I will never forget the day that I walked into the house to the sound of teenage boys roaring with laughter. Barely able to breathe, Junior explained that he’d found a video of a kid throwing a tantrum because his mother cancelled his World of Warcraft membership. The following ensued…
As perfect as I like to think my children are, there are often times when they are anything but. The most recent embodiment of all that imperfection is my fourteen year-old son, Junior.
Like any parent I try to balance discipline with compassion as I guide him with a firm but gentle hand. But punishment is no easy task when your son out grows you by the time he’s eleven. That leaves me no option but to improvise.
Anyone who has a teenager knows the key to obedience is embarrassment, and as the parent of a teenager I have no problem with playing dirty. Below is a YouTube example of exactly the kind of thing I do to my children on a daily basis. In fact, my children are so
traumatized conditioned to their response to my random public dancing that they obey as well as Pavlov’s dogs the moment the muzak cues in. So now I give you….JUNIOR’S WORST NIGHTMARE!
VP: “Hello, Ms. Ellis?”
VP: “This is a pre-emptive call based on a recent rumor circulating concerning Junior’s plans for tomorrow.”
ME: “Tomorrow? Are you calling me to tell me you’re punishing Junior in the future now?”
VP: “I’d like to remind you that tomorrow is April 1st, Ms. Ellis.”
ME: “Of…course it is.”
VP: “Yes, yes. My call is to ask for your cooperation by making sure Junior doesn’t leave the house with anything inappropriate or….flammable, perhaps.
ME: “Yes, I can assure you that I will watch Junior like a hawk before he leaves for school tomorrow.
***** SHAKES DOWN JUNIOR BEFORE HE LEAVES THE HOUSE AND DETERMINES ALL IS CLEAR. CUT TO APRIL 1st AS I WALK IN THE DOOR TO SEE JUNIOR LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY *****
ME: “WHAT DID YOU DO??!!”
JUNIOR: (laughing) “Absolutely nothing.”
ME: “Yeah, I’m not buying it. No one who laughs like that is innocent.”
JUNIOR: “I’m serious. I didn’t do a thing. I sat in class all day and paid total attention. My teacher kept looking at me, waiting for me to do something but I never did. I just smiled and said, ‘Yes, Ma’am’ to everything she asked. By the end of the day she was all twitchy-like. It was awesome.”
ME: (thinks for a moment, then shakes head) “Screw it, kid. You’re a genius.”
The town where I live is somewhat touristy, especially now that the leaves are turning and the crisp autumn scent of the upcoming primaries hangs in the air. Because of the season my town puts a lot of effort into making itself visitor friendly, which is why I make a lot of effort to get the hell out of here whenever I can.
One of my favorite places to go is a secluded pond behind where I work. My kids and I used to ride our bikes there during the summer to go fishing and to have cookouts and campfires. And even though the pond is great and the fishing is amazing, what makes this place truly spectacular is what lies beyond the pond. It’s a place I like to call…The Thunderdome.
Now, The Thunderdome isn’t for everyone. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’m the only person who hangs out there. Half brush yard, half quarry; The Thunderdome is a vast, open expanse of churned up dirt, rocks and dumped debris from God only knows where. But I love this place with a passion that I can only describe as, “spread my ashes here” will-worthy. For someone as solitary as I am The Thunderdome is a close to Heaven on earth as it gets.
Before today the last time I was there was almost two years ago. Out of nowhere I developed problems with my joints that made it almost impossible for me to move, so any activity that wasn’t absolutely necessary to function was abandoned. Without knowing what an ultra active person I am in real life, I don’t think I can adequately describe how devastating this was to me. The one good thing to come out of that time was my book, a project I knew was necessary to keep me from coming mentally unhinged.
As time went on I managed to get some sort of control over my health to the point that now I’m nearly back to normal. Naturally the very first thing I did was head out into The Thunderdome, specifically to the tire pile I walked past for years, and started stacking tires. In the BEFORE picture you’ll see two tire piles; the pile to the right contains tires with rims, the pile to left are rimless. In the AFTER picture you’ll see what I did with the rimless tires. I’d also like you to notice how it looks like there are more tires in the finished pile than what you initially see. That’s because they were buried, people.
I’m going to describe New Hampshire soil in one word. SLOP. It’s a mixture of wet sand and desiccated granite that acts like quick sand when trying to lift a half-sunk hundred pound tire out of it. So remembering everything I could about levers and fulcrums and Archimedes I grabbed some rocks and downed branches and managed to manuever all the tires out of the mire fairly easily. All except for one. Out of the two hours and seven minutes (yes, I timed it) I spent stacking tires, over an hour and forty minutes was dedicated to one tire alone. I threw everything I could think of at it but it wouldn’t budge. As I stood in the rain (yes, it was raining) staring down at a 12ply, 40 inch tire sunk in the slop, the words I’d said to my kids for years came back to haunt me.
