When He Grows Up, He Will Be…

Yesterday, as our family walked through the airport, I realized something had changed. Our oldest, who usually moves a step slower than the rest of us, was walking ahead of his younger brothers and me. He wasn’t whispering to me at the back of the line “I’m tired” or “I hate airports.” I wasn’t whispering back, “keep up with Dad”, because….

…he was walking at a fast clip with Dad.

Father and son moved through the airport together, stride for stride, in lively conversation, making each other laugh. Two peas in a pod.

They share a goofy humor tinged occasionally with wit and old soul. They compete over technology purchases and know-how. Our son has adopted his father’s odd mix of political opinions, peppered with a splattering of mismatched ideas of his own.

Over the last fourteen years, I have often thought that they are happy with each other, so non-judgmental, because they are nothing alike. I was wrong. Watching their backs, their easy comfort in each other’s presence, I caught a glimpse of the adult he is becoming.

Like father, like son.

The Hour Added To Date Nights

Every once in a while, our 8th grader will say, “You should go on a date night!”

So, you might think the boys actually like it when we leave. Freedom. Kraft Mac-n-cheese. Video games. But if it’s past 9:00, we get a text from the 7th grader, as if on cue. “When are you coming home?”

And no matter what time we return, they are all up, exploding with something to tell us, show us, read to us. And so 9:00 becomes 10:00. Or later.

When they were little, my favorite thing about date nights were that the babysitter had the kids asleep when we got home. I could tiptoe into their dimly lit rooms, kiss their warm foreheads goodnight, take a long look at their sweet faces, and go to bed. Five minutes from date to sleep. Tops. Now, I have to admit, I enjoy their need to share, as if we have been gone forever, and sleep will not come until they do.

Last night, we left for the theater at 6:00 and walked back in the house at 9:00. Perfect bedtime hour, but…

“Mom, do you want to see my Falcons’ Season in Review Youtube video? I’m not done yet, but…” So I watched ten minutes of Julio Jones beating his opponents in long touchdown runs to music.

“I’m impressed.”

“Did you see the clips with that weird reflection? I’m going to redo those. And the dark one?” Sigh, “I was hoping to get more done tonight.”

“Bedtime.”

“Mom, I started a new comic strip. Want to see it?” The third grader creates beautifully detailed illustrations, but his comic strip spelling requires pre-9:00 translation skills.

“Love it!”

He gives me a big hug. “I’m just gonna…”

“Nope. Bedtime.”

“Will you come say goodnight?”

And then the 8th grader sidles up to me, talking in a low, secretive whisper as if something is wrong. But… “You know how we’re not allowed to bring phones or iPads on the class trip? Well, I really want to finish The Book Thief. So I was thinking I could buy an iPod Shuffle.”

He spent his three hours of freedom coming up with the best way to get me to say yes to a new technology purchase. Not happening. “We have a copy of the book. You can bring that.”.

“The thing is, I don’t like to read books. They’re so… I don’t know… physical.”

“Go to bed.”

And that’s how a quick date night keeps everyone up too late.

 

My Funny Valentine

The day before Valentine’s Day, my sister told me to tell the boys that she loves them, Happy Valentine’s Day, and “tell one girl she looks pretty tomorrow.”

So this morning, my seventh grader came downstairs at 6:40am still rubbing his eyes, and grinned, “Mom, you look pretty. There. I’m done.”

At about the same time, my eight year old niece suddenly realized she had no gift for my other sister, exclaiming, “Mommy, I didn’t get you anything! Go get your nails done today!”

To which the first sister said, “Like she’s some sort of sugar daddy.”

Of course, our eighth grade son was so excited about his Valentine gift to us that he opened it himself at the dinner table last night. It was a lavender heart he made in “polymer lab” for chemistry. He barely let us touch “our” gift because he is afraid we’ll break it.

“And then” said the seventh grader, “you’ll have a broken heart.”

Long Division

Dear third grader,

Long division is hard. Besides potty-training and reading, it might be the toughest challenge you have ever faced. It is especially awful when you imagine that Mom is doing it wrong.

Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Repeat until you hit a number smaller than your original divisor.

Because if you imagine that Mom is making stuff up, you’re going to invent a new way of doing division that gets you to the incorrect answer. And it is likely going to take you longer to get there. And then after all that effort and brain power and creativity that you just dedicated to dividing one number by another, you are going to freak out. Cry. Scream. Stomp your feet. Run out of the room.

“You think I’m stupid!” will be followed by “Then you think my teacher is stupid!”

And you will still have to come back later to finish your homework.

So while I will definitely slide off the “I know this” platform after a few more years of math, I promise I will admit it when the time comes. For now, though, stick with me. You will get this, because you are all about effort and brain power and creativity… and we make a great team.

Divide. Multiple. Carry down the zero. Subtract.

I love you, sweet man,

Mom

Sports Memories

My Packers fan asked me the other day what football games I remember besides last year’s Bronco Super Bowl win. That doesn’t count, he said, because you were there. I realized that very few of my sports memories are actual plays, and I do not have a single stat in my brain.

