Friday, September 25, 2009

Lessons From the Dog Park

Luke confessed that he hasn't been playing with anyone at recess. I asked him why and he said all of his friends play kickball. I asked why he doesn't play with them. He said he used to but he doesn't anymore.

With Luke, there is almost always more to the story but he won't share it if you push him. He has to tell it in his own time.

Finally, he divulged that one of the boys, nicknamed Bubba at the boy's own request, called Luke the "Worst Kickball Player in the World" when Luke didn't make a play. So Luke quit playing on the spot and won't play anymore. He chooses to do his own thing at recess, alone, rather than face more embarrassment and berating. This makes me want to go to every recess with him and play with him, but I know I can't.

I talked to him about this kid and how he plays kickball. He's not perfect, of course, so we talked about how he may name call to take the attention off of himself. We talked about insecurities and doing what you want in spite of name calling and not letting someone bully you out of having fun. We talked about practicing kickball in the backyard to build his confidence.

There is another boy that plays kickball at recess that Luke has been in a friendly competition with since Kindergarten. He refers to him as a "friend who is my archenemy." This kid is smart and athletic and popular. Luke never showed much interest in him outside of their competition. Luke invited him to our house to play yesterday, and I wonder if he thinks moving from competition to friendship with this boy will ease his recess woes. Kind of like Smalls and Benny in the Sandlot.

I was terribly shy in school, and had someone not spoken with me I probably would have spent most of my days alone. I was not one to make the first move. I painfully remember how hard it was to make friends and how honest and mean kids can be to each other.

At the dog park the other day, I watched how the dogs interacted. Each time a new dog came in the fenced area to play, all of the other dogs would run up to it. They would do a little greeting and tail wagging, and then they'd all run off as a group to play. Whenever one dog saw or smelled something interesting, all of the other dogs would run over to check it out. There was no ganging up, no hurt feelings, no one left out of the play. Too bad it can't be this simple for kids.

Maybe I should suggest a field trip to the dog park to observe the social interactions of an animal who knows nothing more at that moment than wanting to play and have fun with everyone. I think there are good lessons to learn there, sans the butt sniffing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Christmas Conundrum

With Christmas just a few short months away, evidenced by the Christmas displays at Target right next to the Halloween candy, my boys have turned their attention to Santa.

Jack mentioned, with a slight sense of trepidation, that none of his friends believes in Santa. And, as kids do, these friends have offered him much evidence as to why Santa isn't real and are pressuring him to embrace the dark side. He dropped this on me in the car the other day, when my defenses were weak and I had in no way practiced a Santa speech or explanation. And Luke was in the car, so I didn't want to come clean for that and many other reasons.

"My friends say Santa isn't real. Is he real, Mom? Or is it you and dad that got that t.v. for me and get us our presents every year?"

"Some people believe in Santa and some don't. I think he's real."

"So it wasn't you that brought the t.v. to my room?"

"It was Santa."

"Do you swear?"

And there it is. The Question. It is an unwritten rule with my boys that if someone asks, "Do you swear?" that the response can only be the truth. How do I get out of this one without lying to The Question but also not giving up on the magic of Santa? Especially with Luke in the car?

Because truthfully, I am not ready for Jack or Luke to stop believing in Santa. Because if Jack stops, Luke will stop because Jack would not be able to keep that secret. Because it is so much fun to keep that belief alive and to have Santa's presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Because, for one to two months out of the year, I can use the "Santa's watching," method of discipline that never fails to work.

So I said, "I believe in the magic of Santa, and we can talk about it more later if you want."

And Jack, who is smart and could have easily seen through that if he was ready to stop believing, said, "I think I'll believe you instead of my friends. You always tell the truth."

So he has two disappointments waiting when the truth is revealed.

And Luke, who was listening intently to this entire conversation, said, "Why does Santa only bring one expensive present every year? He should bring more."

And that successfully changed the subject from whether or not Santa is real to how the boys can get more presents this year. I better start saving for Christmas.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who Needs a Radio?

When in a boy's life does everything become a competition? I can't pinpoint the defining age or event that turns brothers into competitors, making every daily chore or monotonous task a fight to the finish. There must be some reason, other than chromosomal tendencies.

What used to just be walking to the car is now a race to get to the car first, usually with one person calling for the race and beginning the race in the same split second and winning due to the head start with the loser crying foul and claiming they won because they touched the right rear taillight first and that was the finish line.

What used to just be getting dressed, taking a bath, eating and any number of daily activities now has a built in element of who can finish first, fastest, best.

Sometimes I can use this to my advantage. When we are in the car and the boys are screaming and my head is pulsing with each increasing decibel, I can pull out the "One, two, three - Hush Puppy!" and the boys immediately become silent in their quest to win the game of who can be quiet the longest.

Their newest competition is over our dog Indy. Who gets to pet him first, who gets to hug him longest, who Indy gets to lay with, who he puts his head on in the car and who gets the butt region are all common points of contention. It makes Indy's head spin.

But can you blame them, when he is so cute and cuddly when he's tired?

When coming home from the park the other day, Indy should have gotten in the car and immediately fallen to sleep. But both the boys wanted his head. Jack began singing quietly and soothingly to Indy. To my pleasure, this went on for several minutes until Luke figured out what was going on. He chimed in with his own song, trying to get Indy to come to his side. What we ended up with was a muddled battle of the bands in the back seat of the car, and one very confused, wide awake dog.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A New Age of Gross-ness

When I was a kid, there wasn't much that wouldn't gross me out. In elementary school, I was always the follow-up puker. You know the one - the one that would get sick simply because they saw or heard or smelled the vomit of someone else. I also gagged at the sight of boogers, snot, poop, and almost anything else you can think of that is the crux of being a parent.

This gross-out reflex didn't stop at adulthood. One summer when I was home from college, I spent a week babysitting my cousin Clayton, who, unfortunately for him, had to wait patiently whenever he had a poopy diaper while I left the room three or four times to gag and gain composure before I could finish the job. Each time I stepped out of the room, I'd say, "Just a minute Clayton. It's o.k. I'll be right back." And when I stepped back into the room, he had of course moved just enough on the diaper to smush the poop around causing me to gag even more.

Once I had my own kids, I outgrew my gag condition fairly quickly. What choice did I have? Everyone said I would but I didn't believe them. They were right, though, and I have managed to gain control over the gag reflex. Not that my boys don't try to gross me out. I have been assaulted with burping, farting, booger wiping, snot stains, chewed up food spitting, dirty underwear, urine in odd places, poop up the back, and projectile vomiting.

But with all of the training, all of the building up of defenses, nothing quite prepared me for this:

or this

I now have to deal with this spitty mouth guard that oozes drool that gets placed on surfaces only known by Luke and then put back in his mouth and has to be sterilized and I find it all over the house covered in gunk and it is just disgusting.

I also have to deal with this *ahem* cup that Jack loves dancing around in with his sliding pants on like a baseball stripper down to his last garment but that I find sitting on things like the kitchen table and who wants to see a cup sitting on the eating surface whether or not it actually has come into contact with his goods and pieces?

I knew sports would be dangerous and competitive, but I had no idea they would add this new level of gross-ness to our house.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Luke found the lid to a plastic storage tub, the storage piece of which has long since disappeared.

When he saw the image stuck on the lid, he said to John, "I found the thing you changed my diapers in when I was baby."

Luke equating this symbol:

to something that is an acceptable activity, or blocking out that symbol from his vision completely, explains so much about his behavior and personality. It also reaffirms my belief that I am in for a wild ride with him.