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:

Little-big.

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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!

One Leo Sunday

We experienced a great loss at work last month: Leonardo died.

I’ve been asked to say a few words about him.

Despite his fierce reputation, he never got into any fights at work.

He brought the office together in much-loved games such as Fish Taco* and Where’s Leo**?

While he enjoyed the occasional treat and a bit of travel while his home was being cleaned, he really preferred the simpler things in life. You could pretty much always find him relaxing on the water.

I mean in the water.

Leo, you are missed. The picture we have in place of your mini-aquarium is a poor substitute for your former glistening presence. I will always fondly remember you crossing your fins as you lounged in your leaf, mere days before your untimely demise.

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Leonardo, pre-death. Note the leaf. Photo: Davis Duffield.

Just keep swimming, Leo. Just keep swimming.

* “Fish Taco” was a game in which, when one observed Leo reclining in his leaf (mounted sideways in his bowl and curved in such a way that if one really used one’s imagination one could see how it might be said to resemble a taco shell) one would then scream, “FISH TACO!” and then punch (pseudo-good-naturedly, as in a game of Punch Buggy) whomsoever happened to be within arm’s reach.

** “Where’s Leo?” is rather self-explanatory game, although one might wonder where exactly a beta fish could hide in an approximately one-quart-sized aquarium. The answer, of course, is anywhere he can.

Here are your links:

I thought this one was particularly cool: What a week’s worth of groceries looks like in 15 different countries, and what it costs.   We spend $340, much like the family from the US, though what we buy looks very different. The lack of fast food makes our dollars go further, but it does cram our fridge full and lead to many refrains of “There’s nothing to eat!” (Technically we have more children than that family, but theirs are teenage boys, so I don’t think you can truly draw that comparison…I think it’s a safe bet that the parents don’t get any of the pizza the kids are holding.)

A photographic series showing what 200 calories looks like in different foods: Artfido.

This is a beautiful photo series: fstoppers- Portraits of the elderly as they once were.

Which is a nice tie-in to Long-Life Advice From 7 Centenarians. Real Simple.

A badass tutorial: How to Photoshop Your Gremlin Kids Into a Star Wars Poster on the Dimwit Diary.

Happy Sunday.

Milestones

I’m over at Momster today talking about milestones– how some of them are way easier when you’re a step parent. Namely because you never get entirely stable in this whole parenting thing and you’re used to the ground shifting beneath your feet all the damn time. (I’m pretty good in an earthquake too). Please come check it out! Click here.

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You’re at Momster? If I lay on your purse, you’re not going *anywhere*.