It started out as something pretty basic and simple. Totally off the cuff really. Some time back I became frustrated with my middle child having to negotiate through the minefield of clutter and car seats in our minivan. On any given day our minivan can look from spotless to a fraternity house after an all-night house party. It’s usually the latter. At the time of my frustration we were experiencing a pretty long and steady streak of unpleasantness in the ole van. The layout of our van has our youngest still facing backward and my oldest sitting next to her in a booster seat both of which are in the middle row. Therefore, this leaves my middle child in the way back which is perfect for her. She’s a bit of a loose cannon and crazy (in a good way that only middle children can be) so the way back is suited for her and her temperament. I’m sure she will be a kid that sits in the back of the bus too in a few years. God help us!
Anyways after opening the van one day and seeing as well as smelling the carnage- milk, gold fish, dolls, wrappers, bags, purses, etc. I quickly called an audible and popped the back hatch. I told my middle child to climb in over the back seat through the way back. She looked perplexed and a bit concerned. So in order to entice her and appeal to her wild side I said “Seriously, let’s go Rambo mission, Seal Team 6 on the hop”. . . that phrase, those words did it for some reason and continue to do it with not only her but also her older sister as well.
Rambo Mission. Yes. Paying playful homage to the man that took on Patrick Dennehy, the National Guard, a combined Russian North Vietnamese fighting force and then the Russians ONCE AGAIN in Afghanistan. It means for me doing the impossible. The unthinkable. Hollywood style. My middle girl loved it which caught me off guard. For me it was merely a throwaway line that brought out her daringness. It matter naught that she has no clue about Rambo. What was important was that it was different to her, a bit risqué with a good chunk of excitement thrown in the mix. To me that’s where the juice lies with having children- discovering that what can be awesome to them is merely taking that what is commonplace and pumping it up.
And now, even cooler still, my middle child prefers to get in our van this way, whether it is clean or not. Approaching our van in a parking lot she will utter “Daddy, Rambo mission please.” Or even better she’ll abbreviate it “Daddy, Rambo mish. . .” Upon opening the hatch she climbs up and swings herself over the top of the back seat by holding on to the roof of the van but not before first swinging a few times like a performer in B.T. Barnum’s Circus act. I laugh every time.
Rambo missions have taken on a life of their own in our household. Anything at all qualifies. The phrase has evolved well beyond the minivan. I have pretty much added it to anything if I think it will get them to do something they may otherwise not do because they possess an unsubstantiated fear of getting hurt or they are simply scared for no real reason. Swing on monkey bars –Rambo mission, go down a really curvy slide-Rambo mission, hopping on a bicycle in the driveway- you got it, Rambo mission.
My wife’s parents have retired on one of the beautiful Finger Lakes in Upstate NY and we spend a ton of time there in the summer. Their place has a permanent dock, a floating raft and most sunny days are filled with swimming, and swimming and more swimming. It’s great. That said, getting three and five year olds to jump freely off the dock by themselves even with you down below in the water standing hands extended toward them can be a real challenge. But the new found terminology has been very effective. It is amazing how simple it works. “Girls come on! Let’s Rambo mission this sucker! I’m in the water waiting for you! You’ll be fine- 1-2-3 JUMP!” No better facial expression than a child popping up out of the water with eyes as wide as saucers and a face full of terror and excitement. Indeed perhaps the key to parenting sometimes is making the too often mundane bigger (although jumping off a dock is no small feat and a milestone achieved by my kids that I will always cherish).
On occasion Rambo mission has been replaced by Seal Team 6. A nod to one of the most elite Special Forces units in the world. The permanent dock at my in-laws has played host to many Seal Team 6 missions. Yes, swimming by and wading through the pylons that secure the dock requires real bravery for the under-five crowd. Bravery that often needs to be coaxed to the surface. In fact the other day my oldest said “Dad I Seal Team 6 it!” A mission she took on by herself. I guess the phrase has now become a verb of sorts.
All kids have a built in sense of adventure. They have I think a desire to explore, to learn, to be curious. But curiosity and a sense of adventure also has its limits which is a good thing. It is healthy. I like that my children have built in governor switches but I also like that I have found a way to get them to do healthy safe activities that they otherwise would not choose to do on their own. And to me that is truly important. Here’s too many more missions ahead!