Boys’ Night

Last night, the fourth grade boys celebrated next week’s start of school with an all-boys’ outdoor movie night. The night was put on as part of an effort to establish some traditions for them that bring them together as a group.

Kickball. Catching up. The third Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pizza. Cupcakes. Brownies. Candy. Popcorn.

With the sun refusing to set, and after some very loud happy play, they sat around the picnic tables talking. One excited crew poured juice on each other’s heads. One head injury ended up in the ER. They are boys, after all.

But as darkness fell, and cool air promising a 10:00 rainstorm blew across the yard, they snuggled up together under their blankets. Two boys huddled in low beach chairs here. Another two in chairs there. Seven or eight in a big pile in the grass like puppies.

Thunder rumbled as the movie ended. The first raindrops fell just as they untangled from the cozy pack and went home.

Their first night out past bedtime.

It’s a Boy Thing

After a week with my three boys at the beach, it dawned on me yet another reason why boys and girls are different. Boys enjoy driving each other crazy for sport.

It is a constant effort to see how far they can go before the other goes bat-shit crazy. I do not remember that in a house of three girls.

They poke each other. Jump out from behind corners to scare each other. Take every opportunity to remind each other of a favorite football team’s meltdown in the Super Bowl.

They have old lady nicknames for each other like Carol and Sally and then use them until their brother can’t take it anymore.

They remind each other of the embarrassing things they did yesterday or last year or six years ago. “Remember when you pooped at the pool? “Well, you pooped on the beach!”

Poke. Shove. Poke. “Hey, Carol, remember when…”

In the end, after all three laugh until their sides ache, someone always storms off. “They are sooo mean.”

But fifteen minutes later, they are back together, back at it, back to smiles and that little-boy twinkle in their eyes. All for one and one for all.

I pointed this observance out to them. They all grinned, “That’s why boys are more fun.”

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.

The 500th Post

Yesterday marked my 500th blog post on jennswondering. It began almost exactly five years ago in an effort to learn blogging so I could list it as a skill for potential clients. It has turned into a five-year (so far) capturing of moments in my sons’ lives. 500 small moments that we, as a family, might otherwise forget. One day, I will share them with the boys, when I am old enough that they feel obligated to forgive me. And they are old enough to recognize what I see in them each time they inspire me to write: unique, funny, creative, sweet, smart, much-loved boys.

Your Number One Job

Since our boys were very little, I have made sure they hear me say, “Your number one job in life is to be good to your brothers.”

In the closing weeks of summer vacation, I had to remind them often. They had spent too much time together, suddenly missed their friends, and with the older boys entering adolescence, I began to worry that my mantra was lost on them. “What’s your most important job on this planet?!”

But they just rolled their eyes.

Then, yesterday, after a few weeks back in the groove of school, the 12 and 13 year olds both showed me that they have been listening.

First, I heard from their Lego League teacher, who was in the process of creating two distinct teams for competition, that the older one had pulled her aside. He let her know quietly that all that matters to him is that he and his brother are on the same team. Even though his two best friends in the entire world are also in Lego League, he wants to share it with his brother.

Later in the day, I picked them up from soccer practice, after which they were delighted with themselves and each other. The younger one, and better athlete, had earned the “play of the day.” The older one had scored the winning goal – his first ever goal. Neither of them cared that their feats had been achieved in practice, not a game.

The younger one waited until we were alone to tell me that his brother “was so happy when he scored that goal. You should have seen him. And the whole team was happy. It was awesome.”

I whispered what I had heard from the Lego League teacher. “That’s because if I’m on his team, he knows we’ll win,” but his grin spread from ear to ear.

Phew, A No-Drama Night

During the first week and a half of school, it seemed that my boys were running a relay of tantrums and meltdowns. As soon as one recovered from whatever angst he was experiencing, he passed the baton, and the next one took off.

“I have no friends in my classes!” He does.

“I don’t know why I am doing soccer! I hate soccer!” He has a blast.

“I am not doing Lego League!” This is his third year. He loves it, and more of his friends are doing it than ever before.

“I heard someone behind me in line say I was useless!” Unwilling to put a name to the voice.

“I only touched the ball once for all of recess! And it was a punt. It wasn’t even a good punt!” Can they please ban playground football?

Each of these and other statements spiraled down into two hours of tears, moping, glares, stomping feet or refusals to talk. And the fights that such moods triggered between them… Seriously?! Then yesterday, thank goodness, the world shifted back onto its usually peaceful, happy axis.

“I got a 100 on my math quiz!”

“I’m so bummed we don’t have soccer practice tomorrow. It’s the best part of the day!”

“I hope everyone’s going to be at Lego League.”

“Can I bring my red football for recess?”

“We finished our homework. If we go together, can we go Pokemon-ing until dinner?”

Transition back to school complete.

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails

And puppy-dogs’ tails

That’s what little boys are made of.

But what happens to them when they play golf?!

I recently took up golf and started playing an occasional nine holes with my family. I love being outside with them, playing, enjoying the sunshine. My goal is to hit the ball when I swing, sometimes hit it 100 yards and straight, but mostly just spend a few hours with my boys.

But golf does something to them.

When they are playing well, they are like puppy dogs’ tails. Wagging. Giddy. Confident. Fun.

That’s what little boys are made of.

But when they are playing poorly, which in our family games, merely means I have a slim chance of closing in, they turn into slugs and snails and sops who wail…

…and throw their clubs, and cry and beat themselves up.

No other sport or activity has this strange power over them. And I just want to play!

So apparently, after 13 years as a mother of boys, I must still learn…

… what are little boys made of… when they play golf?