Boys in the House

I grew up in a house of girls, where our games tended to stay within a single room.

But on Thursday afternoon, five boys were racing across my yard and from the basement to the bedrooms for two hours in an “epic” Nerf gun battle. When the house grew silent, I knew they were on a stealth mission, sneaking up on an unsuspecting opponent who thought their hiding place of the moment remained safe. Then minutes later the eruption of noise, Nerf pellets hitting boy. Screams of half-fear, half-delight.

It was only when I saw my third grader on his new electric scooter, speeding toward our intersection, Nerf gun pointed over his shoulder and eyes on his older brother chasing him, that I felt I needed to intervene.

Mom rules. No scooters in battle. No battles in the intersection. No scooter until you actually look both ways.

Then I left for Parent-Teacher conferences, my fourteen year old in charge, worried I would be late because I insisted on watching my son put the scooter away.

I sat down. Took a breath. Started the conference with “I just left five boys alone at home in a Nerf gun war. Bad parenting?”

The teacher laughed, “That’s probably exactly what they need.”

Friday with no school, the battles continued. Again on Saturday afternoon with additional weapons. Rosy cheeks, sweaty foreheads, teamwork, strategy and lots of “you got me! you got me!” But definitely no scooters.

Playing with Mom is Past

During the days surrounding Christmas at the family farm this year, I noticed a change in my role as mom. Not once did any of my three boys ask me to play.

They played eight games of Dog-opoly – one that went to almost 11pm, laughing, trading properties and gunning for Free Parking. They did not need me to keep it going or fair.

They played with Nerf guns and raced across the grass, strategized in the tree house and moved stealthily through the barn in imagined battles. But not once did my second grader hand me a weapon. Just this summer, I frequently found myself dodging chickens, Nerf gun in hand, as we went after the enemy. But with all three on the same side of the battle, they did not seek out another soldier.

They had a blast together. Three energetic brothers in a tree house take the game to a much higher level of fun.

And while that has always been the goal – raising three boys who are good brothers and friends – I felt a tremendous loss. Now what?

I am not ready to let go of playing with my sons, but admittedly excellent at Dog-opoly, I never made a good Nerf-toting, chicken-dodging soldier.