“If you’ve got a job to do, just do it.”
So I gathered my Italian compulsion to conquer, my Irish bull-headedness, borrowed some Greek ingenuity and with German music on my ipod for inspiration I dug down under the tire and finally lifted it straight up to standing. That’s when a HUGE spider crawled across the back of my hand, and remembering something I read about moving rocks and spider bites I freaked out and dropped the tire. On my foot.
Even though my hands are raw and I have bruises everywhere and probably a few broken toes it was the best day ever, because I did a job I set out to do. I was so proud of myself in fact that when I got home I dug out the book my kid Prince Charming keeps to jot down quotes and sayings he hears that influence him to add my two cents worth. As I flipped to the page that had his last quote; a recent one from Theodore Roosevelt, something caught my eye. On the top of the page before my kid had written:
“If you’ve got a job to do, just do it.” – Mom
BEST. DAY. EVER.
Real world me works in the local school system, volunteers with children’s activities and coaches/consults on high school sports teams. At any given time I’ve got fifteen to twenty teenage boys staying/sleeping/living all over my house, and real world me is a legend among the women in my town because of it. I cannot tell you how many times women my age or older approach me and ask how I manage to keep my hormones to myself with that many boys around. What I ask them is:
WHY ON EARTH WOULD I WANT A TEENAGE BOY?!
So for all you ladies out there who think the younger guy is the way to go, let me give you a run down of my typical Saturday morning (keep in mind, most of these boys are over age eighteen):
6am: Wake up to ceiling plaster falling on my head because Junior cranked up his amp in order to demonstrate his latest Flea imitation with his new bass guitar. I text him to turn it down but he can’t hear the phone over the reverb.
6:15am: Step over a dozen boys crashed out on my living room floor on the way to the kitchen to make coffee, only to find grounds spread everywhere; my secret high-end coffee bag empty and tossed to the floor NEXT to the garbage can.
6:30am: I attempt to make a desperate phone call to the ex, begging for donuts and coffee but first have to wade through fifty plus messages left by the giggling girls calling Prince Charming (he shuts his cell phone off at night so he can get some sleep. Naturally they call the house instead).
6:45am: Go back to bed and wait for ten or more boys to take showers before I can get mine. Ladies, this is not as hot as you might think. Teenage boys smell worse coming out of the shower than they do when they went in. I don’t know how it happens, but it happens.
8:00am: Gather my clothes for a mad dash to the shower only to discover I have one remaining pair of “underthings” left in my drawer. I dig through the bathroom hamper to do a load of laundry and find most of my “underthings” missing. You heard me right, ladies. MISSING. I don’t even want to begin to think about why they’re doing that.
8:30am: The ex finally arrives with donuts for everyone and no coffee for me. The ex takes Mini Me for the day, and I listen to Prince Charming and half the superfluous boys tear out of the driveway in their ridiculously loud, lifted trucks. I go back to bed and listen to the remaining boys in the next room giggle and snicker about sex.
Now here’s where it all goes horribly, horribly wrong.
Ladies, they know NOTHING. Sure, they know body parts and what goes where, but beyond that they are completely oblivious about anything that makes sex great. Yeah…serve me up a big slice of THAT.
I’ve consulted with a few of my sisters-in-sin; SPARKLEBUMPS, LIFEINTHEFARCELANE and SAVOR THE FOLLY, and they are as lost for an explanation as I am. In my opinion males don’t begin to become remotely interesting until they’re at least
forty thirty-nine (per JB). I mean it when I say that I’ll take gray around the temples over a hairless chest any day. So to all you Twilight-esque Moms I just have to ask:
My oldest kid, the seventeen year-old Prince Charming, is good at math. Good enough to figure out all on his own that he had a lot to do with why I never went to college. Recently, with the encouragement and support of fellow bloggers I decided to finally soldier up and do what I’ve always talked about doing; going to school. I know adults go to college all the time, but I can’t begin to express to you how totally out of my comfort zone this is.
Yesterday I got a pep talk from one blogger in particular that I decided to share with my kid. After I finished reading it my kid stood up, walked to his room and came back carrying his football helmet. He pointed to the inside and there, written across a piece of tape was the phrase, “Leadership is action, not position.” This wasn’t the first time I’d seen this written inside his helmet, but until last night I’d forgotten all about it.
My kid has played football every year since he was ten years-old; first in the Pee Wee league and then on into high school. And even though he’s played every position there is, it was the middle linebacker position that seemed the best fit. He held that position for three years before high school.
Then the day came for the high school football team try outs. He wanted that middle linebacker position more than anything and took the field hell-bent on making sure no one out performed him. No one did.
