Superheroes

Most nights at the dinner table, I think to myself that we – my sisters and friends and I – never talked about stuff like this. The Falcons game when Matt Ryan…. But Aaron Rodgers is… Who’s better at…. Who’s gonna win at…..

And the other day, overhearing my ten-year-old son and his friend argue the merits of Iron Man and Black Panther, I caught myself thinking the same. Boys are so different.

But then, I remembered Sabrina.

In my mind, she was the best Charlie’s Angel. The smart one. Never the one who sprained her ankle, got caught by the bad guy, or was stupid enough to fall for him. If we were playing Charlie’s Angels, I claimed her. She was going to solve the crime.

Kelly, of course, was a fan favorite, or Jill, or Chris, and their merits could be argued, for sure. Better hair, if nothing else. But I always fought for Sabrina, the grown-up, slightly nerdy tomboy.

Iron Man. Black Panther. Iron Man. Black Panther.

“The suit made him. He wasn’t a real superhero.”

“He made the suit. His brain made him a superhero.”

She was the smartest. The prettiest. The fastest. The bravest. The best.

Iron Man. Black Panther.

Sabrina. Kelly. Jill.

And then… Joe. Beth. Amy. Meg.

Laura. Mary. Carrie.

And we – my sisters and friends and I – talked about stuff like that all the time.

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The Twists and Turns Regarding a Second Dog

Star is almost eight years old and is only just beginning to grow out of her puppy phase. With her maturity comes a quieter home, but apparently, teenage boys and their Dads seek chaos.

The pitch for a second dog – a large puppy – began in earnest about six months ago. Four against one. By mid-summer, I was losing. Dad was emailing breeders.

Until….

Star and I were crossing a stream while the boys fished on the shores of Jefferson Lake. Puppy excitement reignited by the new smells of the wilderness, Star tugged on her leash. I slipped off the log I was on, and broke my foot.

It silenced the new puppy talk. The only benefit to “the boot”…. Until….

Our car and garage were robbed. Two very nice bikes are now in the hands of local criminals. They managed to buy about $50 worth of snacks at a nearby gas station.

Star tried to alert us. She barked at midnight, which she never does. She scratched at the door. And when we finally stumbled downstairs to let her out, she stood unmoving in the yard. Watching. Protecting her herd.

But they had already absconded with the goods.

And what was the very first thing our teenage son said even before the police arrived? With Mom still in “the boot”?

“If we had two dogs, this never would have happened.”

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.

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.