Mom’s Overreactions

“Once again,” our fourteen year old announced as he climbed into the car after school, “you totally overreacted.”

Apparently, the math quiz I made him study for that morning was only two problems. “You always panic about nothing.”

We are in a funny cycle into which lots of middle school boys and their moms fall. I let up on nagging, his grades go down. I nag, he “remembers” to do his homework, his grades stabilize, and he thinks the “crazy overreacting” – and more importantly, the fact that he actually studied – is completely unrelated to the newly acquired A.

So, every time he does well on a test, he celebrates with a big smile and… “See! Everything was fine, Mom!”

Like I’m a crazy, stressed-out wacko instead of his way-cool, full-of-wisdom mom, who just can’t understand why he doesn’t get the game.

If you do the homework, you get the A. You win.

Dressing Up for May Day

In a house of boys living in the oh-so-casual West, we don’t dress up often. So, dress-up days at school cause us some angst.

Do the khakis that fit you at Grandparents’ Day still fit for May Day? Is your only button-down shirt still on the ironing board after six months? No dear, athletic socks do not go with fancy shoes. Your loafers are too small? Can you wear them for two more hours? No time to shop!

And we have sensory issues. Even the softest dress pants rub against the back of one son’s knees and leave a “rash”. Tags we forget to cut out of anything new itch to distraction. Ties make them feel like they’re choking.

And then, when they are all looking absolutely handsome five minutes before departure, I step outside into the sunshine – dressing up in daytime a rare thing for me too – and realize my skirt is completely see-through.

Oh my god, do I even own a slip?!

A Line of Foxes in Bed

Our nine-year-old collects small stuffed foxes. The fascination began in first grade when he was struggling with controlling his emotions at school, and after reading a book about a fox, we explained that the reason the fox survived was because he never let his anger get the best of him. He out-smarted everyone else by staying cool and calm. “Be the fox,” we would say each morning before school. And with that, he began bringing a stuffed fox to school. If things went awry, the teacher knew to send him to his backpack to snuggle with Foxy until he felt better.

Two years and fifteen small foxes later, I went to tuck him into bed, where seven foxes sat in line along his pillow (a few more on the bedside table).

“They’re in order of the day of the week that I snuggle with them.”

He pulled Sunday’s fox to his chest and curled up under the covers, the other foxes lightly touching his back, patiently waiting for their night in a little boy’s embrace.

Is Today Really a Sick Day?

When my third grader found out that I am babysitting his cousin because she doesn’t have school today, he wilted a little.

I put his bagel in front of him, and he moaned, snuggling deeper into the bright blue fleece blanket he had wrapped himself in before coming downstairs.

“I don’t feel so good.”

I kissed the top of his head.

“No really. Everything feels squiggly and squirmy like a bunch of snakes.”

“In your eyes or your tummy?”

“Both.” He reached his hand out from his blanket, weaving it slightly in front of the bagel as if the breakfast itself were moving, alive. A B-movie performance.

“Poor guy.”

I waited a couple of minutes, then… “Isn’t today the day I promised we’d stop at the School Store?”

The blanket fell from his shoulders. A straight reach for the bagel this time. Squiggly, squirmy feelings gone.

Funny how buying a goofy pen at the School Store cures what ails a third grader.

On His 14th Birthday

There are moments that might only be significant to a parent. Small achievements that are marked by us as special. That no one else notices or celebrates. Yet they make our hearts sing.

Most would call my oldest son an introvert. He spoke late to the concern of his pediatrician. But when he decided to talk, he spoke with what some remarked to be perfect annunciation. It turns out, he was just listening, biding his time to speak only when he had heard enough from the rest of us.

I was reminded of that on his fourteenth birthday. He had volunteered to do the reading at our school’s Blessing of the Animals, in honor of Francis of Assisi.

It was a gorgeous fall day. Crisp. Sunny. Just the tips of the aspens turned yellow. The lower school choir sang. The entire school body and many of their parents sat in clusters on the soccer field. Dogs sat or wagged or gloried in attention. Two ducks. A hedgehog. Hamsters. A turtle. At least one kitten.

Then my son – 12 years after we worried why he wasn’t talking – stood at the podium and read the psalm he had been assigned. He looked tall and serious and handsome. His voice rang out across the field above the hum of excited children and their pets, and quieted them. Clear. Confident. Each word spoken for its meaning. A voice that you want to listen to, that you instinctively expect to say something wonderful and wise. Beautiful.

An Empty Library

My son is looking at high schools. He has visited two of five schools so far, and it strikes me with each visit that what excites him most makes me wary.

After the first: “I could go to Chipotle every single day for lunch!”

And…“everyone carries their phones around everywhere, even into class!”

After the second: “I only saw one device that wasn’t an Apple product!”

And… “no one uses their lockers because there are no textbooks. They’re totally digital!”

And then when I walked into the old library, there wasn’t a single book. The tour guide said, ”When we realized that only three books were checked out one entire year, we turned the library into a resource center.”

Schools with no books. Makes me sad.

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.