RSS Feed

Tag Archives: growing up

OMG – Feels Like Teen Spirit!

The phone rings. I immediately recognized the number of one of Tyler’s friends. Not really wanting to, I pick up.

An extremely bored but familiar voice says, “Hey.”

“Hey,” I respond back and wait, but that was all I was getting.

“Do you want to speak with Tyler?” I prompt.

“Uh, yeah.”

Uh, fabulous.

Rolling my eyes (I am years away from them getting stuck there), I yell, “Phone! Tyler!” but there is no response.

Tyler is a very focused boy and I happen to know that he is watching an extremely important episode of Sponge Bob.  “Tyleeeeer!!! PHONE!”

That did it. Something penetrated. My shaggy haired boy slides in. “What?” He asks, clueless.

“Here.” I hand him the phone. Instantly, my son becomes animated. I listen in fascination to him planning some complicated play date. Uh, I mean, hang out. At 10, it’s a hang out. My bad.

Tyler finishes his conversation which consists of a bunch of “yeahs” and “okays” then reports to me.

“Okay, I’m waiting for Jack and then I’m going to Rick’s. We’re going…” The phone interrupts and Tyler immediately answers.

“Oh hi, Luc.”

He instinctively walks into the other room for privacy, where some heavy negotiations are in play.

After a few minutes, he returns. “Okay, Jack is going to Luc’s, so I’m going…”

The phone rings again. I’m guessing there has been a breakdown in the talks.

“Hold on.” He grabs for it and then runs into the other room.

In one minute, he’s back. “Okay, this is what’s going to happen. Because Jack talked to Luc first, now we’re both going to Luc.”

This is what’s going to happen? Who is this kid?

Unbelievably, the phone rings again. I don’t even look it. “For you?” Tyler smiles sheepishly and disappears.  The negotiations resume.

When he returns, it appears there has been a settlement. “Okay, so Jack is coming here and we’re walking to Luc.  Rick’s out of the picture because Jay called him, but didn’t call Luc and they don’t want to hang out with so many people because Brian was already going there. It’s okay, because when Rick and Brian are together sometimes it gets, you know, anyway, so we’re just going to Luc’s.”

I’m speechless and exhausted, but have enough strength to raise a brow.

He gets it immediately. “Is that okay?”

“That’s fine.”

He smiles his goofy, boyish smile. I am wildly in love. He is still so much my baby and so solidly boy, and the next stage stands knocking at the door.

“Mom! Jack’s here! Can we go?”

I follow to where his friend waits. They exchange a very cool and manly, “Hey.”

I stand at the screen, watching them go. They start off walking. By the second house away, they are arm in arm, skipping for the half block to Luc’s. Then, there’s some pushing.  Tyler’s friend is on the ground. Wait. He’s up. They’re arm in arm again, a skipping to Luc’s house they go.

My heart skips with them. My first real pre-teen moment. Sigh. I was on the verge of serious sappiness, when the phone interrupts my thoughts. It has begun.

Part of the posse, just hanging around.

Part of the posse, just hanging around.

“Daddy, what’s a boner?”

Howard and I, along with dozens of other parents with excited, terrified expressions, filed in to the cafeteria of one of our local elementary schools. It was a meeting to brief us all on the upcoming presentation our fifth grade children would be attending in next week – The Adolescent Development program.

Yep, ready or not, it’s puberty time. Very soon your sweet child, who is still running around with his shirt inside out and markers on his hands, will transform into an entirely different animal.  You will need to be there to help guide him through this difficult transition, but there are rules, and you must follow them.

  1. First, you will need to say penis and vagina a lot with a straight face, and explain why dick and pussy are not appropriate, with same straight face. They will want clarification on appropriateness. For example, they might ask if their body parts could be called, Willy Wonker or Vjay jay?*
  2. Things will get hairy. Your child might run out to you naked and show off their sprouting hair and every other sprouting piece of their bodies, or shut themselves up in the bathroom and not come out again for the next four years. Both are normal.
  3. You will be buying more deodorant because sometimes in the near future you will smell something that reminds you of dirty laundry and leftover meat loaf mixed together. You will soon realize it’s not something, but someone.
  4. If you have a girl, there will be self-esteem issues and depression. If you have a boy, avoidance and anger.  Hmm… there’s something familiar about that.
  5. There will be nocturnal emissions. And I’m not talking about your husband’s gas. Just close your eyes, do the laundry and cry in your ice cream.

