What I Didn’t Know About the Boys’ Bathroom

A ski weekend in Vail is always great for people-watching.

“What’s people-watching?” my teenager had asked me earlier in the day as skiers in elaborate costumes – some drunk by noon and very entertaining – lined up for the gondola to celebrate the final day of the ski season.

Seriously? What’s people-watching?

Later, I returned to our restaurant table from the girls’ bathroom and repeated some of the humorous conversations the ladies were engaged in. Comparing shoes. Heels no heels and associated mishaps. Gossip about the wedding they were attending. Dancing in their 60s. The much too short dresses of the younger girls.

“Wait,” my eighth grader looked confused. “They were talking in the bathroom?!”

“Well, yes,” I answered equally confused. “Why do you think girls head to the restroom together?”

Blank stares around the table.

“To talk about stuff,” I added. “Especially boys.”

“While you go to the bathroom?” All three boys looked disgusted. My husband smiled at me.

Apparently, the boys’ bathroom is silent. No talking. All business. Even if it’s just you and your brother. It’s like a rule. You do not talk.

“That’s weird,” they agreed, looking at me sideways as if I had just revealed yet another reason why girls are so strange.

After 15 years of living in a house of all boys I am still learning. No people-watching. No chatting in the bathroom.

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What To Bring When You Run Away

A gray plastic sword, dented, from an old Halloween knight costume. Blue blankie. His shiny black treasure box, probably with a few dollars in it. The mozzarella and tomato sandwich I made him for lunch.

This morning, I learned what my ten-year-old would pack if he were running away.

“I’m leaving forever!” he screamed, brushing past me, sword in hand.

“Or…” he pointed dramatically to the basement stairs, “until he is gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. I never want to see him again!”

The boys had apparently had a fight.

“I’m out of here!” he yelled even louder, stuffing blue blankie into his backpack before glaring back up at me, “How far do you think a ten-year-old can get? Huh? Huh? How far?”

I sighed, “Not very far.”

So, he ran into the garage, grabbed his electric scooter, and took a lap around the block, yelling over his shoulder. “I’m leaving forever!”

I heard the garage door closing about a minute later. The runaway returned.

“Time for school, honey.”

“Fine!”

Out came the sword, blue blankie, and the treasure box. He stomped them back up to his room. Then, backpack zipped, he climbed into the car as if nothing had happened.

It was his silent teenage brother who still fumed.

My Driver, Miss Daisy

Our son with the learner’s permit needs to log another 35 hours before he turns 16. So, he drove me to school this morning. Twenty-three minutes.

He noticed that I kept peeking in the passenger side mirror.

“Mom, there’s no one behind me. You’ve got to chill.”

A few minutes later…

“It’s so weird, no one has been behind me the whole ride. I’m killin’ it.”

“They’re all passing you in the other lane.”

“No, they’re not,” as yet another car zoomed past. Then, “Oh.”

“Driving below the speed limit is just as disruptive as driving too fast. Especially during rush hour, when people are rushing.”

“So, you’re calling me Grandma?”

Looking Back in the Weeks Before 8th Grade Graduation

I volunteered to interview our school’s 8th graders for a Middle School Graduation video, and jotted down some of the things they shared. I asked a lot of different questions, but what I expected them to remember and talk about wasn’t always important to them. Only a few could come up with a story from Lower School, while I can tell you numerous memories from my own early years. First grade. Third grade, certainly. And Fourth.

Only a handful could remember anything that happened in the news, yet here too, I could talk for hours about how I perceived or even participated in historic events of the 1970s and 80s. And oddly to me, quite a number of “best field trip” moments took place on the bus rides there. The only bus ride memory I have took place in fifth grade, when one of the boys told me I was “gullible,” which I was, but I thought it meant “huggable”, and it made my day.

