The Tell-Tale Cry of Nothing

Little monsters
Little monsters

I was standing in our sons’ bedroom tonight as they were settling in for the night and I was struck with a memory from our recent past. When they were younger, on occasion I would hear a bang, crash, thump, or some other oddly loud sound coming from where they were. Before I could even inquire about the noise, one would holler to me at the top of his lungs to stop the impending investigation.

“NOTHING.”

That was it. No explanation. No apology. Sometimes it was repeated rapidly several times in the same way to reinforce the complete and utter nothingness of the nothing. It still makes me laugh to think about it. I always figured that if no one was crying and the house wasn’t suddenly filled with smoke and the ceiling hadn’t caved in and there was no water cascading in a flash flood down the stairs, all was well. Or at least well enough. I’d find out soon enough what mischief they’d been up to.

When I was growing up, I wasn’t supposed to have secrets. I kept a journal, and I knew it was read despite my best efforts to hide it. I would set it a certain way before I left and sometimes when I returned I could tell it had been moved. I guess I don’t blame my mom for snooping. Parents have to look out for their kids. I suppose my journal was as close as she was going to get to finding out what was going on in my head. Still, my lack of privacy growing up deeply influenced how much respect I have for my sons’ right to keep some things to themselves. Not everything, but some things.

So far, I’ve been lucky. Most of the time, they do admit when things go awry. They fess up when they mess up. Maybe not without prompting, but they don’t persist in a lie for no reason. I learned a lesson from my youth. The more my parents pried, the more I clammed up. In response, with my own children I’ve decided not to sweat the little things because I want them to trust me when the big things pop up. And I know they will.

I don’t often hear the tell-tale cry of NOTHING these days. Perhaps it’s because they’re older and spend more time playing on electronics than wrestling. Perhaps it’s because they’re better at covering things up. Or perhaps it’s because they’ve accepted that I know they’re good kids and there’s nothing they could do that would make me love them less.

Nothing.

 

A Mind Of Its Own

Gotta know where it is at all times.
Gotta know where it is at all times.

I am the mother of sons. Although I had no say in the matter, the truth is that when hubby and I decided to have children I made it fairly clear that I expected him to give me sons and not daughters. Now, I know we had no say in the matter given that the general rule of conception, at least at this current moment, is “you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit,” but I’ve always been a girl who knew what she wanted. You see, I am the oldest of three girls. And, while I know my mom enjoyed having young daughters, I remember what I was like as a teenager. I remember how I treated my mother. Furthermore, I remember what it was like living in a house with three teenage girls. Frankly, that amount of estrogen scares me. So, I put that part of my life behind me and gave it a firm “no thank you” when I considered my future and potential parenthood. I was thrilled when the Powers That Be determined that I should have not one but two darling little boys. Apparently, someone up there either understood what I wanted or figured I should parent what I was least likely to strangle. I have always understood why some animals eat their young.

Being the mother of sons is an interesting proposition, though. On the one hand, I never have to share clothes, make up, jewelry, or zero-calorie soft drinks. On the other hand, I am the problem child when it comes to camping and long car trips since I wasn’t built with an external pee hose for convenient potty breaks. All in all, though, being the only female in the house has been an ideal situation for me up until now. Now, my oldest son is now firmly in the throes of being a preteen. Situations in which I am asked to demystify the male anatomy are becoming more frequent. This might freak some women out, but I am not squeamish. I’ve never talked to my sons with baby talk about body parts. I’ll bet I utter the word penis at least five times in any given day, and I’m okay with that. I’m the one who gave my sons their first (very simplified) “sex talk” because 1) they had questions and asked me, 2) their dad was not interested in discussing it yet, and 3) I determined it would be better if they got the details from me than from one of their little friends who has erroneous information. Quite honestly, it’s been fun to hear the things my sons will tell me.

“Please put your penis in its house,” I requested of a not-quite-fully-clothed Joe who was standing in the hallway wearing nothing but a towel after his bath.

He looked down into the towel. “It’s not ready to get dressed yet,” he replied matter of factly.

I closed one eye, cocked my head, and pondered why it might not be ready to get dressed yet. Then I shuddered. Oh Good Lord. “It will be fine. It will fit into pajamas. Get dressed. I may not have a penis, but I know how they work,” I claimed.

“Trust me, Mom. They have a mind of their own.”

So I’ve heard.

You know, my whole life I thought that saying was a cop out. Turns out that even 11 year old boys know it to be true. The best part about being a mom to boys isn’t what I expected it would be. It’s not that no one is hogging the bathroom while doing their hair or that no one is breaking down into weepy, hormone-induced puddles, although those are both good things. It is instead the education I’m getting being able to see the male experience as it happens from birth. It’s given me an entirely new perspective on the male species. I still don’t truly understand men, but I’m getting closer. Apparently, it really is all about the penis.

You’ve Got To Leave If You Want To Be Missed

Our cute sons

Last week was a whirlwind for me. Flew to Boston on Friday. Spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in New England hitting five states in three days as was my goal. Arrived home late on Monday night. Put in my usual mom day on Tuesday beginning at 6:30 a.m. Whipped my way through laundry, grocery shopping, and packing so I could get up at 5 a.m. on Wednesday to head to the airport with my own mom to head to Vegas to celebrate her birthday there. Was in Vegas from 9 a.m. Wednesday until 8 p.m. yesterday. During our time in Vegas, my 70 year old mom and I did a ton of walking. I wish I’d been wearing a pedometer to measure it. (I mean, when do you go to Vegas and eat out for every meal and come home to discover you’ve actually lost weight on your vacation?) Today, a full week after my travel commenced, I collapsed. I love travel more than most things, but it was such a gift to be home today that I did nothing. Literally. No-thing. Not one thing. From 6:45 a.m. when I heard my boys wake up and head into the computer room to play Minecraft until 3 p.m., I sat in my bed. It was a stick-a-fork-in-me kind of day. I was done. Done physically. Done mentally. Done emotionally. I needed a day to recover from my vacations. Go figure.

Tonight, we went to spaghetti dinner at my dad’s church. Riding over in the car, it occurred to me that I hadn’t spent much time at all with my boys in over 7 days. While I was gone, I was too busy to miss them. Every moment of my travel had been filled with things to do. When they woke me up at 6:45 a.m., I wasn’t annoyed. I popped into their computer room and sat on the floor hugging them for a few minutes. Even though we were all home today, they spent most of their day playing outside with friends while I convalesced in my room. So tonight at dinner they had to keep telling me to stop hugging on them, staring at them, and telling them how handsome they are. I was embarrassing them with all the attention. I couldn’t help it, though. It wasn’t until tonight that I noticed how much I had missed them without even realizing it.

This evening I was reminded of why we need time away from our children. We need to step back a while so when we return we can savor them. How often do we get caught up in the day-to-day routine and fail to appreciate our kids for their creativity, their fourth-grade humor, and their dirty faces? The things about them that really get on my nerves when I’m faced with it day to day, like the way Joe likes to wipe his greasy, buttered hands on his nice shirts or the way Luke goes straight to whining mode when we mention it’s time to read, made me smile tonight. I had more patience for their antics. When we were finished with dinner, we drove them to a nearby playground and sat and watched them play for 15 minutes. Watched them play. I never take the time to do that, to simply be still and enjoy witnessing their childhoods. Today was a good reminder of why we leave our kids. If you can get beyond their sad faces when you’re leaving, beyond the forty text messages you receive from them daily when you’re gone, and the immediate question “what did you bring me” when you walk back in the door, you will discover that you actually missed the little buggers. You might just find out that they missed you too. But, you’ll have to leave first.