In Confession

My 13-year-old son went to Confession last week for the first time at school with limited prep or warning. I remember mine, sitting across from our family’s favorite priest in his office.  I’d been preparing for weeks in CCD. We talked about my family and friends and school. Then he asked….

“Do you take care of your little sisters? Get along with them?”

Yes, I smiled. So far, so good.

“Do you listen to your parents?”

Of course, but… is there a trick question?

“Are you nice to you friends?” Check.

“Listen to your teachers?” Check.

At 9 or 10, I was clearly lacking in both mischief and creativity. I left his office relieved, but greatly disappointed.

So, given this teenage boy’s proclivity for misadventure, combined with a wear-it-on-your-sleeve approach to feelings, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall. But….

“It was a little awkward since I had no idea what I was supposed to do.”

Then….

“I made something up about hiding the remote when I got mad at my brothers…”

… hundreds of times, if truth be told. 

When Technology Gets Locked in a Drawer

This weekend, we locked our youngest son’s iPhone, cracked iPad, and even his school Chromebook in a drawer. This is what happened.

Breakfast at Starbucks with Dad, followed by the bank.

Counted and wrapped coins collected.

Discovered three coins from a country that no longer exists.

Second trip to the bank, dollars earned.

Multiple ping-pong matches with a win against Mom.

Hung new Chiefs sign over bed.

Sawed apart a big box with Dad.

Mowed the lawn. 

Drew humorous Most Wanted Posters on the stages of mitosis.

Read the Sunday comics.

Played for two hours as Master of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with Dad.

Rode his bike.

Walked with Mom and the dog.

Celebrated another Chiefs victory, this time versus the Jets.

Zoomed with grandparents, aunts, and cousin.

Finished reading I am Number Four.

Got hugs.

Didn’t ask for his technology. Not even on Monday after 6am weightlifting with Dad.

Almost forgot to charge the Chromebook in time for school.

That 43-34 Victory Really Hurt

The NFL season has officially begun. The determination Thursday afternoon to get everything done in time for that night’s Chiefs win was awesome. The boys’ banter grew louder Sunday morning, their complaints about homework and remote learning and chores silenced by the anticipation of football season… here at last.

Yet soon after midnight on this first Sunday, our 17-year-old stood at the edge of our bed. “Mom?” he whispered just loud enough to wake me and with that edge in his voice that warns of late-night tears. 

He had been so proud earlier as his Green Bay Packer team racked up the points. Giddy with the return of the game, the possibilities of a new season, a healthy Aaron Rodgers, a better-than-ever Davante Adams. A 43-34 win!

He had enthusiastically embraced Dad’s decree that this particular die-hard fan had to celebrate every time the Packers scored with the number of sit-ups and push-ups reflected on the scoreboard. Who knew it would be….

The first seven were easy. The next fourteen not too bad. He grinned through it. 43-34! He boasted about the team even as his arms tired.

But later, with the house dark and the sound of his own cheers fading over the cruelty of a sleepless night, this six-foot-one teenager was desperate for help.

“Mom,” he whispered again, “My arms hurt so bad, I can’t sleep.”

Week 6 of Shelter in Place

Our daily walks around the neighborhood are still lovely, and the boys remain in good spirits. We are apparently settling a big dispute today with a “chocolate milk” blind taste test. King Soopers half gallon (perfect) versus full gallon (they water it down). Fairlife (an after-taste). Horizon Organic (too chocolatey). TrueMoo (the dark horse).

And sheltering in place with mom is getting a little…. well…

This morning, I received a joke from a friend that said “Congratulations, you’ve survived April… Welcome to Level 5 of Jumanji.”

Haven’t seen the movie. So I asked the kids to explain.

“Mom,” said our 17-year-old, “if your brain were a city, the humor section would be the city’s DMV.”

You know it’s bad when all three boys laugh.

Then, very slowly, with the sleepiest look on his face, and flattest tone to his voice, he asked, “Name?”

