that would be a great time to go inside and go the bathroom. Oh and do not tell me your doing it." When confronted with his action and what my request had been I get, "But you said fifteen weeks ago that I do not need to ask you every time I need to go the bathroom and you only need me to hold the ladder while you were going up". I then had to remind him that I said, "Stay at the bottom, in other words: do not move, remain, man your post and don't F'en MOVE!" To which the response is, "Oh I didn't understand that."
5. They quit and they quit quickly. "Ok, Luke. We need to bring the ladder down, its heavy but I don't have to tell you that. So your job is to simply grind this one leg down into the ground and don't let it move. I'll bring down the rest of the ladder. What ever you do, don't let that leg go anywhere." So I start lowering the ladder by tilting it to the side and well, right before the entire ladder was horizontal to the ground the leg brakes free and the ladder turns into a see-saw with me as the fulcrum. I drop it and *crack* right into my shin. After jumping around and increasing my physical fitness for the day, I ask, "why did you let go of the leg of the ladder?" A long story then followed that could be summarized this way, it got hard so I let it go. Another example of this is the request every 15 minutes for a "break". Yet strangely enough the "break" is never long enough and has no lasting affect since in the next 15 minutes a break would be requested again.
6. If it is funny the first time saying it a thousand times more makes it even funnier. I really don't have to explain this one much further. I would say something that would strike Luke as funny and he would then, for the next two hours, quote me back to myself. I would gently say to Luke, "Luke I know that is funny, that's why I said it to you. I do not need you to say what I said back to me." Which would stop Luke for about 10 milliseconds. I have to admit you gotta love his gusto. He laughed with the same level of intensity at the first telling as with the one thousand seven hundred and thirty-fourth telling of my cheesy one liner.
Father and son bonding...more keystone cop than family circus...at least in my household.
The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.