Now here’s the important thing, listen close. Don’t screw it up. Because you totally can, and then their perspectives on their bodies are eff’d for life. Life! How’s that for pressure? Remember, puberty is not sexuality and shouldn’t be confused as such. Just stick to the facts, man. Answer any question simply, honestly and get out as quick as you can. Do not expand or over-explain. Do not go on and on. It’s just body basics 101. Clinical stuff. Yep, you’re going to bleed every month. Yep, you smell. Yep, you will gain weight. Happens to everyone. Cookies, anyone?

Please do not do what my husband did during his ‘teachable moment”.

Tyler – Dad, what’s a boner?

Dad – Well, it’s a slang term for when your penis gets hard. It’s called an erection. (Perfectly articulated as if we speak about erections regularly – “Morning, honey. I have a big erection. Could you get me the paper?”)

Tyler – So you get an erection for having sex? (Uh, sex? What?! Where, or more accurately, who are all these new words coming from?!)

Dad – Yup.

OH MY GOD, DAD!! What??? How did you eff up so fast, on your first at bat? No no no! Erections are not for having sex. Were we not at the same meeting? Erections are a normal part of body development and function. He’s been having them since he was a baby, remember? No big deal. Now get back in there (shove) and go fix it.

Deep sigh. We’re not even out of the gate and we’ve been sidelined. I can tell this is going to be quite a growing experience, and not just for the kids. I just hope we don’t screw him up too badly. He’s such a sweet boy. I want him to grow into a sweet young man.

When the meeting ends, the shell-shocked parents stand from the cafeteria lunch tables, stretch and look around at each other with corroborated smiles, that border on giggles. We’re all in the same shaky boat heading for the falls and we know it. Up ahead, there are going to be some tricky waters to navigate. All I can say, is hang on to your erections, it’s going to be a wild ride.

*By the way, the answer is no. Those are not appropriate terms for a child’s penis or vagina. Did you get that correct? If not, (shove) get back in there and fix it!

peter brady

Youth isn’t wasted on my son

“I don’t want to grow up.” Tyler, my oldest, then only three, looked up at me with serious eyes full of concern. “I want to be a baby.”

I looked down on him, tears welling. I had done this to him, I thought. I had given him this insecurity, along with his new baby brother. Distraught, with a touch of post-partum depression, I lovingly pushed his hair aside. It was the color of amber, like his eyes. My golden boy.

Of course, I did my best to reassure him that he could never be replaced, but he was no dummy. He heard and smelled his competition from a room away. We all did.

“Silly. You’ll always be my baby, no matter how old you are.” It was the truth. Always. Always. Always. Poo Poo Poo, may he live to be 100.

He looked up at me from his blue racing car toddler bed completely dissatisfied. “No. I want to be a baby!” He confirmed and then tried to crawl up my shirt.

Having a new baby was an adjustment for all of us. I figured he was going through what children typically did when a new sibling entered the household. He would out-grow it, I assured myself. But as the months and years went on, he not only did not outgrow it, he grew more and more resolved. The theme repeated itself, playing out sometimes subtly but often with huge dramatic tears over and over.

At four…

“I don’t like birthdays.”

At five…

“I don’t want to grow up.”

At six…

“I don’t want to grow old.”

At seven…

“I don’t want to die.”

At eight…

“I don’t want you to die.”

At nine…

“I don’t like birthdays. I don’t want to get older and have to leave my house. I don’t want to go away to sleep away camp. I don’t want to go away to college.”

