We Have A "Gator" Living In This House!

Down here in the south, we are known for our swamps and alligators. However, there is another kind of "gator" that lives at our house...the "insti"-gator. His name is Ryan. And as cute and pithy as he may be, he is quite the sneaky little instigator. Ryan's greatest joy in life, at times it seems, is to start a little squabble and then watch others go at it amongst themselves. He also loves to find something that irritates people and then hones in on it; he teases unmercifully.

Throughout her high school years, Caitlin never dated anyone seriously. This was in part because she was a very picky girl and little things (such as showing one's feet in sandals...I KNOW; weird, huh?) were a deal breaker for a prospective date. She also didn't have a "boyfriend" in part due to the fact that her father insisted on formally meeting and interrogating every potential date. And then, of course, there were the 3 older brothers. All of these things combined made serious high school dating pretty non-existent for her. However, when she became a senior, she did attempt to venture out a little on the dating scene. One such incident landed her brothers in some pretty hot water.

Being the only girl with an overprotective father and 3 older brothers was not an easy thing for Caitlin; amusing at times, but definitely NOT easy. One time, during her sophomore year of high school, Caitlin went out to dinner with a young man and another couple of friends and low and behold, who should also show up at the restaurant, but all of Ryan's buddies! For some strange reason, they all also considered her their "little sister" too and were out to protect her from any unsavory suitors. Upon spotting her with this boy, they proceeded over to her table and ask, "Does Ryan know you're here?...with HIM?" Mortified, she replied, " YES". And if that wasn't bad enough, one of them then took out his cell phone (in front of them at the table) and called Ryan asking, "Hey Ryan, did you know your sister was out with a boy who has long hair and an earring?" GREAT! Needless to say, she didn't have much of a chance where dating was concerned.

When she became a senior, however, all of her brothers were either in college or married (Justin) and I suppose she felt it was safe to test the dating waters again. She had gone out with this particular guy a few times when Ryan got wind of the situation. It was immediately clear that he disapproved of this boy (for whatever reason...perhaps for merely existing). So his campaign to get rid of him began.

Everyone was in for the weekend. Some were playing cards and others were watching TV. But, I could see that Ryan and Caitlin were in the kitchen...and there was some "quiet conversation" going on. Straining to hear, I focused on what was being discussed and every now and then, I heard this boy in question's name being mentioned. Then, all of a sudden, Caitlin SCREAMED, STOMPED out of the room and SLAMMED her bedroom door shut! Well, THAT got Robby's attention. "Now, I'm not going to have all of that slamming doors and screaming around here...where is she?!" I had to do something quick to update him about what was REALLY going on. I explained that Ryan had been steadily instigating her by saying little things about her seeing this boy, until she finally blew a gasket. Understanding a bit more clearly now, Robby headed towards Caitlin's room...and ordered (it was not optional) ALL of the boys to follow him. Peaking around the corner, I found this scenario very reminiscent of much earlier days in their childhood. There they were...all standing in a row with Robby knocking on Caitlin's bedroom door. Poor Justin was complaining, "Why do I have to be in on this, Daddy? I'm married." Well, I suppose the reason was because that had always been the "rule"...somehow all of the boys had found themselves lined up in 3's for life while being reprimanded; and marriage hadn't provided an exemption from that apparently. Robby clearly explained to the group, in front of Caitlin, that they were NOT to comment or try to control her "love life" ever again. And then he dismissed Justin and David (they were not hard core offenders; this speech was for future reference). Ryan, however, was called into her room for "further discussion" on the matter.

I suppose this little "little talk" must have worked because in the future when Caitlin brought a boy home, they did not say much. Well, Justin and David were civil and polite...Ryan merely ignored them as though they were not even in the room. Technically, this was not "instigating" or causing trouble, but with Ryan, one must work in specifics. Robby did not tell him that he had to be cordial; he just said he could not meddle. So although Ryan has not instigated in matters of Caitlin's heart, he still tends to instigate in other areas. Because, you see...in the south, you might be able to take the gator out of the swamp...but you can't take the "insti" out of this family's gator!

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