posted by Joe Anaya on February 13th, 2012

My kid has a lot of friends in the Boy Scouts. (For some reason, he hasn’t been interested in joining.) One thing the scouts are doing right now is getting pocket-knives. They are doing their whittling chit, merit badge thing. And it seems like I got my first pocket-knife around the same age. So, it’s been on my mind to get my son a pocket-knife for camping trips and the like.

While on a little day trip to a quaint tourist town with some friends, my wife and another parent stop off in a wine shop. The other wife, our kids and I head down the block and find a knife shop. We browse the counters and my kid spots a black Swiss Army knife. The sales person pulls the knife out and we take a look. As I’m about to tell him, “We’ll get it,” I realize, I’ve never really spoken to my wife about whether she is okay with him having a knife. I’m pretty sure it’ll be okay. She’d probably be fine with it, but there is a chance she will object and my “I had one at his age,” will fall on deaf ears. I call her but she doesn’t pick up her cell.

I decide to stall my son while I try to get a hold of my wife to confirm it’s okay. I’d hate to tell him its okay and have to take it away from him. So, I ask how often are you really going to use the knife? Thinking he’ll have to come up with some examples, like camping, fishing, etc. I leave him at the counter and wonder off to try calling my wife again. Finally, my wife show’s up. As expected, she defers to my judgment on such boy things. But here’s the crazy part. My son has thought about it and decides he doesn’t really want the knife.

Now I’m trying to talk him into it. “Are you sure? It’s really okay.” But he just shrugs and wanders off. I’m struck by a crisis of confidence. How have I failed as a father? What kind of example have I been where my 10 year old boy doesn’t want a pocket-knife? Every boy wants a knife. Every boy since knives were invented wanted a knife. How can my kid be the only one who doesn’t? Boys get to the age where they imagine themselves surviving the wilderness: building shelter, making rope, defending against wild animals, marauding hordes, or making shavings for fires. My God, what if he doesn’t like fire!

I find my son further down the counter and attempt one more time to talk him up (really talk him into) getting the Swiss Army knife. He is only half listening to my assurances that it will be alright, and actually good to have a knife around the camp sites. I realize he’s staring at something in the counter. “That’s the knife I want,” he interrupts, pointing to a jewel-handled 8” dagger. “Nope. But you can have the Swiss Army knife,” I answer with a relieved laugh.



File Under King of the Castle