Falling In Love With Boys

I haven’t spent much time with little boys. As one of three sisters with two nieces and two daughters, I’ve never even changed a boy’s diaper. So when I volunteered at my daughter’s preschool for Water Day, and the teachers assigned me to the boys’ group, I had no idea what to expect.

I have never seen so many penises in one place.

As I walked into the classroom, ten naked little boys jumped, whirled and rocketed across the colorful alphabet carpet like firecrackers exploding inside a box of Cracker Jack.

I didn’t know where to put my eyes.

Is it wrong to look at their little penises? I wondered, feeling as uncomfortable as if I’d wandered into a secret fraternity ritual.

I pretended to search for lip balm in my purse, digging like it was an oversized diaper bag instead of an envelope-sized clutch.

“Mary,” the teacher said. “Mary?”

I turned and registered the slight smirk on her face. “Just grab one and help him get his clothes on,” she said. Why was I waiting for her to add “Keep your eyes to yourself, perv?”

So I looked. Nine circumcised, one not.

What the hell is wrong with me? I wondered. First I don’t want to look at their penises, now I’m cataloging them for future reference. Talk about pervy!

But instead of feeling depraved, once I looked, I fell in love. Little boys are freaking adorable! Here were ten exuberant little people, so proud of their nakedness. So unwilling to get dressed. The glee and unfettered energy in that room could have powered the Northern Hemisphere for a week.

As I kneeled on the faded carpet, eye level with the sea of nakedness, a quiet, brown-eyed boy handed me his underwear in a plastic baggie marked “Henry” as two boys nearby danced a jig, their knees and naked bits keeping time with their giggles.

I held Henry’s tiny tightie-whities as he carefully stepped in, one foot then the other, his small hand resting on my head for balance. His and mine.

“I love water day,” one boy shouted, setting off a chorus of “I love” everything from popsicles to lightsabers.

“I love my penis!” a boy yelled, galloping around the room like a cowboy on crack.  The room devolved into happy chaos as I stared in awe, grateful I wasn’t in charge because all I could think to say was “May the force be with you.”

I could have sat there all day soaking up their contagious energy. Instead, I packed up the wet towels and swimsuits, feeling grateful for this glimpse inside a boy’s world.

That night, as I watched my husband undress for bed, I wondered what he must have been like as a little boy and if he ever wishes we could add a boy to our brood. I know I do.

Do You Pursue Friendships with the Opposite Sex?

Photo courtesy of Pictures88.com

Photo courtesy of Pictures88.com

Cuddling and reading Harry Potter in bed with our daughter is one of the highlights of my evenings. Our nine year old is often talkative and revealing at bedtime, especially as we’re giggling about Ron and Hermione’s constant bickering. Little did I know these beloved characters’ mutual crush would provide fertile ground for an eye-opening, painful conversation.

After a juicy discussion of Ron and Hermione’s flirtatious antics, I playfully broached the subject of crushes, asking if my daughter had a crush on any kids in her class.

“I don’t have a crush on anyone,” she answered, avoiding my gaze.

Certain she was on the verge of opening up to me, I pressed on. “When I picked you up from school this afternoon, I thought I saw you staring at Joe, but not talking with him. Are your feelings for him similar to Hermione’s feelings for Ron?”

“No, mom, not at all,” she said. “I am nervous around him. But I’m nervous around all boys. I’m scared to talk to them, and I don’t know why.”

As tears flooded her lashes, Ava explained that she didn’t understand why she was so uncomfortable when all the other girls seemed to interact well with boys.

So much for my maternal instincts. Where I perceived an innocent first crush, my daughter was experiencing real discomfort. As I held her and brushed the hair out of her eyes, I realized I had little experience-based wisdom to impart on this topic. My own lack of male friends throughout my school years and beyond was not a formula I’d want my daughters to emulate.

The best I could offer in the moment was tell her she wasn’t alone, that I remembered being scared to talk with boys too, and was open to talking more about her fears whenever she wanted.

Sated by my response, she fell asleep in my arms, leaving me to review my own history of interacting with boys.

As one of three sisters with protective parents, I never spent much time around boys. I never made friends with them or really got to know them. For me, boys felt magical from afar; terrifying up close.

