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.”

How We Talk about Sports

When most families talk about taking up a new sport, I assume that the child expresses an interest or starts playing the game on their own, with friends, with a sibling. He or she begs to join a team.

That’s not exactly how it works at my house.

Recently, our ten year old told his Dad that he wanted to try lacrosse. Dad went and bought him a lacrosse stick, and they have been playing together in the front yard. My son now watches lacrosse on television with me (I tremendously enjoyed warming the bench throughout high school) and asks lots of questions about the rules. He is studying the game. He is learning the players, the trivia, everything. He learns to “talk” a sport before he learns to play it (e.g., he learned his numbers by memorizing favorite baseball player numbers).

And then, even before he asked to join a team or bring his lacrosse stick to a friend’s house or purchase any other accouterments of the sport, he checked on this:

“Dad, do professional lacrosse players make a lot of money?”

“Nope.”

“Are you kidding? Everyone watches lacrosse! They must be rich!”

“You don’t play lacrosse for money. You play for fun.”

“Do they at least make as much as you do?” (speaking to a doctor)

“Not even…”

“That’s ridiculous.” You could see my son’s mind at work, weighing his professional prospects with picking up a new sport just for fun.

Our six year old, always listening, added his two cents, “That’s why I play baseball.”

But fun still trumps money at ten. He brought his lacrosse stick for the first time today to play with a friend.

A Lesson from My Third Grader

My sister recently took a personality test that was supposed to rank her strengths. She was frustrated that all the “fun stuff” came in last.

I suffered from the same disappointment back in high school. I was really good at grammar. But what high school girl aspires to that when her friends are getting standing ovations in the school musical or scoring the game-winning goal for the lacrosse team?

I wanted to be more interesting. I wanted to make people laugh. I wanted to be good at the “fun stuff.” I was clearly unsuccessful at the time, since some of the boys called me “the Librarian.”

My third grader has been teaching me a lesson about the “fun stuff.” He too wants to be the most interesting guy in the room. He aspires to be the kid who everyone else wants to play with. But he too is good at grammar and multiplication, when what he really wants is to play quarterback in the NFL. Not a likely scenario, he discovered this fall, after dropping out of recess football games when they got too rough.

Like all of us, he wants to be good at the “fun stuff.” The difference is how he responds when he is not.

When he was little, he changed the rules to his advantage so that he stayed at the top of the “fun” game. But his brother and friends have caught on over the years.

Now, he redefines fun.

When he watches sports, he yells and cheers and jumps up and down for every play until everyone in the house finds their way into the room to watch with him, even those not so interested in the game. We want to share in his joy.

When he stays after school to get ahead in the Rocket Math challenge, he talks about it so much and with such enthusiasm, that until he raced through division, a long line of third grade moms were forced to wait in carpool line for their boys well after school ended. Then this spring he turned an assigned book no one wanted to read into the only book anyone wanted to read, just by talking it up.

And when he quit recess football because he was afraid of getting hurt by his more aggressive classmates, he may have been teased by a few, but a few more ended up begging their parents to buy them Puffles (ridiculous stuffed animals inspired by a video game) so they could join his game.

His theory seems to be if you can’t be the best at the “fun stuff”, change what’s fun.

Then be consistent and joyful and welcome all, because when you let them play, they will spread the news – there’s something really fun going on, and I know the kid that’s making it happen.

I’m Clearly Headed to the Nursing Home

My five year old brought home a wonderful sculpture he made out of multi-colored foam blocks. On one end of the board on which his sculpture sits is a small tower, mostly red but with one block each of yellow and blue. On the other side of the board is a tower three times the first one’s size. The second is mostly blue.

He likes red.

His teacher always writes the story behind the artwork in their own words:

“This is a big tower for the grownups. Outside is the kids’ area, so the kids don’t have to be bored with the grownups. They can have fun!”

Santa’s Workshop: The Perfect Day

Since Daylight Savings turned the clocks back two weeks ago, my boys have struggled. They are whining more than usual. They are picking on each other like never before. They cry at the drop of a hat.

Yesterday, with the sun coming up, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to turn them back into the kids they were before Daylight Savings. The remedy? We were going to spend the entire day outside.

I had heard that Santa’s Workshop in Colorado Springs was fun. It’s a small amusement park with rides for little kids. (http://santas-colo.com). Open for 50 years on the slopes of Pike’s Peak, it was constructed with a child’s image of the North Pole as its inspiration. Denver-ites can get there in an hour.

Now, this adventure was a big risk.

I don’t usually enjoy amusement parks – the crowds stress me out and the rides terrify me. At most parks, wither my five year old is crying because he isn’t allowed to ride anything his brothers can, or the older boys are mad because I’m making them spend time in the kiddie section.

So Santa’s Workshop was a wonderful surprise. It wasn’t crowded even though it was 60 degrees in November. The people were all families with young kids. I think my ten year old was close to the oldest child there.

The rides were set up so that a five year old could ride what he wanted, while his older brothers rode something slightly faster, and I could see them all the entire time.

We stayed for almost four hours.

I did yell at my five year old once for making me ride in the first car of the Space Shuttle, and while he had his hands up and screamed “this is awesome”, I wouldn’t let go of his leg. Not sure who I was protecting from flying out of the car – me or him.

Other than that, no one whined. No one ran ahead. No one bickered or bothered each other. No one even threw a fit when I told them they could not buy a toy in Santa’s Shop for Boys. (There is a separate Shop for Girls.)

We rode everything, sometimes twice. And the only thing the five year old couldn’t do was the haunted house (not recommended for children under six). He didn’t mind. There were flying jets with guns right next to it.

“That was the best day ever!”

“Can we come back again and bring friends?”

“I loved today, mom!”

Best $20 a kid I’ve ever spent.

Now, let’s hope the Daylight Savings curse has passed.

Invisible Hands

“Mommy, do know what’s in my brain?”

“What?”

“Something I am trying to remember,” my five year old said, wearing his Halloween costume in the car on the way to school.

“But it keeps trying to get out. And invisible hands have to reach out of my head every time and put it back in.”

“Do you want me to help you remember something?”

“No, I remember now. I’m a crusader.”

Fun Fall Family Things to Do in Denver

Mourning the closing of the pool and feeling the cooler breezes of fall, our family has been looking for fun ways to spend the weekend before ski season starts here in Colorado. My article on some of the things we’ve done – or are planning to do in the next few weeks – was published on Yahoo Voices. Please check it out, and if you are in Colorado, we’d love some more ideas for the kids. Thanks!

http://voices.yahoo.com/fun-fall-activities-families-denver-11787716.html?cat=25