Our 12-year-old son went for his yearly physical last week. The nurse said he grew 3 inches and gained 3 pounds.

Oh, to get that report.

"Mr. Kennedy, we have good news and bad news. Bad news: You've gained a sack of potatoes. Good news: You grew 3 inches since January!"

I wish.

It's fun to watch your kid's grow up, and sometimes the best kind of growth happens between their ears.

A case in point: Last weekend, the 12-year-old decided it was time to deal with his broken bed — a frame he had picked out online a couple of years ago. Some of the wooden supports that hold the slats had come apart, causing the mattress to sink in one spot and leading to the impression that a more catastrophic failure might occur at any second. This festering worry was not conducive to sweet dreams.

It never occurred to our son to ask for a new bed. He knew intuitively that two years was too soon for Mom and Dad to shell out more money for bedroom furniture.

Instead, he took to the internet to learn how to build himself a new bed. In another lifetime I might have rolled my eyes, but I've learned restraint. Parenting, I've discovered, follows a repetitive pattern of clenching and unclenching. Push, relax. Push, relax. Like sit-ups. If you can keep these spasms to yourself, all the better. Great parents do these hard reps without changing facial expressions.

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Mark Kennedy

"Go for it," I managed to tell our son meekly when he proposed to build a bed.

"Do you believe in me?" he asked.

"I believe you can do anything you set your mind to," I said.

Next, he got out his sketch pad and started drawing beds — boxy rectangles drawn to scale. He searched online for plans and made an inventory of the lumber he would need. He even priced the boards on his list at Home Depot and developed a budget of $101.

"I'll pay," he insisted.

He's meticulous, too. At one point he asked me the state and local sales tax rate. He had calculated at the Tennessee state rate, 7 percent, but forgot to add the local points.

"What a great learning experience," I thought to myself.

He even measured his mother's SUV to make sure the cut boards would fit inside the cargo compartment.

Next, came the harder part — logistics.

In this case, logistics meant finding someone to drive him across town to Home Depot, which was harder by magnitudes than any other part of his master plan. I was ruled out because of my bossy ways and ineptitude at DIY projects. His 17-year-old brother was a long-shot possibility. But he would probably hem and haw. Mom was his best shot, but he would have to throw on some charm.

By bedtime he had changed his plans. Maybe he could repair his old bed, he thought. He had learned that the bed cost about twice what he thought, so scrapping it did not seem practical.

His most impressive work came next.

By the next day, he told me that he had called the toll-free number of the online retailer who sold us the bed. The best deal he could cut, he said, was a 21 percent refund.

"You called the company?" I said.

"Yep," he confirmed.

Unsatisfied with the offer, he determined to call the Canadian furniture factory. And he ignored my advice not to call on a Sunday.

Later, he told me, "They promised to call me back no later than 4:30 p.m."

"OK, then," I said.

"If it gets to be 4:31, I'm calling them back," he said sternly.

"OK," I said, "Go for it — but don't be bossy. Adults don't like bossy kids."

True to his word, at 4:31 he called again and amazingly got a live human on the line on a Sunday afternoon.

The next thing I knew, I heard him in upstairs rattling off purchase order numbers and describing the damage.

"Well, a one-by-one came loose in the upper right corner of the bed, and the slats dropped down," he explained.

When the person on the phone asked for specific part and model numbers, he recited them correctly. (This is where I would have come unglued.)

Minutes later, he came back downstairs and dropped onto the couch.

"Well?" I said.

"They are shipping me replacement parts?" he said, before putting on his over-the-ear headphones, a sign that he is checking out of adult conversation. "I'll fix the bed, Daddy. Don't worry."

I sat back and folded my arms, slightly in awe. The chances that I could have successfully negotiated with a Canadian furniture company at age 12 are nil.

The next day, the company called my cell number to confirm the parts shipment.

"Well, it was actually my 12-year-old son who called you yesterday," I said. "I'm really proud of him."

"I have a 12-year-old, too," said the lady in Canada. "I understand the feeling."

I hung up the phone and felt my whole body unclench.

The kid had it covered.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.