They Cheer for the Little Guy

On summer vacation, we ran the OBX 5K. A great experience.

I am 49, and the last race I ran was in second grade, when the winner told my mom, “If no one else was in the race, she would have gotten second!”

The members of our family ran at different paces. Our 12 year old entered the race in the second wave, confident he could finish in less than 28 minutes. He finished third of all 14 and unders. Our thirteen year old had a goal just to finish. He rocked it. And our eight year old wanted to beat as many family members as possible – “at least two of you” – which meant boxing me off the sidewalk.

I ran with the 13 year old for 21 minutes. Then my husband, who was run-walking faster than us with the eight year old, couldn’t take it anymore. He raced to catch up with the 12 year old. I shifted to the little man.

“Mom, slow down.”

“Mom, you’re walking too fast.”

“Mom, STOP!“

But as we turned into the Whalehead Club with the finish line in view, me on the verge of throwing up, my eight year old took off. Sweaty. Fast. All I could see was the big 25 on the back of his Jamal Charles jersey.

And what did I hear as we approached the finish line?

“Go, dude!”

“Keep it up, kid.”

“You rock, little man!”

What about the 49 year old mom of three boys in 97% humidity running her first 5K?! The kid is cute, but he’s eight. Top time for his age group. Good knees.

Just asking…who needs the cheers? The little guy or his mom?

 

 

 

 

When Your Thing Sticks Out

“Mom, don’t you hate it when your thing sticks out instead of down?”

We were getting out of the car for a day at the pool.

“What thing?”

“You know, your thing.”

“Ohhhhh, well see, I’m a girl. I don’t have anything that sticks out.”

He looked so serious. So I added, “But it usually sticks out if you are touching it too much or excited.”

“Not with me,” he said. “With me, it’s when I am thinking really hard about something.”

“Like what? Girls?”

“No!” He punched me, grinning. He is, after all, only eight.

“You should talk to Dad. He’s a boy. He’ll have some ideas for you.”

A Summertime Social Studies Review

It is ninety degrees. When the ATVs are at rest, you can hear a hawk overhead, a deer or raccoon or fox rustling in the brush, the hum of western New York’s seasonal flies. At the top of the hill sits a white farmhouse next to an old red barn and a new shed that houses tractors, mowers and ATVs. The apple trees are failing to put forth last year’s abundance, but the blueberry bushes are showing off plump purple splendor in preparation for U Pick Free days. The hay is being harvested for the second time this year, and it is only July, promising a third cutting. And the smell of a burn pile tended by Grandpa drifts across the new north field, mingling with the scent of freshly mowed grass.

Next to the barn is a coop for the chickens, and a fleet of baby turkeys being raised to replace their wild cousins who mysteriously disappeared over the winter. They share the coop with seven motherless ducklings, who need to be coaxed to the pond at the bottom of the hill, where they merely dip their webbed feet before high-tailing it back to the safety of their coop, stumbling over eachother’s bodies in the short race uphill.

Three boys cool off in the pond. They play a war game with the goal of knocking each brother off his raft. The middle brother – inventor of games and pied-piper of fun – stands precariously rocking on a hot pink raft and yells, “This is Athens!” before collapsing off the side.

His brothers laugh, but they are not yet drawn in. He clambers back to his standing position. “This is Corinth!” Again, he splashes to his presumed death laughing in the face of a soldier’s fate.

Then again, “This is Thermopylae! We are the Greek city-states!”

His older brother, lying lazily in a tube, thoroughly un-warlike until now, raises his fist in a call to arms, “We are the Mycenaeans!”

And the little guy, not to be bested, thrashing arms and legs in a rapid paddle toward his brothers, yells, “This is Olympus! The immortal gods will destroy you all!”

Ancient battles reenacted in a pond. The birds and flies – even the breeze whispering through the maples – fall silent awaiting war’s end.

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails

And puppy-dogs’ tails

That’s what little boys are made of.

But what happens to them when they play golf?!

I recently took up golf and started playing an occasional nine holes with my family. I love being outside with them, playing, enjoying the sunshine. My goal is to hit the ball when I swing, sometimes hit it 100 yards and straight, but mostly just spend a few hours with my boys.

But golf does something to them.

When they are playing well, they are like puppy dogs’ tails. Wagging. Giddy. Confident. Fun.

