Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Boys will be Boys

I woke up to the sound of the bus as it pulled up in front of our house this morning. I was clutching my cell phone, aka alarm clock, in my hands. I groaned and looked at the time. Serious oversleep. There had to be hell to pay for a night out with other women and a campfire. I knew falling asleep happy was going to have a consequence. Rubbing my eyes, I looked at the white strings wrapped around my wrists like little bracelets. A big, sleepy grin spread over my face. So it was real. Seven strings for seven blessings and each attached by a kindred spirit.
   Stumbling to the stairway door, and half asleep, I holler up to the kids. "Time to get up, bebes, I overslept!" I only hear Ian moan his response and spend the next ten minutes trying to wake up Sage. I wonder if they actually went to bed on time, since my fourteen year old was babysitting in exchange for a new Xbox game.
   "If I have to be up, ya'll have to be", I yell up at the ceiling.
   Sage holds her foot and sticks her lip out. She says that she has been bit by a bug and cannot walk, find clothes or even dress. The pain is too severe, she says, and I want to chuckle when she uses "big" words but I know that she would think I was not taking her seriously.
  I manage to get four of the kids to school only ten minutes late and then i drive Riley to the hospital to have his Holter Monitor taken off. He wore it for twenty-four hours and we should know soon whether or not he is able to take another stimulant or if there is something really wrong. I'm not sure I mind this hyper version of Riley. The Vyvance seemed to make him more irritable, really touchy, almost combative. As much as I want him and he needs to calm down and focus, I would rather have an out of control, sugar strung Riley than a Mr.Hyde.
  Seth rode shot gun. He usually does, since he can help me watch the traffic and look for deer. Lately, my driving just isn't what it could be. I'm surely more paranoid about that than necessary, but hypervigilance has not let me down thus far in regards to keeping my kids safe. Seth is me hedging my bets and I get to teach him how to be a safe, effective, defensive driver while I'm second guessing myself.
   I turned up the radio, a little volume creating a lighter atmosphere in the back seat. All five kids in the truck can be too close for comfort and they all start to pick at each other. Ian takes the brunt of it but instead of silently stewing, like usual, he just talks back. Over everyone. And never lets it end. He can hold a grudge infinitely. I am glad when he stands up for himself but he needs to learn the principal of "time and place".
   When the radio news comes on at the half hour, I reach over to turn it down but stop. I hear my nephews name. He is seventeen. Then another nephew, who is 24 is named. A conspiracey. They were being incredibly stupid and I am instantly ready to cry. Neither of those guys really had a chance. They are a perfect example of how you take a perfect blank slate and then scribble over it and carve on it and strike it with hammers and end up with a barely useful object on your hands. I tried to love Z but it was easy for me to make him swear to not do drugs and promise to not ever get arrested when I was living twenty miles away and not in his house, bearing his load. And my other nephew, he just needed to be loved. He just needed to feel like he was worth something.
   Sitting around the campfire, encouraging each other, laughing until our stomachs hurt and hearing every mother there talk about familiar hopes and fears makes this morning almost ironic. One of my friends has a son who got into major trouble for a minor misdeed. And this kid was not like my nephew at all, this kid has a loving family whose parents have been together since THEY were children. My best friend has five boys and a few of those boys too have had their problems. They grew out of them.
   I began to wonder if it was just natural for boys to do a few stupid, sneaky, possibly illegal things before they became men. And like my campfire sister, some are unlucky enough to get caught every time. I want to watch Seth with xray eyes. I want to shelter him, keep him away from people, homeschool him.
   Living here, in the middle of nowhere, has been good for my boys as they grow. I know what its like fifteen miles away where kids wander town until late at night, every night, and grow so bored that crime is almost the only option there is. I'm sure that some of them can be kept at home but Seth will ride his bike six miles for a haircut. Four miles for a cup of coffee with a girl he has a crush on. Alfred is a little college town and I like to think he just won't get into trouble here. But is it even possible to keep boys out of trouble?
   When I started to get concerned that Seth was a budding psychopath, I asked his psychologist why on earth he was becoming unlike the child I expected him to BE. And he told me that teenagers will just rebel. They will become every polar opposite of their parents. But ninety percent of those kids come out the other side remembering the values that their parents taught them.
   So there is always hope. This is normal. And keep reinforcing what you believe. Some things will remain constant; boys need mattresses that can be pulled off the bed and onto the floor for an on the spot wrestling match. Girls wear their emotions on the sleeves and boys punch each other and then its just OVER. They don't usually keep an argument going. Expect a few punches to fly. Its important to know when to step back and when to let them fight their own battles.
   I don't think any of us can really expect our boys to learn the lessons they have to learn if we keep them locked in the house. I can only hope that I taught my boys well enough that when the time comes to make a stupid decision...they know to weigh the consequences of getting caught. I told them that any deed worth doing means accepting and being willing to take the consequences of the action. I hope that I have allowed them enough natural consequences that they have learned a few life lessons already. When boys see a wet paint sign, it is not enough to keep them from not touching the paint. Even if their buddy touches the paint and gets wet, your boy is going to have to experience the wet paint for himself. Its just how boys are wired. When I see a wet paint sign, I move to the other side of the room. But I'm not a seventeen year old, like my nephew. Or a fourteen year old who has been dared to put the chocolate milk through the bagel toaster at school...and does it because the popular kids asked him to. (like someone else I know) It is easy for me to say I know how it is to be a kid. My world was different and I can admit that. Things ARE different.
   There are certain values that never go out of style. A mother will always love her son, no matter what he has done. My boys sometimes make my head spin. And apparently I need to prepare myself for even more. It's possible that one day one of my boys will get caught doing something stupid and that it will make me question myself and doubt myself. If that day comes, I will make sure that I am the first person he thinks to call when they hand him the phone at the police station. Because I will always have his back.

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