At 10…

Breaking down into tears, desperate. “Mommy, I’m never going to be eight or nine or ten again! Once it’s gone, it’s gone! I mean, I kind of want to be a daddy and all, but…” Looks at me soulfully, sadly before emotion almost swallows his words. “I want to be the baby too.”

My poor, wonderful, sweet boy, he already knows the truth about growing up and growing older. He’s known it all along. And no matter how much I tell him that growing up is an adventure he will love, that he will experience things he can’t even imagine, that he can do and be anything, that the journey is a beautiful trip – the basics truths of life and death are already in him. When your eyes are open, you can’t help but see.

You wouldn’t know it to look at him. He’s a typical fifth grader; smart, goofy, athletic with lots of friends. He doesn’t have that edgy, pre-teen snark. He truly appreciates being young and revels in his childishness, clinging to the remnants of his babyhood. He joyfully snuggles with his mommy, treasures his stuffed toys and loves playing with the younger kids, leading them around like Peter Pan.

He might even engage in a game of ‘House’ where you can be sure he will cast himself as the baby. Or a puppy. They both suit him. So while my 10 year-old, crawling on the floor panting happily like a dog, might seem a little immature to you, believe me, he is wise beyond his years.

 

otto peter

Not actually my son, but the costume worked. Plus, he’s family. 🙂

 

 

 

I wonder if I’m even going to miss the vomit?

At 2:30am, I opened my eyes with a start. Boy who never sleeps and barely eats, aka my seven year-old, is standing next to my bed. I felt him there, heard his soft breathing. So even though I’m a little unnerved to see him, I’m not surprised.

His soft breathing has a rasp to it. “I don’t feel good.”

My first instinct is annoyance. Stellar parenting, I know, but it’s the middle of the night. I push the thought away. “Oh baby.” I say. His little face looks pained and then it gets that look. You know, the one that makes you immediately look around to see if you’re standing on carpet or near something valuable. I leap from the bed, and practically shove him from my room to the bathroom. We make it just over the threshold before he throws up.

Yes! I’m doing a mental fist pump, ridiculously relieved to have made it at least onto the tiled bathroom, where clean-up is markedly easier. Hmm. Should this not be my first thought? My second is not much better. I’m making a list in my head of the things I won’t be doing since I’ll have him home from school the next day. To redeem myself, I rub his back as he continues puking all over the floor.

I should have seen this coming, in fact, I did.

Earlier that day we were at video game center, or more accurately, the gambling learning center for 5-12 year-old’s. The object of every game is to win tickets. My kids foam at the mouth for tickets. No matter that we spent $30 for four army men, six tootsie rolls, a rubber frog that smells funny and a key chain. At least they’re learning something.

In the middle of the debauchery, my seven year-old son approached. “I want to go home.” He whined.

Uh oh. “Really? Why?”

“I just want to go home.”

I noticed his eyes were a little glassy, but I attributed that to the excitement from all the gambling. Then he sneezed and snot blew out his nose and hung in clean, oblong droplet to his lip.

“Tissue!” I screamed, running for my bag. “Tissue!” My capacity for denial runs deep, people. I saw the truth, but I wasn’t ready to accept it.  I told myself it was just a cold. We headed home, and not because of the stares of horrified gamers, but because we wanted to. So there.

I made breakfast for dinner and the boys had ice cream snowmen cups from Baskin Robbins for dessert. I didn’t take much notice that the boy who never sleeps and barely eats, didn’t eat much. Uh, nothing new there.

I snuggled them all into bed, spending extra time cuddling. I am acutely aware of the passage of time, and allow my sappiness to seep out at night, making me a pawn for their pleas of “Just one more minute!” or “I’m hungry.”

I know that each stage that passes brings me older, more mature children, less needy of their mommy’s attention. Little things change, like, my middle one only asks me to tickle his back for a few moments every few nights, instead of the rigorous tickle back routine I used to affectionately endure. My oldest no longer loves me coming to his sport games. All of a sudden, I make him nervous.

