Doors of the World

People are making lots of money off of posters and books dedicated to interesting doors from around the world. Gorgeous, colorful photographs of doors. Big doors. Red doors. Ancient doors. Doors with graffiti. Wooden doors. Gold doors. Doors to pubs. Doors to thatched-roof cottages. Doors to churches and tombs.

The really interesting book would spotlight the doors of our children. Bedroom doors. Fort doors. Clubhouse doors. My son’s door.

door-signs

A Pirate in My Minivan

My car stinking of acetone nail polish remover, and my eight year old son weeping in the back, I realized yet again the complexities of parenting. When I first discovered his drawings a few hours before, I was enraged.

Black Sharpie artwork all over the third row seat. A mustached pirate in a big hat holding an A- paper on the leather headrest. A large A+ on the side of of the car. “You are awsom” and a smiley face just below on the plastic armrest. Two eye balls peering out from the back of the middle seat. How did I not feel those eyes watching for an entire week?

A Pirate in My CarAwsom

I wanted to cross out “awsom” and replace it with “dead.” Or correct his spelling.

There will be no trading-in the red minivan, but I am not alone. Other mothers have suffered the same misfortune, stuck with old minivans because of the sins of their children. They offered remedies. A few pointed out that his artistic message was at least positive. No bad words. No sad faces.

And here he was unrepentant, sobbing that I had erased something he had worked so hard on and that made him happy every time he got in the car. His own little sanctuary that lasted for a week.

And so I stared, wondering which parenting path to take, and eventually patch-working together a response, likely muddied by too much nail polish remover.

The Boss of Me

“Mom, do you know how I felt inside my body when you just left me here?” asked my little guy (age 8).

We were pulling out of the school driveway where I had parked to run into the front office. (There’s surveillance video).

“How?”

“Like I was in charge of something for the first time in my life. When you’re the littlest brother, you never even get to be in charge of yourself.”

Another Lesson Learned about Judging Other Moms

Parenting is a highly reiterative lesson on the folly of judging others, yet it seems to take many little ah-ha moments for me to learn.

Driving through morning carpool as the seasons change, there is a diverse array of garb. The girls in first grade start wearing tights with their cute little skirts. Overnight, the boys in second grade might trade their shorts and t-shirts for a Broncos sweatshirt and jeans. A few of the little ones even march onto campus in jackets.

Then there is the boy who stands with his too skinny shoulders hunched, hands stuffed in pockets, shivering in shorts and pledging allegiance to the flag during all-school outdoor assembly. Or the girl who has grown inches since spring, revealing bare, knobby knees and goose-bumped arms as snowflakes land in her hair.

And as a mom of little ones, you can’t help but think, “Who is his mother?” Or “Where are her parents? She is going to freeze to death!”

Well, after years of judging other parents for their lack of control over their child’s clothing decisions, I know who his mother is.

It’s me. The mom of middle school boys who wear shorts in winter and no sweatshirts at recess. They refuse to wear a jacket to stay warm when the morning frost still glistens, just in case the afternoon sun makes them look like dorks carrying winter coats.

It was not long ago, when that bothered me. No more.

It is not that I care less about whether they catch pneumonia, or less about how they present themselves to others, or less about how I am judged as a parent. I do remind them a hundred times or more. But I know that when they can’t take it anymore – well before they die of hypothermia – they will decide on their own to dress sensibly.

And I am focused much more on preparing them to be good, hard-working, kind, successful, happy young men… who may look a bit ridiculous in the year’s first snow.

Bragging Rights

My seven year old decided to join a lacrosse team last month. He had never picked up a lacrosse stick, and needs to focus on schoolwork, but he persisted that he needed to try it. Fall lacrosse is casual, I was told. No practices. Just games. And I thought, how is a kid who has never picked up a stick going to figure this out?

A seven year old boy with a little rage might just end up swinging his stick wildly like a weapon. Yellow card. Yellow card.

But I signed him up.

And on the same day that he brought home a perfect spelling test, he scored his second goal of the season.

At seven, with only five games under his belt, he has already scored more goals than I did in my seven-year career warming the bench on my middle school, high school and college lacrosse teams.

Thank goodness I still have him on spelling tests… for now.

Master of the Eye-Roll

We are walking out the door, already five or ten minutes late to Lego League.

“Honey, you didn’t brush your hair.”

“I knew you were going to say that,” he grumbles and stomps back into the house. Yet I know that if we arrived at school with his hair sticking up all over the place, he might not walk in. And I would be blamed.

“Don’t forget your soccer uniform.” I had said that too this morning and earned a dramatic eye-roll, made more effective by his dark, expressive eye brows.

“How many times are you going to remind me?”