That’s what little boys are made of.

But when they are playing poorly, which in our family games, merely means I have a slim chance of closing in, they turn into slugs and snails and sops who wail…

…and throw their clubs, and cry and beat themselves up.

No other sport or activity has this strange power over them. And I just want to play!

So apparently, after 13 years as a mother of boys, I must still learn…

… what are little boys made of… when they play golf?

Will Work for Apple Products

It is tough to know what will motivate a thirteen year old boy. For our oldest, we have learned, it requires a lightning-strike-blue-moon combination of something he really wants and a task he thinks worthy of his effort. I used to worry that such a mystical thing did not exist. I was wrong.

He will cheerfully do farm work – hours of it – for an iPad.

Prior to our trip to Grandma’s farm, he decided he needed an iPad. We decided he needed to pay for it himself. So Grandma promised to pay him for field labor. He boasted of five-hour days in the hot sun, heavy lifting. Given the state of his room, we were doubtful.

We arrived at midnight on Saturday, and he woke early Sunday ready to get going. But Sunday at Goose Hill Farm is reserved for reading the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. We toured the property – new leases, new projects. We discussed plans for a maple-tapping venture. We met the new baby chickens, ducks and turkeys. Watered the vegetable garden from a bucket and working well. The boys rode the ATVs.

It was a slow, easy morning. But as we walked back to the house for lunch, our son grinned proudly, “only three hours of work to go!”

The concept of “work” clearly had to be redefined. Ten minutes of watering plants? Yes. Two hours riding ATVs across the gorgeous countryside? No.

“Then what can I do?!”

Day Two. Fed the birds. Collected eggs. Watered gardens. Hauled logs. Helped clear fields and put out a very dramatic brush fire. Transported tools. Drove the tractor. Wrote out his invoice. Five hours of real work.

Day Three. Up, dressed and out to the chicken coop while the coffee was still brewing. He is a boy transformed.

When I Imagined Life as a Grown-Up

When I was a teenager, I pictured myself as a war correspondent, or a world traveler doing research for National Geographic, or if my best friend got to be the first woman President, then maybe ambassador to Ireland or Secretary of State. Whatever I was going to do, adulthood looked exciting and glamorous.

I certainly did not picture myself alone in my car, parked outside of a local late night hangout, waiting in the dark for my thirteen-year-old son’s Mary Poppins’ cast party to end.

The party, orchestrated by the fifteen-year-old girls in the play, was at the Village Inn, where you can get French fries, mac-n-cheese, or chocolate chip pancakes at any time of day. Its parking lot at night – somewhat quiet, only slightly sketchy.

As I tried to stay awake. watching the rare coming and going – two old men in polo shirts, tattooed twenty-somethings holding hands, three baggy-jeaned teens looking to stay out of trouble (I hoped) – I suddenly saw a more realistic view of my life as my son passes through the pre-driving-but-starting-to-be-social years.

“Mom, can I go to the football game tonight?”

“There’s a party at my friend’s house tonight.”

“Mom, all my friends are going to see the new Star Wars movie tonight.”

“I can’t wait for the dance tonight!”

Many more late nights in parking lots waiting as his life begins to look like a big adventure. And I was so proud and excited for him.

When I was at my first cast party, I couldn’t have known that that feeling would be better than the glamorous life I imagined.

The Not So Invisible Mom

My teenager needed his black dress pants dry cleaned before playing Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins this week. So after dropping him off at Drama Camp, then driving his brothers to morning swim practice, I raced back to our neighborhood dry cleaner, picked up the pants, and drove them back to Drama Camp.

There were kids in the hallway working on a dance routine, but he was not with them. So I quietly opened the heavy door to the auditorium, and he headed up the stairs from the stage.

“Thanks.”

“How’s it going?” I whispered.

“Fine.” By then we were in the small vestibule between auditorium and hallway, separated from his fellow thespians on both sides.

“You go first,” he said.

“What?”

“You go first,” he waved me toward the door, sheepishly grinning. “I don’t want anyone to know you’re my mom.”

So of course I stepped out of the vestibule, counted exactly five seconds after the door closed, and watched him come through the door at exactly five. Then, as he registered that I was still there, I stuck my tongue out at him and trounced out the door.

He laughed. Not sure about the young chimney sweeps behind him.