But my baby, my now five year-old baby, is still so full of mommy love that sometimes I’m pushing it away. Uh honey, can we triple hug and kiss again later? Mommy wants to work on an essay. Where is that DS?  I reflect with horror. I am actually taking some baby love for granted, when soon it will (poo poo poo) grow up and leave me cold. No more, I vow. We will hug day and night!

That’s when the vomit hits my foot and startles me back. I want to throw up too, but, instead, I get him some water, strip him down and wash him up. Then, I give him some Tylenol,tuck him back into bed, spending some extra time tickling.

With him settled, I get on my hands and knees and start the fabulously exciting activity of cleaning up. It’s after 3 am, I’ve still got to get all the towels and clothes into the laundry and clean myself up before I get into bed. We’re talking close to 4 am. Is this really something I’m going to miss?

Before I can even get my disgusting bundle down to the laundry, I hear his little voice call to me. “Mama…” I drop the towels and run to his room. Yeah, no question, I am.

(this is a re-enactment photo. no sick child was photographed for the making of this blog)

(This is a re-enactment photo. No sick child was photographed for the making of this blog. He’s good, right?)

 

You’ll Always be My Baby

Today is Julius’ birthday. He is five. NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Sorry, I had a moment there, but how is it possible that my youngest is five today? How is possible that my oldest is 10? And then there’s that 7 year-old in the middle. How did this all happen? Well, of course, I know how, but it was just a breath ago, that they were all little monkeys, hanging round my neck. Small bundles of baby mush snuggled in my arms. Big open mouth kisses on the cheek. Spit up everywhere. Cheerios everywhere. Words that were ‘almost’ words, that only I could understand.

And now my baby is five. Next year, we, uh, I mean he, starts Kindergarten. I can’t even pretend he’s a baby any more. Okay, I can and I do, but there’s no denying that my junk-food stealing, boobie-snatching rascal is growing up.

Growing up. Sigh. I just got him, and that was no easy feat. No one could ever accuse me of being a fertility goddess. I needed some help with Tyler. I needed more help with Michael. Julius, it seemed, would take a village.

So today, I want to thank that village for helping to bring my happiness to life…

  1. My mother, for just saying “Okay, if that’s what you want to do. I’ll be there to help,” when I told her my intentions to drag my other two children to a fertility doctor with me, for almost daily monitoring and shots.
  2. The other patients at the clinic, most of whom didn’t have one baby, let alone two, and had to sit there in the waiting room with me and my children.
  3. I guess I have to thank the fertility doctor, because I got my baby and that’s all that matters, but honestly, he was kind of an ass. The staff, on the other hand, was stellar.
  4. My faboo friend Heidi who came over and took the drugs from my shaky hands and expertly mixed them, and for leaving her night out at 11pm, to come and give me the big shot, the one my husband was so afraid to give me that he considered asking our contractor, who happened to be there at the time.
  5. My squeamish husband, who at first, had some reservations about having a third child – he was afraid it might be a girl! – but ultimately supported and stood by me through it all. Once convinced, he was all in. With baby Julius, as he is with our older boys, there couldn’t be a better dad. Okay, he could do better with bedtime, but besides that.
  6. My boys, not even two and four at the time, I schlepped them around, and they didn’t seem to mind if I was a hormonal, cranky mess. Probably wasn’t so different from my normal cranky, sleep-deprived mess.

After the shots, the drugs, the pregnancy, and a delivery, in which, I literally thought I might die, there is finally Julius. Ah Julius. Wild. Gorgeous. Funny. Mischievous. Loving. So big, such a baby. Now, here’s where I want to be poignant. I want to write words that capture the essence of my beautiful boy, but I’m staring at the screen, thinking of my little Tasmanian devil with tears streaming. I wanted him so bad. I felt the need in every aching bone in my body. So I thank my friends, family, random strangers, lady luck and both divine and scientific intervention for the gift that is him. He is wonder and magic. His happy face fills a room with energy, love and sparkling life. He completes our family. I could never capture his beauty. I can barely catch him to take a bath.

Two days old. Can he be any cuter?

Happy birthday my baby love, may you live happy and healthy till 110 and never leave me. Poo Poo Poo.

