On Boys Being Boys

I took my leave of #5 on Sunday at a Scout camp somewhere in the pretty part of New Jersey. For the first time ever, he wouldn’t hug me goodbye.

He’s a month shy of eleven.  I’m pretty sure that he would have hugged me goodbye had he not been surrounded by other similarly-aged boys.

However, he was, and he didn’t.

It happened like this:

Me: So, hey bud, I’m gonna take off now, ok?

#5: {turns away from me, jams fists in pockets and kicks the ground} Bye.

Me: {torn between trying not to cry from my heart breaking and trying not to laugh out loud at his transparency} Bye. See you next week.

And I drove over an hour back home alone, contemplating this stage he has entered into:



He can still fold himself up into small spaces: under CC’s arm on the couch for movie time, in between CC and I when we’re napping, into a tiny sliver of his twin-sized bed when I read him Harry Potter, behind furniture so he can jump out and scare his sisters. But gone are the days when his face and my elbows were the same exact the height and he was always getting whacked in the eye from hovering behind me in the kitchen. His pants are all at least three inches too short, and he can hide his candy on the second-highest shelf in the pantry.

He was still four years old for a couple days when he began kindergarten. We debated whether to start him or keep him out, but his mind was so ready. He pulled out pads of paper when his sisters were at school and played school by himself. He covered our driveway with the powers of ten in chalk and when he ran out of driveway, used the neighbor’s next door. Starting him in school also guaranteed he’d be around other boys. He’s a little outnumbered in our house. It was definitely the right decision for him, but it did take a while to catch up socially.

He’s totally caught up. He’s making up for lost time.

He’s digging holes, building forts with zip lines to and from, riding his bike on a ramp that has broken the wrists of three friends, and “accidentally” kicking over nests of ground bees; he’s pulling snapping turtles out of the lake, always looking out for ways to earn a buck, and getting in trouble for pushing his boundaries. A lot. With friends. In short, he’s being a boy. Rejection is inevitable.

Back at the camp, I didn’t force a hug out of him, though I was caught totally off guard. I felt like I was in middle school again when suddenly the boy I was “going” with wouldn’t talk to me in front of his friends. Someone wisely suggested to me that I switch to the goodbye fist bump; it’s the best I’m gonna get out of him until he graduates high school. When he’s way past Little-big.

This camp allows no electronic devices, not even radios. It’s one of the reasons we sent him there. I can’t reassure him myself with a goodnight text. I think he must be homesick. Then I laugh at my own transparency.

Being a stepmom gives me an edge in handling the rejection.  After all, it isn’t as if all five kids accepted me wholeheartedly from the get-go; as the Roger Clyne song goes, “I’ve seen a slammin’ door a time or two before.”

But there is one thing I really wish I could tell him this week, right now while he’s there. One thing I really wish he knew, and it’s killing me that I can’t. If I could text him, I’d say this:

Dude. I just found out: they filmed the first Friday the 13th movie at your camp. Chh-chh-chh ahh-ahh-ahh. Lookout!


17 thoughts on “On Boys Being Boys

      1. So we’re driving home after we pick him up, and before I get to tell him about the movie he goes, “Hey guess what? Apparently, they filmed Friday the 13th at my camp.” *sigh*. At least I can still introduce him to the movie, he hasn’t seen it yet.

  1. I promise you will not have to wait for him to graduate high school for another hug. You just have to make sure you ask for one in the privacy of your own home with no one around…not even the puggles!
    As for the growing part, just wait until you are looking up to him! (And I’m not talking about getting advice.)

    1. This is good news that he’ll hug me without anyone else around. I’ve been telling him for years that he’s going to be as tall as Dad one day. He still doesn’t believe it.

  2. What’s really funny is when their friends will give you hugs but they won’t even thought they really want to! Pre-teens are very funny creatures. He’s lucky to have you. Great story. 🙂

  3. (sniff sniff) My son is also one month shy of 11 and will be spending three night away from home for the first time every this fall on a school camping trip. I really hope he lets me do at least a quick side-hug! I love the term “little-big”.

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