The madness has begun. The parental warm-ups are over, and the Olympic contest of keeping up with your kids is officially underway.

My son has started kindergarten, and all of the activities that have until now been distant, irrelevant concepts are becoming all too real.

Gone is the comfort of the spectator. I have now been sucked in the vortex of Hurricane Scott.

Just wait, you say, until your younger children are older, and you have three hurricanes, all moving in opposite directions…I’m sorry, I felt faint for a moment.

You know the drill – soccer games, PTA meetings, school events and a curious rite of passage known as Indian Guides and Indian Princesses. This program is sponsored by the YMCA, which I told Scott means “Your Mom Can Attend.”

I am not personally familiar with this program, other than seeing dads I know coming back from camp-outs looking like they just survived their college fraternity’s hell week.

Of course, they would tell me how much fun they had, but they would also usually be in a full body cast and fade in and out of comas in the mid-conversation. Consequently, I am a little apprehensive as I begin this journey into my Indian inner-self.

In fact, I suppose the name of the program represents a challenge to the “political correctness” movement. Perhaps a more acceptable name would be “Native American Guides.”

The name of the sponsoring organization itself, the Young Men’s Christian Association, presumably represents a triple threat in these times of age, sex and religious egalitarianism. It is enough to make your headdress spin.

Certain activities are recommended by the YMCA staff to help get you into that “crazy horse” mood. I plan to watch “Dances With Wolves,” while wearing my wife’s make-up for war paint (but that’s the only thing of my wife’s I’ll be wearing).

I’ve also been listening to a tape of tribal songs, but I have not yet been able to pick out a melody. If you think white boys don’t have rhythm, you ought to listen to Favorite War Chants of the Blackfeet and the Kickapoo.

Among other forms of torture, this program requires dads to make crafts with their kids. Having failed at every craft project I attempted as a child, I am concerned that my son will want to confirm my IQ at the end of the year.

This craft scam is really big business. In fact, this is really a form of child labor and should be reported to Robert Reich, who can certainly see things on a child’s level. These “crafts” are mass-produced and will probably end up on the next Ronco or Popiel infomercial or on the Home Shopping Network.

But there’s more.

Weekend camp-outs, usually complete with rain and surprise cold fronts. Pitching tents, then pitching fits. Cooking dinner over a camp fire, then watching everybody act as if they prefer their meal burned on the outside and raw on the inside to a double-mustard Whopper and fries. Mouthing the words to “Michael, row the boat ashore” while listening to SWC football on a Walkman. And no Letterman.

Yes, grown men can cry.

My first assignment is to select Indian names for me and my son. I have narrowed mine down to a few: One Who Showers Often, Cooks With a Microwave, Running Nose, Sleeps in a Chair, or Shaking Belly.

This causes me to wonder about the theory behind this program, which is to create a bonding opportunity for dads and sons. Sitting around in leather fringe, feathers and moccasins, dropping some wampum, making rhinestone-studded belts, and calling each other Burping Eagle and Snoring Bear doesn’t automatically make me all misty-eyed.

Somehow, it all seems unlikely. And yet, generations of dads, and kids who later became dads, says it works.

Okay. I’m game.

But do they make tents with central air and heat?