Return to the Playground

When the boys were little, we spent many mornings at the park. It’s where I made my first friends in our then-new hometown. So, it was a little strange when, after not going for a few years, my ten-year-old son and niece veered in while walking the dog.

They climbed, “Count how long it takes me!”…

…and swung, “Come on! Higher!”…

…and spun each other around, “Faster! Faster! No, stop! Stop! Stop!”…

The dog and I followed the path encircling the playground equipment. It brought back  memories of trailing my sons on their tricycles as they rode along that same path. Of moving from one side of the playground to the other, as they did, to make sure I was close enough in case they fell, got stuck, got their feelings hurt. Of standing, eating cold green grapes, next to the big tree they all loved to climb.

I walk past the park almost daily, but a ten-year-old body at play makes the playground look a miniature version of the one in my memory. Had my teenagers been with us, I imagine it would have seemed even smaller. You can get anywhere in a few quick steps. See everything from any bench.

Apparently, I didn’t need to follow so close back then. It would never dawn on me now to interrupt their play with “Not so fast!” “Not too far!” “Don’t jump off that…”

So, as the dog and I wandered, they happily climbed and swung and spun and squealed at each other.

And when we got home, my ten-year-old threw up all over the carpet. Too much spinning, but still the best part of his day.

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Last Year’s Baseball Uniform

Our fourth grade son is about to begin another baseball season.

“You probably need new baseball pants, but your cup was too big last year. So….”

“I grew a lot.”

“That doesn’t mean your penis grew a lot.”

“Oh my god, Mom!” Big belly laugh. “I can’t believe you said that!”

Best laugh I got so far in 2018. Such a comedian.

Boys and their Personal Brand

One night, more than 20 years ago, I was sitting at a bar with a friend, who was bemoaning the fact that he didn’t have a girlfriend. One of my favorite guys in the world. Smart. Fun. And truly decent. I remember telling him that he needed to change how he talked about himself.

“Girls don’t want to date a guy who thinks the best thing about himself is how many beers he can drink without throwing up.”

“But…” he smiled in spite of himself.

That night, I described to him how his friends saw him. “That’s what you should be saying too.”

Then last night, my fifteen-year-old had an assignment to fill a box with things that explain who he is, and I was immediately reminded of my friend.

My son filled his box with a Green Bay Packers t-shirt, a candy bar, a shoot ‘em up video game, a ski glove, and a golf ball (although he complains when we ski or golf).

And I thought, this is what you think is interesting about you?

I wish tonight’s follow-up assignment was: ask your mom to refill your box with things she thinks describes who you are. Then, let’s compare.

My box would include a hilarious joke, a souvenir from the Museum of Nature and Science, a photo with his brothers, a Lego Star Wars set, a toy tractor, a challenging math problem, a map, an Italian cookbook, and yes, his Packers t-shirt.

I might slip in a baby photo so everyone could see what a sweet, serious little man he was. Now, a 6-foot version of that, with all the cool things in this box picked up along his way.

The Sit-In at our House

This Spring has been marked by protests and rallies across the country – youth against gun violence, teachers for education funding, and more. The spirit of such activism finally made it to our house last night – although not with the seriousness of issues in the outside world.

My husband has instituted a $20 charge for any boy who uses our main floor bathroom. The spray of pee, which they should have under control by now, is a potential embarrassment any time we have guests.

“Darn it! I want to use that bathroom!”

“I’m not the one who sprays! It’s him,” each has yelled, pointing at whichever brother stands nearby.

“Oh, for the love of God,” our oldest son yelled at one point last week before shutting the bathroom door, “take the $20!”

“What if I have to blow my nose in that bathroom,” asked our son, mid-allergy attack, “and I don’t spray my snot?”

My husband shook his head, and off the poor kid ran down to the basement bathroom.

It was his older brother who came up with the idea. “Then we’re having a sit-in, so you can’t use it either.”

He lay down in front of the door to the bathroom. His little brother brought a book.

 

Another Day at the Museum

Yesterday, with no school on a Friday, my high school freshman asked if I would take him to the Museum of Nature and Science. As we were walking out the door, his friend texted that he too was home. So, he joined. It has long been a favorite place for both of them.

Over the years, I’ve stood in the center of the Space Odyssey watching as they journeyed from earth to mars and the moon – early on, donning astronaut costumes in the toddler dress-up area. I’ve followed their eyes skyward to count dinosaur bones hanging from the ceiling. Held my son’s hand – smaller then – when he was too scared to enter the dimly lit mine shaft to see sparkling gems and minerals.

Most fun was always Expedition Health, where they tested their height and arm span, knowledge of nutrition, and their resting and target heart rates. I remember them being barely tall enough to climb on the bikes for that. There, they have donned lab coats, goggles and plastic gloves to run numerous DNA experiments over the last decade. I have at least one picture from back in the day. Little guys. Chubby cheeks. The lab coats so big on them, hems hit the floor.

So yesterday, as these two nearly six-foot-tall young men enjoyed the museum in a sea of tiny elementary school kids, I was compelled to take another. Two hours in and eager to stay longer. Back in their lab coats and goggles. All smiles.

Mister Sarcasm

“You are sooo right, sooo right, exactly.” Our fifteen-year-old thinks sarcasm is the highest form of humor. I can’t even recall what sparked it this time at breakfast. “You are sooo right, mom. Sooo right.”

“Shut up!” his brother’s first words of the morning exploded forth. “Just shut up! I want to punch you every time you say that!”

Mr. Sarcasm, the only morning person in the room, froze, eyes wide. Innocent. “Why?”

“Just stop saying it.”

“Mom,” Mr. Sarcasm appealed to me, “you think it’s funny.”

“No, I don’t.”

Seriously? I thought it was our thing, that bit we do.”

That bit we do? I shook my head.

“But you never get mad. It’s just our bit we do together. You’re chill,” he paused. Looked at the two of us staring at him incredulously. Then, doubting, “Right?”

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.