Evolution and Another Dog Walk During COVID-19

“If all the humans die, which animal do you think would take our place?”

We looked at our unlikely dog trotting ahead of us, sniffing the air, ever-hopeful for a… Bunny? Squirrel? 

“The strongest or the smartest?” continued the 6th grader, knowing the bunny wins every time.

Some conversations last the entire 3-mile loop around the neighborhood. Some return at the dinner table.

Would it be different on each continent? Would the strong win first, then a weaker but smarter species evolve to overtake the strong? Or could the strong one evolve to be smarter? Would the next phase of evolution follow the same pattern as before? Would the next “humans” be like us? Would they look like an animal we already know?

Another doubting glance in the direction of our sweet, old dog.

Kidnapping Plot on the Grand Canyon

I learned a lot about my eleven-year-old son this summer. The youngest member of a 25-person rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, led by four guides.

I had worried he was too small for whitewater. Silly mom.

The first to ride at the front of the boat. To take the big waves. Yelling at the river to bring it on.

On the trails with the nimble teenagers. What cliff? What slippery edge?

Launcher of river battles. The first to fire the water gun at the other boat.

Pulling his weight in the fire-line to unload and set up camp.

The other boat was filled with adults. Surprised when he stormed it to steal their weapons as we pushed off from the narrow beach. A little guy with a war cry.

The record-breaker swimming the rapids. “One more time?” as everyone else followed the guides’ call back to the boats.

The first to jump off waterfalls. To drive the raft.

A calming guide to “put your foot there” for the adults trying the jump he’d already done ten times.

An adventurer. Fun. A leader. A warrior. At home in the raging waters.

The other boat plotted to kidnap him. They envied his spirit. Wanted him for themselves. Named him MVB, most valuable boater.

I am so grateful for his week in the sun. 

“All the World’s a Stage”

Yesterday, when our son came from backstage after the 5thgrade performance of Hello Shakespeare, he beamed. A look of joyful pride I’d never seen in him before. Not ever.

And grinning ear-to-ear, he hugged me as if his emotion was too great not to share.

It’s been a tough school year. Academically. Mostly socially. Many days, he comes home quiet. Goes to his room to draw maps or write in his journal. 

I keep thinking that he just needs to feel good at something. Some positive feedback coming from the universe.

Then yesterday, he was a natural Will Shakespeare. A fun-loving ham. As the curtain closed, and the other kids headed off stage, he remained, tossing his bowler hat in the air, smiling at the audience, soaking it in, drawing the moment out a few more seconds.

The happiest, I think, he has ever been.

At least for a day, he found his world’s the stage.

Exam Anxiety…. or Not?

“Mom,” he said on Wednesday when I called to make sure our 16-year-old was home safely, “you’re going to be sooooo mad at me.”

My heart skipped a beat. “What happened?”

“Well, my APUSH teacher doesn’t believe in giving an exam after you take the AP Test, so…”

Oh no.

“…he always gives it early, and….”

Not again.

“I forgot. It was on Monday.”

All those high school stress dreams flashed through my head. Showing up on exam day having not studied. Never having shown up to class. Can’t find the classroom. Wearing only underwear. “You forgot an exam?”

Seriously? 

“It was fine.”

“Fine?!”

“I got an A.”

His brother, hearing the story later, looked at him like he had two heads. And horns. “You forgot you had an exam? How does that happen?”

Apparently, this teenager missed the memo about his “anxiety-ridden” generation… oh, yeah, the one about the exam too.

Looking Good, Dude

Our 11-year-old son’s 2019 New Year’s Resolution was to run on the treadmill two days a week, and to lift weights three days. As we enter month two of 2019, he has hit the treadmill three or four times, and the weights two or three.

Definitely more than his 2018 totals.

So he stood at the side of our bed, shirtless, potbelly touching the bedspread, and grinned proudly, “my six-pack is starting.”