Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Suburban Man: An Embarrassing Collection

By Rick Kaempfer

My youngest son Sean (age 5) is an avid collector.

He used to collect harmless things like leaves, rocks, paper clips, and coins. (Hint: Don’t jingle the change in your pocket around this boy. He’ll follow you around until you fork it over.) A few months ago, however, he started a brand new collection that is even more embarrassing.

He collects bottle caps.

Beer bottle caps.

My wife was horrified immediately, but I must admit, I thought it was funny at first. Plus, it was actually kind of nice to have an occasional beer brought to me without asking for it. It was even good for a few laughs when we had friends over.

“Oh, you’ve really got him trained, don’t you?”

“He’s collecting bottle caps,” I would explain.

My wife gave me a disapproving look each time, but I wasn’t concerned. It’s not like anyone believed he was drinking the beer himself. I collected beer cans when I was a kid, which was a rather popular trend in the 70s. I considered his bottle cap collection the same sort of thing. As far as I was concerned, it was totally innocuous.

On the other hand, I hadn’t anticipated that his collection would accumulate at such an alarming rate. Soon, whenever he brought out his huge collection to proudly display for friends and relatives, I felt compelled to add: “He didn’t get all of those from me.”

Unfortunately, the way he got the rest of them has become a bit of a problem. Upon entering a new home, his first destination is now the refrigerator. The other day we went to visit my mother, and he not only went into her refrigerator, he said these words as he did so…

“Hey, what kind of beer you got?”

The look on my mother’s face that day, in addition to the look on my wife’s face the following day when we found him rifling through the garbage for bottle caps at my sister’s house, has convinced me this collection has to go.

I don’t want to throw them out or ban the collection outright because that will make him want to collect them even more. That’s just the kind of kid he is. (I have no idea where he got that rebellious streak from…oh, wait a minute…never mind.) No, the only way to get him away from bottle caps, is to convince him to collect something else.

It has to be something colorful (which is what attracted him to the bottle caps), easy to accumulate (which will get him enthused), and free (which will keep me out of the poorhouse.)

Have any ideas?

This article first appeared on the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"