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.

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?”

Looking Back in the Weeks Before 8th Grade Graduation

I volunteered to interview our school’s 8th graders for a Middle School Graduation video, and jotted down some of the things they shared. I asked a lot of different questions, but what I expected them to remember and talk about wasn’t always important to them. Only a few could come up with a story from Lower School, while I can tell you numerous memories from my own early years. First grade. Third grade, certainly. And Fourth.

Only a handful could remember anything that happened in the news, yet here too, I could talk for hours about how I perceived or even participated in historic events of the 1970s and 80s. And oddly to me, quite a number of “best field trip” moments took place on the bus rides there. The only bus ride memory I have took place in fifth grade, when one of the boys told me I was “gullible,” which I was, but I thought it meant “huggable”, and it made my day.

Funny story:

“We were seeing how many of those little orange slices you can stuff in your mouth. We were backstage, and I was on the floor laughing so hard that I started to spit them out just when an admission tour group came through. I’m guessing none of thosekids are coming here.”

Wisdom you might share with your second grade buddy:

“Don’t stress out. It gets harder every year, but when it does, you’re ready for it. And it’s not that hard, because the teachers help you.”

“Spend as much time with your friends as you can.”

“Be yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because most of them are nice.”

Best part of the Washington DC trip:

“It was on the bus ride, and he was sleeping, and his brother and I were throwing cashews at him. And then he woke up, and yawned, and I threw one perfectly into his mouth. He was soooo surprised.”

“Well, one story, I can’t tell you.”

Best day at school:

“My very first day here in sixth grade. I came here and I realized I could be myself. I didn’t have to be crazy or anything for people to like me.”

“They were going to tear the old Lower School building down, and so on the last day of first grade, they let us write on the walls. I remember we were drawing on the bathroom walls. Everywhere. But then we started drawing on the carpets, and apparently, they were planning to re-use the carpeting. So, our teacher got really mad. That was the best day.”

Middle School Dances:

“The dances are pretty ‘cringy’, because there are like two slow dances, and there’s like three couples who dance together, and everybody starts freaking out because they’re dancing.”

“Everybody only has six dance moves, and they just do them over and over.”

“Most importantly, you get candy.”

Something that happened in the world during your time at the school:

“The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots winning the Super Bowl.” “The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots…”

“I will always remember the day in December 2012, when the world was supposed to end, and we were all standing out on the field looking up at the sky waiting. And then it didn’t.”

Cherishing 15

The other night, just as my husband and I were settling peacefully into bed, our son ran into the room, climbed over me…

Ouch!

…and burrowed under the blankets between us.

“So…” he grinned with our blue quilt pulled up to his chin, “what should we talk about?”

He’s about six feet, 170 pounds. A size 13 shoe. Not many kids with their learner’s permit still snuggle. But every once in a while, we get this kind of funny, sweet moment.

So, we talk, savoring the moment. And we laugh, wondering to ourselves how it’s possible our little guy is already 15.

Fortnite Versus Mom

If you have teenage boys (or, apparently, are the wife or mom of an NBA player), you’ve heard of Fortnite, the multi-player, shooter video game that went temporarily offline this week, sending the youth of America into a tailspin.

At one point last month, more than 3.4 million fans were playing simultaneously.

Now, I know my boys would be appalled by this comparison, but from a conflicted parental perspective, it reminds me of Pokemon Go.

Remember that fad? Kids carrying cellphones and iPads and even laptops roaming the streets, trails, and playgrounds with their friends, catching imaginary Pokemons? Rumors of grown-ups falling off of cliffs because they were so absorbed in their search?

“Well, at least they’re getting exercise.”

“I’m just glad they’re outside.”

Now, comes Fortnite. A shooting game. An enticement to disappear into the dark, cold basement on a beautiful, sunny day. And what are we, as parents, saying?

“The thing is, it lets him spend more time with his friends.”

“They’re all inside the game talking to each other for hours. And I can hear everything they say.”

“It’s safe.”

“It’s social.”

“…and they’re learning to think strategically.”

“I want to say it’s bad, but…” said one Dad, “It’s really fun.”

Parents, I’m afraid those masterminds at Epic Games have figured out how to beat us at… well… our own game.