You’re Never Too Old

Remember when you were a teenager and had things happen that were so horrible, so embarrassing, that they become long-term bedtime pillow suffocation incidents? I have learned that those events do not magically end once you reach voting age.

Jason and Harry (almost 18) came home from a hiking trip a few weeks ago with a stomach bug–the kind that sends you routinely sprinting to the nearest toilet. Saturday morning the bathrooms were overtaken by whiny men, with much shuffling-sprinting-shuffling from toilet to toilet. Around eleven, I heard Jason moan up the stairs to Harrison. “Hey buddy, get your stuff ready, you have a lacrosse game in an hour!”

“Um, sweetheart,” I said (sweetheart is code in our marriage for “hey stupid head”), “He’s got di-uh-ree-uh. I’m pretty sure running around a field isn’t the best choice right now.”

Ron Swanson glanced at me with his sweaty, pallid, manly face. “Honey, all he needs is a little fresh air and sunshine and he’ll be just fine.” He gripped his stomach and leaned on the stair railing. “Just let him try to play, don’t baby him, he’s a man…SON, YOU WANT TO PLAY, RIGHT?”

Pause. Pause. Pause. Bedroom door creaking open. “Huh?”

“The game,” Swanson says, “You want to go play your lacrosse game, right? You’re fine, bud, you’ve got this!”

“I…guess. Sure.” Door closes.

An hour later Harry had reluctantly left for his game and I was putting on my shoes. “Honey, let’s go!” I yelled up the stairs.

“You go ahead,” I hear, “I’m just going to take a quick power nap…let me know if he decides to play.”

When I got to the park and saw that my manly son was out on the field running around, despite his crappy condition, I called his power-napping father. “Get over here, and bring him an extra change of clothes just in case.”

“Oh? He’s playing then?”

“Oh, he’s playing all right, get down here and watch him.”

After the game Harry was in his car, about to head home. Before leaving, Jason and I hurried over to his car window.

“Baby!” I said to Harry, then jokingly, “I’m so proud of you, did you poop your pants? Daddy brought you clean clothes–“

“Mom!” he gave me a death glare. I realized he must be feeling pretty rotten to miss how funny I was being.

“What? It’s okay, everybody poops. Like in that book we used to read. Do you need new undies?”

“Mom, I’ll see you at home.” He put his car in gear and gave us a warning look. We shrugged, chalked it up to grumpy-sick-teen-syndrome and headed to our respective vehicles.
Later that night Harrison and I were in the kitchen. We joke a lot, we laugh a lot, we have a great relationship. “Mom,” he said, “You realize that today was possibly the most embarrassing moment of my life, right?”

“Huh? How so? Did you poop your pants?!”

“No. But when you came up to my car window and asked me, the car parked right next to me, behind you, was full of high school girls with their windows down. They heard our entire conversation.”

I could have melted in shame and horror.

You’re never too old.

The Animal Fair

Thursday. Three days on my own with the kids and I’m nearly finished with my list of projects designed to keep me occupied until December. In light of my current Too Much Time To Fill state, I developed a plan B: field trips.

Tonight I decided to take the kids to a local farmer’s market. How hard could it be? Three kids, one stroller, a few tents. Cake.

More like Cake Fight, actually.

We parked alongside the road and unloaded the burdens into the stroller. Have you ever tried to push a stroller through sage brush? A double wide stroller? Yeah. Not made for sage brush. We nearly lost Harrison a.k.a. Indiana Jones on the way to the gravel road where the tents were set up (he was hiding from the bad guys). Did you catch the gravel part? Ever tried to push a double stroller through gravel?

Aside from the 60 pounds of childhood flesh and the gravel, it was a nice night. Saw a few cute booths, sampled some great tomatoes, all in all that first four minutes went really well. Then Rex wanted out of the stroller. Why not? He’s being so good. Lies, all lies. Oh how quickly the storm clouds billowed in.

I decided to be the nice fun mom my own mother and Jason would never approve of and get the kids each a little souvenir. Junie got a new bracelet because at nine months (today) she just loves jewelry, and Rex picked out a hideous stuffed dragon at some cheap-o stand. Harry? He wanted his face painted. Sure!

As soon as Harrison sat down Rex started messing with the paints. As soon as I told him no he started to melt down. Picture a banana popsicle in the middle of the asphalt on a hot August day. That’s about how fast Rexy unraveled. As soon as Harrison was finished (Tiger Harrison, he informed me) Rex wanted to be a mouse. A yellow mouse. Since Rex and his loud little voice (yes, it carries just like mine) were about ten notches above adamant, I decided to practice survival parenting and gave in.

She only managed a pink nose and whiskers before he really lost it. “I want to be a frog!” Weeping, wailing, throwing the dragon. We were like a tiger/mouse/dragon circus with a miniature fat lady perched in the stroller chewing on her bracelet.

Somehow we made it through the sagebrush wilderness and back to the car, despite our mouse’s smudged whiskers and the tiger that stalked us through the bush. The June Bug? Perfect. Never made a single peep. Hey, we put on a good show, who wouldn’t be entertained?

I think our next outing will be a little closer to home. Like the backyard. I think we could handle that.

His First Day

Today was Harrison’s first day of school.

I remember the first day of kindergarten. I sat by Teresa Greene and thought she was the coolest girl ever. She had hair that went almost to her behind, it was so long. I was heavily impressed. We stayed friends for the next 13 years and sat together at graduation. Sometimes we underestimate the importance of “first days”. She and I still keep in touch and get together with our children.

I remember a lot of things from Kindergarten. Carleen Stewart throwing up in her pink dress, Sheri Ulgray wetting her pants periodically throughout the year. The smell of the Hot Lunch cart, Mr. M and his Munchy Mouth. I remember being worried about my broken arm and sad that I couldn’t wear all my new school clothes. I remember my blue button up blouse with the red bow tie.

My teacher died half-way through the school year. She got sick and passed away at 44. I remember my mom getting the phone call. She was standing in the kitchen by the Boot Room and I knew what was happening. But when you’re five, death is not a big deal, at least it wasn’t to me. I could see my mother was emotional and so I decided I had better be emotional too. So I cried. It was fake, but I remember thinking about people in the movies and trying to be like them.

Our substitute was Mr. Schneider. He’s still there, in that same classroom. Back in Elma I bump into him on occasion. Later in the year a little boy in my class was killed in a car accident. Mr Schneider always talks to me about it. He says that I was adamant that they were both up in Heaven together and that we didn’t need to be sad because they were with Jesus.

And so, as I send my son off today, part of me knows that he’s beginning the rest of his life. Part of me understands that new people and places are going to impact him, and his memories and influences are now out of my control.

When I took him to the bus stop with all those big kids, he hugged me and let me kiss him, then quickly wiped his cheek off in embarrassment. I had to smile, he’s so old and so cool. I didn’t hover, I turned around and walked away, leaving my son at the hands of the world. Will he remember Jesus today? Will he be kind to kids who have no friends? Will he be honest and happy and safe? Have I done enough? I wonder. I will always wonder.

Let me say, it was a long and lonely walk up that hill without him.