The eight-year-old takes control

On Saturday evening, I was in New York, visiting a cousin who'd recently had a baby.  The wife was in Norman, but was at a wedding (we got the wedding invite after I made my Northeast trip plans).  The kids were at home with the grandparents who are visiting.  With both parents out, S1 had gotten into his head that he needed to take care of his non-English-speaking grandparents and little sister.  He was the man-of-the-house, though where he got this idea, I don't know.  We certainly have never even used that phrase in front of him.

It all started when he called me for help with a computer.  "The laptop that grandpa uses to watch his TV does not start up," he informed me, "it says something about no boot image on the partition. I tried shutting down and restarting it and that didn't help."  I had him look for any storage devices connected to the computer.  There was no DVD in the computer, but he did find a USB drive, so he removed it and reported that the computer was starting up now, but that the resulting desktop looked weird.  "It has a different picture in the background," he commented thoughtfully.

The grandparents watch Tamil TV channels on the internet, and because many India-based websites are virus laden (even the ones that you pay $20/month for), I'd connected a dedicated laptop to the TV and asked them to use that for reading Indian newspapers and watching Indian TV channels.  And to avoid having to reinstall all the software on it every time the machine gets hosed, I'd installed everything on a virtual machine.  That way, every couple of weeks, I'd wipe out the current VM (which by now would have all kinds of viruses and tracking software), copy over a pristine VM and let the whole process go again.

Obviously, the host OS had started up, but the VM hadn't.  So, I had him find the VM manually and start it. He did so, and was very proud to go tell grandpa that he'd fixed the computer (with some assistance from New York-based tech support, of course).

An hour or so later, he called again.  He'd been playing outside when he noticed a funnel-like thing with clouds moving very fast.  "Is a tornado coming to our house?," he asked me, "should we go hide?"   See this picture of the storm by a friend taken at about the time of S1's phone call -- it's a rainfoot/microburst, not a tornado -- but S1 couldn't know that, of course.
Photo (c) James G. Ladue

I had him switch on a local TV station and look at the warning.  "It says thunderstorm warning," he said.  "If it doesn't say tornado watch or warning, you guys can relax," I told him.   By this time, this alert was sitting in my email box, but it was a better learning experience for S1 to have him look at the TV than for me to tell him the answer.  (The blue is my personal alert area; the black the NWS warning area; as you can see we were on the edge of it. ).  It turned to be a heavy rainfall and heavy damage event, concentrated to our east.

At one level, it's funny and rather cute that he would decide that he was man-of-the-house. But another part of me is rather proud -- when I was eight years old, there is no way that I could taken charge of things like that.