But he didn’t get middle linebacker. The town selectman’s son did. The son who never played a game of football a single day in his life. The son who never showed up to a practice straight and most days didn’t show up at all. The son of the town selectman who approved the budget for the new lights for the football field. A tough lesson for my kid to learn at thirteen.*
Now my kid’s got a temper, so I had a whole speech lined up and ready to give just as soon as I thought he was ready to hear it. But instead of ranting and raving and quitting the team like I thought he would, he wrote “Leadership is action, not position” on a piece of tape, stuck it to the inside of his helmet and without saying a word took the field at left tackle.
Last night I asked him what was going through his mind that first day, and why he didn’t react the way I thought he would. And that’s when my kid said, “After Coach announced the positions I tried to talk to him but he wouldn’t look me in the eye. That’s when I knew for sure he rolled over. So instead of walking I decided to play like I always play, no matter how messed up the reasons were behind it. I take the field to win for myself. It doesn’t matter how you get where you’re going in order to be successful, you just need to play to win. And I’m sure you will too.”
Yeah, I broke my “no cry” rule.
Now here’s some history on why my kid is awesome. I’m warning you, it’s not going to be brief.
- This is a kid who refused to take the field at the start of a football game because the opposing team couldn’t be bothered to stand for the Star Spangled Banner. He stood his ground until they did it over.
- This is a kid who got illegally slammed during the playoffs, swore up and down he was fine and refused to leave the field. Later at the hospital we found out he played the last three quarters of the game with two cracked ribs (as a parent I was horrified, but secretly I thought it was pretty badass).**
- In eighth grade he stood up for some shy girls who were being picked on by some mean girls. Those shy girls, as well as quite a few others banded together and made a fan club in his honor, complete with buttons with his picture on it. You better believe Junior never lets him forget this.
- He was hand selected by the high school guidance counselor to be the lead peer mentor for an in school program that works with at risk kids.
- Has grown his hair to donate to the LOCKS OF LOVE charity three times.
- Was the only junior firefighter mentioned by name and honored in a ceremony by the Fire Chief for setting up a shelter during the ice storm that knocked power out of our region for nearly a month. He was fourteen years old.
- His volunteer efforts are too numerous to mention and he can often be seen digging out fire hydrants after snow storms or changing tires on the side of the road for little old ladies. No joke. It made the paper.
But life hasn’t been easy for my kid. Despite his best efforts he struggles for grades, and because of his looks was often a target for bullying when he was younger. The bullying quickly faded in high school when boys figured out that wherever there were girls, there was my kid (hence the nickname, Prince Charming).***
- Despite the fact that my younger son Junior is a living legend in our town, Prince Charming is Junior’s biggest fan and champion and never begrudges him a minute of his uber popularity.
- When his best friend decided to come out of the closet my kid was the only one who stood by him, and in the process lost many so-called “friends” and invitations to parties because of it. When the friend’s father kicked this boy out, my kid asked if he could live with us. He’s been with us for over a year now.
- His sophomore year my kid had a girlfriend named Rebekah. After her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer my kid spent every weekend the last month of this man’s life helping out with household chores like chopping wood and working on the family car. My kid was at this man’s home everyday for a week before he died, and delivered his first eulogy at the funeral. He delivered his second a week later when Rebekah was killed in a car accident herself. My kid was fifteen years-old.
With all the craziness that goes on in my day-to-day life it’s all too easy for me to forget just how amazing this kid is. Every decision I’ve made since he was born was to benefit him, so it’s almost impossible for me to imagine a time when I would do something strictly for myself. When I told him this he said, “I’m almost eighteen, which is technically a man, so now you can’t say you didn’t go to school because you had a kid to raise.” Then he handed me an algebra textbook he borrowed from school and said, “Now get to work.”
* Ten days after positions were handed out the town selectman’s kid got busted for selling weed. Guess who got middle linebacker after all.
** The best tackle of the day wasn’t made by the opposing team against my kid; it was made by me slamming Junior as he shouted at the top of his lungs from the stands, “HEY KID! YEAH YOU! I SAW WHAT YOU DID TO MY BROTHER EVEN IF THE REF DIDN’T! YOU BETTER GET SOMEONE TO WALK YOU THROUGH THE PARKING LOT ‘CUZ I’M GONNA–” Yeah, that’s when I dropped him.
*** Last year my kid disappeared for about an hour or so every Wednesday night around 7pm. to “take a walk.” I began to get concerned so I flat-out asked him what was going on. Here’s how the conversation went:
KID: “I’m taking tango lessons.”
ME: “Nice try. Should I be worried?”
KID: “I’m serious. I overheard the girls on the dance team say that they were starting tango lessons at the dance academy downtown.”
ME: “Yeah, so?”
KID: “So how many guys do you think are going to join up? I’ll tell you how many. None. Now all those girls are going to need someone to practice dancing with. Think about it.”
Interesting side note, his plan worked so well that he went on to join the dance team officially. His football coaches are NOT happy.