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?”

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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.

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.

Not Funny Now, But in Thirty Years…

“The man gonna lock you up!”

My husband was letting our ten-year-old drive the golf cart on a three-mile tropical island, when a passerby called out. Father and son quickly switched places. But…

Two days later, with our teenagers fuming and traumatized, my advice to the fourteen-year-old was… in ten years, you can tease him. Definitely in thirty. Maybe even next year. But not today.

While I was in the shower, my husband sent the boys in the golf cart to pick up milk. They returned with the milk, sans golf cart.

“He is such an idiot!”

“If you weren’t such a jerk…”

I looked questioningly at the ten-year-old, who smiled, “I have noooo idea.”

The fourteen-year-old, spreading blame, stared down his father, “You need to go to the police station if you want the keys back!”

Apparently, with his little brothers yelling at him, the anxious fifteen-year-old had allegedly run through a stop sign, barely missing Sergeant Taylor of the Harbour Island police with the golf cart.

Sergeant Taylor made them walk home.

“The tree was blocking the stop sign!”

“He’s an idiot!”

“He was yelling at me!”

But it was my husband who had to retrieve the keys. He showed up at the station, his friend as wingman, proverbial hat in hands. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry isn’t good enough.” Sergeant Taylor accused him of child neglect.

The grown-ups in the police station felt sixteen, reamed again for similar transgressions more than thirty years old in the banks of memory.

“Man gonna lock you up!”

But how to make peace between the brothers back at the house?

Maybe today, this isn’t fun. But no one got hurt. We all learned something. See the stop sign. Don’t make the sergeant mad. Yelling at your brother for a wrong turn leads to other wrong turns. Teaching independence must fall within the law of the land.

And guys, by next year… definitely in ten years… or thirty…

You’ll still be fighting over whose fault it was, but we’ll always remember today as the standout story of 2018.

 

Nelson Efamehule Agholor

When my 8th grader made his announcement, he did not utter the words we expected to hear. Instead, he said “Nelson Agholor. That’s my answer,” and walked out of the room with a grin on his face.

He waited until the evening before his enrollment letter was due at one of the high schools he was considering to finalize his decision. Go to the school that seems a little shinier, a little bigger? Or follow his brother?

“I’ll tell you at dinner.” So, I made his favorite steak and mashed potatoes to celebrate Decision Night.

Then… “I want to be eating ice cream when I tell you.”

We waited. Maybe he was nervous. Our 9th grader was holding his breath, hoping…

“Four score and seven years ago,” the 8th grader began.

“Remember, that was a short speech,” his Dad said.

He stopped. “Nelson Agholor.”

What? Who? 

We had to look him up. Nelson Agholor, born in Nigeria, is a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. Not the most famous NFLer, in 2017, he became a league leader in third down receptions and made some of the best, most important catches of the Eagles’ season.

The Eagles.

Only our 8th grader would turn his announcement into a sports challenge.

He chose to be with his brother…. but admitted to a second-string NBA point guard picked out for the other school, just in case he changed his mind in the moment.

Best Friends

With Christmas Break at its half-way point, our guys were starting to pick on, and at, each other. Sarcasm laced dinner conversation. It was annoying. So, we challenged them to be nice for 24 hours. Every time we caught them being mean to one another, or sarcastic about the other, they paid me a dollar to help pay for a dinner out.

I was named, “the arbiter of niceness.”

In less than fifteen minutes, our ninth grader accumulated $7 in debt to the bucket. The eighth grader was lawyering up, as he tends to do, debating his $3. The fourth grader was grinning at $2.

And “best two dollars I ever spent,” said my husband as the dishes were cleared.

The funny thing is that our eighth grader is trying to decide whether to go to the high school he thinks he likes best, or the one his big brother goes to. It is a tough choice for him, because academics matter to him… a lot.

But they are each other’s best friends. We cannot imagine them apart. We cannot imagine one going through high school without the other. They will lift each other up, quietly in the background of any picture. The presence of one will inspire the other to engage.

When they were in elementary school, they walked the carpool line at the end of the day, each at their own speed. I remember feeling sad that the one didn’t race to catch up with the other even if both dragged along the sidewalk alone. And I remember that as soon as they were both in middle school, that changed. They were suddenly always side by side, sometimes with friends weaving in and out between them, sometimes not. I loved watching them talk as they approached the car, wondering what had them so animated until they spilled in, long legs and too-heavy backpacks, both talking at once.

They are not the same. They operate at completely different speeds, the one always begging the other to play football or basketball, and the other begging for peace. They perceive the world through their own lenses – different sports teams, politics, favorite classes, favorite foods, humor. And often watching them, we think that if we blended their opposites into one person, they would be absolutely unbeatable as they move through this world.

Together, despite the $10 of mean fees earned quickly at the dinner table, they are amazing. I hope it Is not long before they understand and celebrate how very rare – how important – their friendship is. Maybe in time to choose a high school.