(Okay, I was kidding about that last part. You can leave when you’re 100, just like your brothers 😉 )

Always mommy's baby

Oh yeah.

Separation Anxiety – For Mommy

Separation Anxiety – For Mommy

I crouch down to speak more directly into the teary face of my sweet-cheeked four year-old. “Okay, so first you’ll go in the playground, then you’ll collect some sticks, bake a cake and then mommy comes to get you! You’re going to have so much fun.”

He screws up his face unconvinced, then picks up my shirt and sticks his head underneath.

“Julius, honey. I’ll be back so soon.”

“How soon?” His muffled voice asks my belly.

“So fast!

He pokes his head out. “Five minutes?”

“Well not five minutes, but close.” He can’t tell time. Five minutes. Three hours. Same thing.

He sniffles and looks skeptically around the familiar class. I feel him coming round.

“Remember, you’ll play in the playground, search for sticks, bake a cake, then mommy. Hey, like Dora!” He noticeably perks.

“Playground. Sticks. Cake. Mommy.” He gets it and nods, but still remains fixed to my side. I walk, with him attached like we’re in a potato sack race, to where some of his friends are building with blocks. Immediately, he drops to the floor and starts playing. Deep inward mommy sigh of relief. I kiss the top of his head goodbye, and he immediately stops his play to hug me vigorously.

“Kiss.” He orders and I bend down so his little lips can kiss me. “One more hug!” He squeezes the pee out of me, and returns to his blocks. I’m at the door, when I feel him behind me again. “One more hug!” And again we squeeze together, before we are ripped apart by the necessities of normal everyday life. He is four. It is only just beginning.

As I walk out the door and leave him playing contently with his friends, I am the one sniffling.

Which I realize is ridiculous. He is my third child. I’ve done this before, many times, yet each time, I still have the same pang of regret leaving. I even still feel that way watching the bus pull away with my older ones.  “Have fun!” I wave them off with some relief, yet my brain is a jumble of mixed emotions. The most glaring is the vision of the horror movie bus driving off with the children waving innocently from the window. I can’t stand to think of that one, but somehow it’s always there. More reasonably (I think) is that I mourn the fact that they are big kids now and can go off on the big bus to lives outside of my little bubble. While I joyously take my few hours of freedom, it definitely makes me sad. I know, I’m crazy.  No, it’s not crazy. Okay, now I sound crazy.

They say that it’s good for the children to separate and socialize and I’m sure they’re right, especially at the ages of my older boys who are seven and ten, but as I watch my four year-old son bravely hold it together and others in his class falling to pieces, I just have to wonder. Is it really good for them? They always say that once the parents leave, the kids generally settle into their routine and play happily. I believe that to be true. Either they’re happy and enjoying  playing with their friends or they’ve submitted to the inevitable. They have no control, their parents are gone and there is simply nothing they can do but play with their play dough and wait.

I leave the pre-school and head straight to the gym, where I sweat my ass off in spin class. The whole time my brain is working harder than my body. I go through my to-do list. I edit an essay in my head and actually come up with an amazing opening paragraph which I spend at least three songs trying to memorize. And I think about my kids getting bigger and more independent. I’m so proud of them, and protective of them and in love with them, that I admit I’m a bit over sensitive to their growing up and me not being the most important person to them. Oh no – it’s one of my spin revelations. It happens sometimes when I’m sweating in this dark room with loud music with nothing but my own thoughts. It’s me. Damn. It’s me. My boys are doing fine. It’s me. I’m the one who has to grow up and learn how to let go.

Later, when I pick up Julius from Pre-K, his eyes twinkle as he jumps into my arms, but the hug is quick. One of his friends behind me is playing with two lego men, and he leaves me to investigate. My open arms are empty. My youngest boy is off and running. It’s going to take every ounce of effort not to chase after him.

Set Them Free

“Okay boys, time to go.”

My boys continued staring at the television, transfixed by a sponge wearing pants.

“Hello? Boys?”

Nothing.

