Boys and their Personal Brand

One night, more than 20 years ago, I was sitting at a bar with a friend, who was bemoaning the fact that he didn’t have a girlfriend. One of my favorite guys in the world. Smart. Fun. And truly decent. I remember telling him that he needed to change how he talked about himself.

“Girls don’t want to date a guy who thinks the best thing about himself is how many beers he can drink without throwing up.”

“But…” he smiled in spite of himself.

That night, I described to him how his friends saw him. “That’s what you should be saying too.”

Then last night, my fifteen-year-old had an assignment to fill a box with things that explain who he is, and I was immediately reminded of my friend.

My son filled his box with a Green Bay Packers t-shirt, a candy bar, a shoot ‘em up video game, a ski glove, and a golf ball (although he complains when we ski or golf).

And I thought, this is what you think is interesting about you?

I wish tonight’s follow-up assignment was: ask your mom to refill your box with things she thinks describes who you are. Then, let’s compare.

My box would include a hilarious joke, a souvenir from the Museum of Nature and Science, a photo with his brothers, a Lego Star Wars set, a toy tractor, a challenging math problem, a map, an Italian cookbook, and yes, his Packers t-shirt.

I might slip in a baby photo so everyone could see what a sweet, serious little man he was. Now, a 6-foot version of that, with all the cool things in this box picked up along his way.

Going, Going, Gone with the Wind

For fun yesterday, my son’s Honors Math teacher gave her students the opportunity to bet extra credit points based on their movie knowledge. They each bet a certain number of points – my son luckily one of the more conservative gamblers – and then she asked her trivia question.

“What’s the highest grossing film of all time?”

No one got it. No one had even seen it.

“But,” my all-knowing son informed me, “Star Wars: A New Hope is going to pass it soon. No one has even heard of Gone with the Wind.”


“Kids my age don’t even know what it’s about.”

“Scarlet O’Hara? Southern belle? Civil War? Land is the most important thing?”

He shrugged.

So, I asked, innocently, “Which one was A New Hope?”

What!? The original.”

“Well, we just called it Star Wars.”

“You are so old.”

“At least I’ve seen the highest grossing movie of all time.”

Almost as many times as we’ve both seen Star Wars. But who’s counting? And anyway…

“I can’t think about this now. I’ll go crazy if I do. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

The Scariest Thing He Could Think Of

Last November 1, my now seventh grader decided that he wanted to be something scary for Halloween this year. So that day, he tried to think of all the things that scared him, and decided that the scariest thing he could think of was a failed math test.

So for Halloween 2016, he was a failed math test.

It is my favorite costume in our family’s history of Star Wars characters, Ninjas, clowns, ducks, lions and dragons. Cheap. Easy to make. Witty. And just putting his personality out there. So courageously nerdy that it’s cool.



The Force Awakens (Spoiler Alert)

Please do not read this if you have not seen The Force Awakens… and care.

“Mom, are you okay?”

As we walked out of The Force Awakens, my thirteen year old teased, grinning slyly. “About Han Solo?”

I am not a Star Wars fanatic, but my boys have heard how traumatized I was 35 years ago when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite by Darth Vader. I left The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 feeling sick to my stomach. I anxiously awaited the next movie only to confirm that Han Solo would survive.

The reluctant hero with a sense of humor. The good-looking loner who learns the power of friendship. Nothing new, certainly, but I like a good coming of age story.

I was glad to see him again, although weathered by heartbreak over his son and still battling his instinctual urge to flee from responsibility, conflict, the constant demand on him to rise to the occasion. He was never a Jedi. The Force never protected him or empowered him. He will not come back in holograms.

And while I am definitely okay, my snarky teenage son, Star Wars will not be the same without him.

Getting a Four Year Old in the Car Without Yelling

Yesterday, when it was time to pick up his older brothers at school, my four year old refused to get in the car. He ran around the house screaming that he hated carpool line, then raced upstairs.

For once, I kept my cool.

I lowered my voice and spoke into an imagined walkie-talkie, “Calling Luke Skywalker. The Millenium Falcon is heading to Planet Something-or-other to pick up the Jedi. Get Chewbacca. We must leave before Darth Vadar gets to them.”

The screaming stopped immediately.

Then, the pitter-patter of little feet on the stairs, in the hall, through the kitchen, to the garage.

“Mom,” big grin, “I’m not an ewok anymore. I’m Luke!”

And the Millenium Falcon was off!