The Puberty Excuse

Please note: The nine year old, no matter what he says, is a master chore-avoider. But yes, teenage brothers can be disappointing.

His big brother is being a jerk, so he storms up the beach and sits in the chair next to mine with his arms crossed in anger. “He is such a teenager!”

“That’s no excuse to be mean,” I say, as witness.

“I know! If he doesn’t want to play basketball, he says he’s too tired, because he’s in puberty,” a good mimic. “When he doesn’t want to play football with us, he uses the puberty excuse again.”

As if “the puberty excuse” is a real term everyone uses.

“When you make us switch the laundry, we fold everything wondering where he is, calling his name, and he doesn’t come help. All he has to do is load the dirty stuff, but noooooo. And when we’re all done, we find him watching some dumb YouTube video in his room, and he looks up and says, ‘I can’t help it. I’m in puberty.’”

The nine year old marches off, still ranting, “It drives me crazy.”


A Window into the Past

When I was twelve to fourteen, I traveled in a pack that our moms called The Mafia. We were mostly a mix of boys and girls who did Drama on Tuesdays and Saturdays or were in Team Four. That group expanded a little when we got to high school, then eventually dissolved into different interests and diversified friends.

A few years ago, I found out that most adults do not have good memories of seventh and eighth grade. I was shocked. I had a blast. I belonged. School was more fun than it would ever be again, and after school was even more so.

Still, there was a part of The Mafia that I felt excluded from, and though I knew I could not be included, I felt I was missing out. It was when the boys in our group hung out – just them. The crew would stay overnight after we all went sledding or to a dance or to the movies.

And I would fall asleep knowing that if were there with them, I would be laughing. I would be enjoying their rambunctiousness, which I admired. And given that I was in a family of all girls, I longed to be privy to the secret – and I assumed, hilarious – life of boys.

Last night, driving a bunch of boys from basketball practice back to our house for a sleepover, I was struck by the fact that fate has given me a glimpse – or a lifetime of glimpses – of the one thing I missed growing up.

They were really loud and ridiculously funny. They talked over each other even more than girls do. They have goofy, unexplainable nicknames. They wore their hearts on their sleeves, yet got no sympathy and moved on. They sang badly but passionately. They teased each other mercilessly, then laughed even more.

They even talked about Drama class and Dungeons and Dragons.

A gift to my middle school self.

A Youtuber in the Family

Our twelve year old has a Youtube channel reporting on the Atlanta Falcons, his favorite football team. He calls it Falcons Time. He also posts all of his basketball trick shots and his water bottle flipping records.

He reports frequently on the number of total followers and views, and compares his to the 50 per minute who sign up for Dude Perfect, who market themselves as five best friends and a Panda. If you have a preteen boy, you’ve probably heard of them.

The wild thing is that there are eight people following my son from Malaysia. Three from Sweden. “Isn’t that weird?!” he grins.

A little guy’s taste of fame.


When Confidence Was Cool

At what age does it become socially awkward to say aloud, “You know what I like best about myself?”

Fortunately, it still flies in second grade.

Only two days after moving up from the reading group for those struggling with phonics, and four days after scoring a basket in a YMCA basketball game, my little guy was feeling good.

“You know what I like best about myself?”


“That I’m really good at school and really good at sports.”

“I like that you have fun doing whatever you are doing, and you work really hard to get better at it.”

“Yep.” Big, huge smile.

The Thrill of Kindergarten Basketball

Kindergarten basketball games are not high-scoring. Six baskets per team in an hour of play is typical. No dunks. No passes behind the back. No rockets from half-court.

But kindergarten basketball games give me great joy. The enthusiasm and effort cannot be beat, the tackling each other like puppy dogs on the bench, the unabashed grins at cheering parents when they score, the complete lack of awareness about who’s really winning.

Dribbling not required.

“We won,” my son says after every game even when they were demolished on the boards… or the opposing team had one kid who actually gets it.

After the last game, when my son let his opponent beat him down the court twice for a basket, I told him he should think of it as a race. If he beats the other player, he wins.

His response?

“My brain kept telling my legs to go faster. Go faster, they said over and over. But my legs wouldn’t listen. I tried, Mom. But they just weren’t listening.”

Biceps and Basketball

“What are those things that she has on her arms?” my five year old asked, pointing to his five year old, girl cousin.

I eventually got to “biceps?”

“Yep. Well, even though she has those and she is stronger than me…do you know our hoop outside?” Pause for dramatic effect and general know-it-all-ness. “Well, she can’t even make a basket, and I can.”

Always competing at my house, even with those who don’t know they are in the competition.

“Why do you think that is?” I asked, going for the word “practice.”

“She shoots grandma style.”

The Basketball Screen: A Lesson

I played basketball with my kids after school yesterday. Clearly, I am not respected for my skills on the court, because I was teamed up with the oldest. And he kept yelling at me for leaving the lane open.

My nine year old was teaching my five year old his “real basketball plays.”

“Screen,” he called. “Screen!”

With that, the little guy screamed as loud as he could.

After heated whispers in the subsequent team huddle, they tried again.


Arms waving madly, the five year old ran at the ten year old, screaming, and tried to tackle him.