I sighed, but wasn’t surprised. I was used to talking to myself. It seemed I could speak directly to my children, literally in their faces, but if the TV was on, their brains were off, and they could completely block me out. It’s both amazing and extremely annoying.

Outside Howard was beeping the car horn like he had every answer on quick-fire jeopardy.  We were going upstate to visit the grandparents and to return the salamanders we captured there over a month ago to their natural habitat; but first I had to get my children out of the house. It’s an everyday battle.

“Michael, let’s go bike ride.”
“I want to stay inside!  Call Noah to come over.”

“Tyler let’s go play ball.”
“NOOOOOOoooooo….” Return to blank TV stare.

“Julius, how ‘bout a walk around the block?”
Foot stamping, arm folding, “I don’t wannna! I wanna play Gold Fish!”

I may be partly to blame for their homey natures, but I prefer to blame society. When I was growing up, I had the run of my neighborhood; while at 10, Tyler isn’t even allowed to walk down the block to his friend. It’s the culture of the day to keep them close, protected. So while I do push them out on the lawn (where I keep watch), and have friends over (where I keep watch), and have them involved in many sport activities (where I drive, Howard coaches and I, you got it,  keep watch), they are now creatures of habit and home. It’s just not the same world anymore.

We make it to the bungalows. The boys are like panting pups, ready to race outside to run wild, but Howard grabs the salamander container. “We’re going to release these guys first.”

Groans.

“Can’t we do it later?” Michael whines.

“We want to go by the paddle courts.” Tyler moans.

Julius stands in between his big brothers, looking supportively whiny.

Howard shakes his head. “Release first, play after.”

We traipse through the woods behind the bungalows. Howard lugs the heavy Tupperware filled with the salamanders who had ‘summered’ in our backyard on Long Island.

After being coaxed, a.k.a. tortured thru whining, into taking them home, Howard and I had every expectation of soon burying them. There seemed no way for these guys to survive so far from their natural habitat. Regardless, Howard and Julius created a salamander wonderland filled with moss, sticks and a big rock. It was very damp with ‘pools’ of water. Howard constructed a special mesh cover for better ventilation. We had no idea what to feed them, so Julius and Howard packed the container with bug filled mud and we hoped for the best.

As it turned out, it was even better. The salamanders fed on some kind of larva that seemed to mysteriously grow in the water. They lounged on the rock. On many occasions, I saw them tucked neatly into a moss cave, one on top of the other, two little orange heads, almost unnoticeable. We did nothing but look at them every few days, and then not even that.

Looking now at these luxury accommodations, our Tupperware penthouse seemed damp and homey; the perfect place for two little, orange creatures to happily lounge the day away, while the woods seemed vast and dangerous. I had a moment of regret. Maybe we just should have left them in our yard.

Didn’t matter now; we were here and it was time to set them free. We placed the Tupperware near a tree and added a thick branch so they could walk out on their own. We watched for a while, but the salamanders made no attempt toward escape. Howard placed them higher on the branch to show them their surroundings. The salamanders turned and crawled back into the Tupperware.  After repeated attempts to ‘guide’ the salamanders to their freedom, we ultimately had to physically place them into the woods.

We left them there, looking so small and lost. I felt guilty, which was ridiculous. This was where they belonged. Right?

Our boys quickly forgot about them and ran from the woods back toward the bungalows. “Release the hounds,” I mocked as they galloped past, tongues lagging. They were so happy here, despite the morning difficulties getting them out. The bungalows had always been a cocoon of sorts, filled with family, friends of family, grass and freedom. Here, kids can be kids, like the old days.

“We’re going to find grandpa.” Tyler announced, using his upstate independent voice.

“I think he’s down by Sandy’s bungalow playing cards.”

“We’re going to find him.” He reiterated confidently.

“Okay, watch your brothers.”

They headed away from us, each walking with a little swagger, down toward some bungalows about 100 feet away, but out of my vision. Howard and I smiled at one another and I almost welled with tears. Letting them go was scary, but they were good. Howard would follow them shortly, just to make sure.

I still wonder about the salamanders.