Flu Shot Fiasco

In the imagination of my ten-year-old, flu shots hurt. He claims that his arm still aches from last year’s shot. “I have been in pain for years and years,” he cried today in a plea to skip his appointment.

Moms typically find no humor in public meltdowns. However, the ability to re-watch the scene through the eyes of his teenage big brother – twinkling with both awe and amusement throughout the scene – can turn drama into comedy.

The not-so-little-anymore ten-year-old began the appointment hiding under the chair in which I sat waiting for the nurse. Crying. Shaking. “I’m going to throw up!”

The baby wailing in the next room could not compete.

When the nurse entered, he stepped up his game. Screamed. Leapt out of my arms. Flew open the door, and raced down the hall.

By the time the nurse and I ran after him – big brother didn’t move, by the way – the waiting room showed no evidence of a mad ten-year-old in flight. She searched amid the quiet children and parents waiting their turn. People, like I used to be, who assume a modicum of sanity from their offspring.

I checked the bathrooms. Down another hall.

Where could he be hiding?

I found him outside in his socks.

“You don’t know what it’s like to be me!”

I talked him back into the doctor’s office. Threats of returning tomorrow with Dad. Waved at the nurse. Read to him while she recruited a colleague to help us pin him down.

He screamed to stick his left leg. “I need my right leg for sports. It’s my strong one.” Then….

“Nooooo!”

By the time his doctor entered, he was finished with his fluorescent green ice-pop and riding an adrenaline rush that entertained her with stories of farting, bad school lunches, baseball and his struggles with spelling.

“Next year,” she said, “you get two shots.”

And his big brother grinned.

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His Favorite Food

“Sesame Chicken and Indian food are tied for my favorite foods,” said the fourth grader. “But Sesame Chicken might win, because whenever I eat Indian food, I have to sit on the toilet for about 20 minutes.”

Yuck.

“But I love it anyway. I just don’t like it for lunch. Then I might miss a minute or two of recess stuck on the toilet. Which probably means I like Sesame Chicken best.”

His Teenage Name Day

Sitting in the stands at yesterday’s late afternoon soccer game, I held my breath when my son got the ball in front of the goal.

The goalie caught his attempt, but it was a nice shot. Everyone cheered, and above the din, I heard his teammate – their best player nursing an injury – yell, “Nice try, Kelly!”

It took me out of the moment. Until then, none of my boys had been called anything but their first names. The names we chose for them.

But he is 13 – that age when teammates or classmates choose a different name for you. A last name. A shortened version of your own. A weird mashing of words that somehow, they think, describes you. A teenage badge of honor.

I was the only one who noticed. The only one who marked the moment as important.

Then today, another friend, “See ya tomorrow, Kelly!”

When a Little Boy Listens

His window was open on the way home from school. He blinked sleepily, heavy lids, and leaned his head against the side of the car, looking out.

“Do you know what sound I like in the world, Mom?”

“What?”

“When there’s a little wind and the leaves are rustling together, and you’re driving by with the window open.”

How Do You Explain….

How do you explain to an introverted ninth grader that the best part of high school doesn’t happen in the classroom? That the school only really comes to life after the last bell rings.

Actors running lines for the fall play. The hammers of set-building. Click-click-click of cleats running through the hall to practice. Cheerleaders shouting. Choirs singing. Posters being illustrated for the next dance. Marching band trumpets blaring and that deep drumbeat echoing across the field in through the windows. Teams tinkering with robots, debating politics, inventing headlines for the school newspaper.

Just stay. Peek in the room. Pick something. Anything. Add to the noise.

Because after school, in those rooms or on that stage, they will be the first to know your name. To drag you to lunch tomorrow. To make this new school feel more like home.

Bigfoot, Click Bait, and the Eclipse

We went on a pilgrimage from Denver to Alliance, Nebraska to watch the eclipse from the Totality Zone. I was dubious that waking up at 3am and a nearly ten-hour round trip drive through dry, brown, flat land would be worth it.

But you can’t turn down an adventure with three boys, their grandparents, and a husband willing to do all the driving. Something spectacular is bound to happen.

Like plenty of pilgrims before us, our seven did not quite make it to the “holy land”, distracted by a dirt road along train tracks that were surrounded by fields of sunflowers. Soon other weary travelers joined us. A friendly group of families and retirees and young couples from as far away as Texas – all with picnics, beach chairs, cameras and eclipse glasses.

We walked and read and chatted in the sunshine. New neighbors described having turned back from the crowded streets, lack of parking, and overflowing restaurants of Alliance, which had at least doubled its population for the event.

A field of sunflowers in the center of the Totality Zone had won our hearts.

“It started!” came the shout by a group of retirees sipping white wine.

And our kids, entertaining themselves through the slow progression, made up ideas for Youtube videos that they call “click bait” – titles, often proclaiming something ridiculously untrue, created merely to earn millions of viewers.

Who knew?

Alien abduction reported in Alliance. Seven people missing post-eclipse.

“Let’s shave your head and eyebrows and cover your face in green paint,” said the thirteen-year-old to his younger brother. “Aliens don’t have eyebrows. And we’ll figure out how to make your eyes bulge. I’ll make a video of the eclipse, and then we’ll layer you in pretending to eat the sun.”

Bigfoot Seen at Eclipse.

In another plan, as the temperature dropped and a strange-but-beautiful dimming of lights changed the colors of the fields around us, he suggested that his older brother “walk like Bigfoot up on the train tracks, and I’ll video the eclipse in the background.”

Then… totality. Cheers erupted down the line of pilgrims. Sudden darkness with a pink band at the horizon any way you turned. The moon and sun as one.

Amazing.

First Two Days of High School

When he started at his last school, he was four, and his three-year-old brother was in class with him – a two-year preschool.

I walked him in every day. I waited until the teacher hugged him or shook his hand or said good morning. I volunteered in the classroom with other moms – for a number of us, it was our first or only. And we have been laughing, encouraging, comparing notes ever since.

But at this new school – high school – he forges his own path. No mom. No little brother fingerpainting at the next easel. Only one known friend among 500 in his class. We both know it would look silly for me to walk him in. I don’t know his teachers, and they haven’t watched him grow up. Don’t yet know his slow-to-reveal humor and wonderful personality.

His brother asked to come yesterday when I picked him up after his first day. “It feels weird that I’ve never even seen his school.”

And when our high schooler got out of the car on the morning of Day 2, he sighed, “I feel a little sad.”

Me too, sweetie. But you get stronger, more impressive every day. You’re going to do great!