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.

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How Was Your Day? Who’s Your New Friend?

As a mom, I lack patience. I want to know how their days were. Who said what? Anything fun? How was the test? What did you eat for lunch? Who’d you play with at recess? Did you make a new friend? Who did you talk to at…

Maybe after all these years of saying I was meant to have boys – and being happy about it – I really needed chatty girls who tell mom all.

But I am trying. During the ride home from school with my teenage boy, I am limiting myself to a quick “good day?”

“Yep.”

And in this quieter approach, I am starting to hear more. His first high school friend has two younger siblings, and he wouldn’t want to be an only child.

That was all I got Week One through Five.

Then yesterday, my son offered that his new friend “doesn’t know anything about Social Studies. Not even who the bad guys were in World War II. Or World I, but I guess that’s okay, because that’s more complicated.”

Apparently, the kid is good at math.

“He didn’t even have Social Studies in elementary school, the teachers were so bad. So, he couldn’t catch up in middle school. And now…”

Pause.

“I’ve made it my mission to teach him everything I know about Social Studies by the end of the year.”

I grinned. “And how does he feel about that?”

“Great!” as if every fourteen year old boy is eagerly waiting for his friends to teach him world history in the lunchroom.

It sounds like the start of a beautiful friendship.

 

 

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!”

Practicing Being “Cool” with the Grown-Ups

Apparently, our fourteen year old was chatting with a friend of mine. She had recently purchased a Wii and was asking what games he and his brothers play. The only better topics to get him going is “which Apple product do you recommend?” and “how about them Packers?””

He explained that he and his brothers mostly pay sports games, especially football. Madden 15. Madden 17. Madden anything. But then he told her about another game, one of the war games he likes.

“That’s the game that if I’m awake at two in the morning, I go down to the basement with a bowl of chips and a coke and play by myself.”

Now, I will admit he is a light sleeper. But this is a kid who never goes in the basement at night. He certainly doesn’t go down at 2 a.m. Alone.

And he’s never had a coke in his life.

Too cool.

Quote from an Eight Year Old

We were talking about the complicated web of rules and social alliances an eight year old boy must negotiate to survive recess. He is frustrated with the inconsistency of friendships and where he falls in the order of teammates picked. He says he sometimes feels invisible.

I have found that the second through fourth grade years are tough on boys, as they become aware of athleticism, the cool factor, and “boy world” pecking order. I was advising him to choose a different game or friend on days when football brings him down. Recess is supposed to be fun.

He looked at me, deeply serious. Eyes big and teary. “But would you rather people were friends with you for who you really are, or who you want to be? I want them to pick me to be their friend because of who I already am.”

Flasback: Winter, 1982-ish

On this 15-degree morning, when I dropped my boys off at school, I ordered our seventh grader to pull on his coat. He had chosen to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and was not planning to wear a coat until I marched him back inside to get it. As his mother, I told him, his poor judgment would reflect badly on me.

“You’re putting that coat on before you get out of the car.”

Driving away, amused by the common middle school boy rejection of long pants, a memory came to me of one winter day a long time ago. My friend wasn’t feeling well during our school day, and I had the honor of walking her to the nurse’s office. Mrs. Queen’s office was in another building, so it offered a change of scenery, a break from class, and public recognition that I was a good enough friend to the ailing student to be the one selected to accompany her.

I never got to know Mrs. Queen as well as some of my friends, though, because I was never sick. I just escorted the sick people to her, and I found her intimidating. I guess that’s why this winter memory stands out.

We walked into her office and announced our reason for being there. It smelled like antiseptic and band-aids.

Rather than address my ailing friend, Mrs. Queen peered down at me.

“Zip up that coat, young lady. Are you trying to get sick?!”

My friend ended up being sent home with a fever, and I, perfectly healthy, zipped my coat and returned to class, unaware that this would be a memory that shaped how I parent my seventh grade son.