Funny story:

“We were seeing how many of those little orange slices you can stuff in your mouth. We were backstage, and I was on the floor laughing so hard that I started to spit them out just when an admission tour group came through. I’m guessing none of thosekids are coming here.”

Wisdom you might share with your second grade buddy:

“Don’t stress out. It gets harder every year, but when it does, you’re ready for it. And it’s not that hard, because the teachers help you.”

“Spend as much time with your friends as you can.”

“Be yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because most of them are nice.”

Best part of the Washington DC trip:

“It was on the bus ride, and he was sleeping, and his brother and I were throwing cashews at him. And then he woke up, and yawned, and I threw one perfectly into his mouth. He was soooo surprised.”

“Well, one story, I can’t tell you.”

Best day at school:

“My very first day here in sixth grade. I came here and I realized I could be myself. I didn’t have to be crazy or anything for people to like me.”

“They were going to tear the old Lower School building down, and so on the last day of first grade, they let us write on the walls. I remember we were drawing on the bathroom walls. Everywhere. But then we started drawing on the carpets, and apparently, they were planning to re-use the carpeting. So, our teacher got really mad. That was the best day.”

Middle School Dances:

“The dances are pretty ‘cringy’, because there are like two slow dances, and there’s like three couples who dance together, and everybody starts freaking out because they’re dancing.”

“Everybody only has six dance moves, and they just do them over and over.”

“Most importantly, you get candy.”

Something that happened in the world during your time at the school:

“The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots winning the Super Bowl.” “The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots…”

“I will always remember the day in December 2012, when the world was supposed to end, and we were all standing out on the field looking up at the sky waiting. And then it didn’t.”

Cherishing 15

The other night, just as my husband and I were settling peacefully into bed, our son ran into the room, climbed over me…

Ouch!

…and burrowed under the blankets between us.

“So…” he grinned with our blue quilt pulled up to his chin, “what should we talk about?”

He’s about six feet, 170 pounds. A size 13 shoe. Not many kids with their learner’s permit still snuggle. But every once in a while, we get this kind of funny, sweet moment.

So, we talk, savoring the moment. And we laugh, wondering to ourselves how it’s possible our little guy is already 15.

Fortnite Versus Mom

If you have teenage boys (or, apparently, are the wife or mom of an NBA player), you’ve heard of Fortnite, the multi-player, shooter video game that went temporarily offline this week, sending the youth of America into a tailspin.

At one point last month, more than 3.4 million fans were playing simultaneously.

Now, I know my boys would be appalled by this comparison, but from a conflicted parental perspective, it reminds me of Pokemon Go.

Remember that fad? Kids carrying cellphones and iPads and even laptops roaming the streets, trails, and playgrounds with their friends, catching imaginary Pokemons? Rumors of grown-ups falling off of cliffs because they were so absorbed in their search?

“Well, at least they’re getting exercise.”

“I’m just glad they’re outside.”

Now, comes Fortnite. A shooting game. An enticement to disappear into the dark, cold basement on a beautiful, sunny day. And what are we, as parents, saying?

“The thing is, it lets him spend more time with his friends.”

“They’re all inside the game talking to each other for hours. And I can hear everything they say.”

“It’s safe.”

“It’s social.”

“…and they’re learning to think strategically.”

“I want to say it’s bad, but…” said one Dad, “It’s really fun.”

Parents, I’m afraid those masterminds at Epic Games have figured out how to beat us at… well… our own game.

The Late Night Train

I wake up between 1 and 2 a.m. most nights. And as I fall back to sleep, a train whistles in the distance.

The sound – from too far away to hear during the day when the city is beeping and shouting and slamming and singing – always takes me back a decade…

…when I was nursing our youngest son in the middle of the night. His warm little body against mine. Barely able to keep my eyes open. Imagining that the train conductor and I were the only ones in the city still awake. Or maybe a handful of people who lived too close to the tracks.

Imagining them helped me stay awake until our son rested peacefully in his crib. Now it helps me sleep.