Admittedly, I had reminded him at least three times last night. “Until it’s in your backpack?”

Most of the time, he feels badly after such interchanges. Today, he climbed back into the car to give me a hug. Some nights he calls out in the dark, “Mom!” for a second chance at goodnight.

It’s like watching the child and teenager in him battle for power the week before he turns 13.

Signature Jewelry

In first grade, my son’s class could earn plastic coins for good behavior. Then on Fridays, they could spend their coins – while doing math to figure out their change – on a plethora of plastic toys. He brought home super bouncy balls, spider rings at Halloween, spinning tops, Christmas pencils, erasers and more.

Nearly all of it quickly snuck its way into the trash… except for one prize.

It was early last fall when he came home with it. A black rope necklace with a small baseball. The kind of toy that every kid loses. That always brakes in the first week.

Not on his watch.

He wears his baseball necklace to bed every night. He brings it on vacations. He wears it to school. Takes it off just before jumping into the pool. It is a lucky charm in soccer games and lacrosse. For spelling tests too.

The few days he didn’t wear it during the last year, he got in trouble or had his feelings hurt. He blames it on forgetting his necklace.

A seven-year-old boy with a signature piece of jewelry that totally works for him. That is the kind of important thing a mom might forget when he grows up.

On Being 12

Twelve is a strange moment, made real by the fact that the next number you will become has an entirely different nomenclature. There is a pressure to change to fit the new vocabulary assigned you.

Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Teenager.

But you are not ready. Your feet are too big for your legs. You’re sent to the men’s department without biceps or shoulders. And you still have baby teeth and mom in tow.

In the last 24 hours, I watched my twelve year old wobble uncertainly between child and adolescent. It looked painful.

We were swimming at a local rec center, and I was trying to recruit him to pull his younger brother out of the lazy river so we could get lunch.

He was too distracted. Shook his head no. I followed his eyes, which were peering over the wall across to the lap lanes like a stalker. The intensity of his expression worried me until I saw that he was watching a teenage couple flirting with each other, touching a little too much for public consumption – uncertain in their play, both still in braces, neither having grown into their less-awkward adult selves.

And my twelve year old looked both entranced and disgusted. We would talk later.

The next day, we were at the Museum of Science and Nature, and while exploring the new whale exhibit, he suddenly needed to leave. “I’m hungry. I don’t want to be here. I can’t find anything interesting. Can we go? Now!”

Months ago, he insisted, “I don’t like Native American exhibits. They freak me out. Let’s go.”

But in both cases, he kept getting distracted by the knowledge available as we headed out. He respects facts. He loves the museum. He loved studying Native American culture the year before. And this time, fleeing the whales, he led us into the Gems and Minerals exhibit without thinking.

Then he shoved me in front of him. “Go faster,” he whispered. “Why are you stopping here?” he added in front of the largest piece of gold ever found in Colorado. “I don’t like caves! Can we go?”

Then it all came together. He is afraid of the dark.

Big feet. Baby teeth. Studying the art of flirting. Sleeping with the light on. Panicking at the museum when the lights are low.

Twelve is tough.

My Fault: Road Rage in Our DNA

Don’t butt in line. Don’t take the red crayon when you know it’s his favorite color. Don’t hog the ball. Don’t sing when he is trying to concentrate. Don’t sit next to the girl he wants to sit with at circle time. And certainly don’t push him out of your way so you can be first.

My first grader has to figure out how to contain his anger at school, but I respect him for standing his ground when he feels an injustice has been done. The third of three boys, he spends much of his time proving himself, keeping up, playing with the big dawgs. He adores his friends, but just can’t stop himself from letting loose when someone butts, pushes, brags, pokes.

The school psychologist called me a few weeks ago after meeting with him. “I was trying to give him an example of how most of the time, anger is not appropriate, but sometimes it is. We talked about how when someone cuts me off in traffic, I want to yell….”

What did my seven year old tell him about me?!

“But usually, it’s just someone being careless,” he continued. “Nice person. Doesn’t deserve me yelling at them.”

Ugh.

“But one time, a reckless driver almost hit my wife and daughter, and I was so mad that I chased after his car and pounded on the hood.”

Redeemed. No scolding for mom!

“That was a real reason to be mad,” said the counselor to my son. “The other times weren’t.”

Well…

Later that very afternoon, we were racing to a guitar lessons across town, and everyone was driving slowly.

I lost it. “Do you not realize that the rest of us have someplace to go?! HELLO?!”

And in the rearview mirror, my seven year old looked at me wisely. Peacefully.

“I shouldn’t have gotten so mad at that guy, should I?” I asked.

“Nope,” responded my seven-year-old sage.

I don’t need therapy. I just need my kids to remind me of who I should be… and then follow their lead.