But I remember…

…the first time my parents let me stay up late to watch a big game. The Bullets won the Championships. And as they celebrated, Queen’s “We are the Champions” played, and I was so happy and moved by the emotion of the win and the song that I cried.

…making a touchdown on the 7th grade camping trip.

…screaming until my voice gave out every time my sister swam in a race.

…feeling my heart break for Georgetown’s Fred Brown when he passed the ball to UNC’s James Worthy in a mistake that allowed Carolina to win the 1982 championship game.

…accidently smacking an opponent in the face with my lacrosse stick as I turned around to say something to our goalie when the ball was at the other end of the field.

…decorating the inside of my locker with newspaper clippings of John Riggins, Dexter Manley, Art Monk, and Darrell Green, and getting to miss school to go to the Super Bowl parade when the Redskins won.

…watching as one of the New York guys in my sophomore dorm ran through the halls banging on doors to celebrate the Mets’ World Series win in 1986.

…my husband doing the most funny Village People YMCA you’ve ever seen at a baseball game, so funny I do not even remember what game or which team. But I can still see his grin.

…being at the 2007 World Series cheering for the Rockies with my two week old son.

Since that day, my sports memories mostly come from watching my kids watch games. So I will remember my passionate Packers fan donning one of his brother’s many Falcons jerseys for the Super Bowl game last night, but showing me his Packers jersey and his loyalty underneath.

I have already forgotten the plays in the playoff game two weeks ago when the Falcons beat the Packers, but I will remember the boys’ “truce” for the game and their surprising sportsmanship throughout.

And now, the only thing I will remember about Super Bowl 51 is my Falcons fan lying on his bedroom floor crying, “Why? Why? Why?”

Little Brothers Do Suffer

There are so few moments when the little brother gets to be the smart one. So especially if you were never a boy, it is hard to understand why big brothers can’t just let them shine every once in a while.

A few weeks ago, our nine year old showed up the always-in-the-know twelve year old with an American history trivia question. So proud, he grinned from ear to ear, “I’m smarter than you!”

“Oh yeah, what’s the square root of four?”

Rapid deflation of the little guy’s ego. He looked like a wounded puppy.

Then yesterday, I was people-watching from a bench, sipping hot cider on a cold but sunny afternoon. Two brothers about the same age as my boys walked by, and what did I hear from the eldest?

“Oh yeah, what’s the square root of…”

…apparently the twelve year old’s go to question for letting little brothers know who’s in charge.

So later in confidence, I asked my son, “Can’t you just let him think he’s smarter than you in the rare moment when he knows something you don’t?”

“No way!”

The good news for the little guy is that he will catch up.

 

Our Not-So-Normal Ski Day

On the first weekend of January in Colorado, thousands of city-dwelling kids head up the two-lane highway into the mountains for the first day of their ski programs. The desire to get up to the slopes is so great that many parents pull their kids out of class early to beat the traffic. Priorities, right?

While we do not advocate the “early Ski Friday pull”, we were definitely excited for the season to officially begin. But Friday night, temperatures dropped below negative 10 in the mountains, sending our planned ski day into a tailspin.

As we approached the car Saturday morning, we heard an explosion like fireworks. Turns out, it was the rear window of our car shattering into a million pieces. My husband had turned the car on to warm it up, and as it heated up, the contrast between the inside and outside was too much for the glass. Ker-pow!

No problem. We hopped in the car anyway and brought the boys to the mountain. I started calling potential repair shops, and my husband and I left for Walmart to buy plastic and duct tape. The Walmart is at least 20 minutes away from where we had dropped the kids, and the very nice gentleman who assisted us was quite concerned that the color of the duct tape match the color of our car. We were in no rush…

…until the cell phone rang.

Our oldest was calling from ski patrol, where they were tending to his younger brother, who had passed out at the base of the gondola. Dehydration. Altitude. not enough bacon for breakfast? It has happened before, which is the only reason, ski patrol said, they hadn’t called an ambulance. Please come quickly.

So, we threw the plastic and our matching duct tape into the car, and raced back to the mountain, where all was well, but….

….on the way, my sister, who was dog-sitting for us, called. Did we know tree trimmers were at the house trimming our favorite walnut?

Nope. So with the now balmy negative 2 degree air coming in the rear window and our child woozy at ski patrol, I had to tell the tree trimmer to please desist until we could supervise.

Now, the one family member who we had not heard from all day, was our nine year old, who was in ski school. We assumed that his day, at least, had been normal.

Not so. His ski instructor arrived back at the base early and angry, due to the bad behavior of the kids. And while our son was happily (and somewhat surprisingly) not the perpetrator, he is not ready for black diamonds and is being moved to a less adventurous group. He looked absolutely defeated, as I am sure, did we.

So, when I bought the big red Gatorade to rehydrate the woozy one, I also bought a lottery ticket. We’re due, right?