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by Robin Tuck
June 1997

The word causes me to think about trains. But we weren’t talking about trains, we were talking about Monday Night activities. The word caused me to listen more intently to try to determine what was meant.

The scenario was: several families at a park together for a Family Home Evening. The adults would talk while the kids played together. The children were decoupled from their parents. Apparently, it is preferred that parents and children be involved with each other on Family Night. It was clear from the conversation that I had had a decoupled childhood and was causing my children to experience one as well.

All the sudden, birding with my wife was decoupling me from my children, even if it was enhancing the bond between us. I had guilt feelings. I was guilty of decoupling.

It was embarrassing. I asked my 9 year old to join us for a leisurely birding outing. He teared up and cried "Please don’t make me go!" The neighbors must have thought I was taking him for a shot or to the dentist. My attempt at coupling had failed.

I remembered a friend (we all know him) who regularly takes his wife and young son birding almost every free waking hour. His son is small and probably doesn’t have more than a dozen words, but does not yell out "Please don’t make me go!" Sure, there’s a difference, his son is a baby and probably hasn’t caught on to what is really happening, birding. My son wants to stay home and watch the TV or roller blade or scour the neighborhood looking for a playmate.

The trouble is that my 15 year old daughter does the same thing. We can bribe her if we let her drive the car around the parking lot while we hike over to see the next bird. These trips can hardly be called coupling; she is not enjoying what I am enjoying. None of my kids will go with me. They say "Been there, done that" and they don’t want any more. They would rather sit around bored.

What am I to do? Does this mean I have to play ball with Jorgen and go to the Mall with Kristi, and buy gas for Tiffany, Jeeping with Alma and talk fantasy fiction with Paul? Just to be with them? Probably.

I have found I get a little coupling if I take them out to dinner, and they might not object too much if I notice a dove or a vulture on the way, just so long as I don’t make it too obvious by driving around the dike.

I guess this means that the real definition of "coupling" is "bribing."