My past is littered with experiences of ignoring boys who were nice to me and wanted to be my friend in favor of longing for those who ignored me, wishing they would choose me for relationships. Although I had little actual experience interacting with boys, my obsession with them taught me lessons I don’t want to pass on to my children.

In kindergarten, my rogue classmate Devon grabbed me by the arms after school and attempted to plant a rough kiss on my cheek. I, in turn, hit him with my blue Barbie lunchbox, winning his devotion for the rest of the school year. Lesson:  play hard to get, the boys will love you.

In second grade, I eagerly tried to win over Edward, a scrawny, tow-headed boy who repeatedly ignored me and my offerings of the dry Stella D’oro anise cookies my mom packed in my lunch. Lesson:  Keep chasing, sooner or later you’ll win his affection. Or bring better cookies.

In fourth grade, I graduated to Donald, the tough neighborhood kid who rode his bicycle to my house and threw rotted green apples at my legs to win my affection. After several days of this mating ritual, my younger sister sprayed Donald with our garden hose, ending his infatuation. Lesson:  keep your smarter, braver sister away so you can enjoy the attention.

In sixth grade, my undying devotion to Michael, the nearsighted boy who never acknowledged my existence, led me to commit the first of many fashion don’ts – octagon shaped, wire-framed glasses to match his. Lesson:  do whatever it takes to make a boy notice you.

My high school and college years, with their mix of hormones and unrequited love, offered similar lessons; the more uninterested the male, the better. My motto:  completely ignore me, I’ll follow you forever. Be nice to me, want to be my friend, I’ll look through you to the unavailable guy in the corner.

While my relationships with men have blossomed with time, maturity and therapy, I don’t pursue male friendships. If I’m going to model healthy interactions with the opposite sex for my kids, I need to get some male friends. Stat.

I wonder what Devon, Edward, Donald and Michael are doing these days?

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Let’s Hug a Teacher Today

Hug a TeacherOur nine-year-old daughter’s Science Teacher, John O’Rourke, posted this on his blog this morning:

“Today is an especially tough day for parents, teachers and students.  Words are probably not enough but I put together a few thoughts that I’d like to share.  If there is some sort of perverted “good” that can come out of something as horrific as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it is that I am now more convinced than ever that I am supposed to be a teacher.  I love my job and am grateful to be able to influence the lives of your children.  This tragedy has forced me to think about what I would do if, God forbid, I was faced with such a situation.  And I, and I imagine all teachers, would do everything possible to protect your kids.  I also came to the realization that now, more than ever, they are also my kids.  Every year I come to know and love your children and would do anything to keep them safe and protected.  Nobody should ever be afraid to come to school and I will continue to work to make sure that your children feel good about coming to school.”

I admire and appreciate your commitment and love, Mr. O’Rourke, and thank you for your service to our children. God bless you and every teacher today charged with the awesome, overwhelming responsibility of loving, teaching and protecting our children for those precious hours they cannot be in our arms.

While I don’t have adequate words to express my admiration for the work you and your fellow teachers do, I can tell you that my heart feels a tiny bit less constricted knowing you are in my children’s lives. Every inch of my heart thanks you.

Any teachers you want to hug today?

The Big Reveal

We told our daughters about our upcoming “surprise” visit to Disney World. I’ve been waiting for months to watch their little faces light up with excitement when we told them. Thankfully, they did not disappoint.


They radiated joy! And glee! For exactly ten minutes. Then they started fighting over hanging their favorite Christmas tree ornaments. Fun for the whole family!

I was left wondering if it was too soon to start threatening to cancel Disney? (While threatening isn’t my thing, it is sooo tempting!)

Alas, it’s too late for that … we’re off! Disney, look out!

The One Where We Talk About Uteruses (Make That Uteri)

Our four-year-old daughter, Rhys, recently asked, “Mom, where was I before I was in your tummy?”

Me:  “Great question, Rhys.”

(To myself:  Whaaaaaaaat? I’m in over my head. I better stall for time.) 

Me:  “I’m really not sure, honey. Let me ask some people. I’ll get back to you.”

(To myself:  Who do I call about this? How do I phrase this question on Google? Who is this kid?) 

Rhys:  “Was I in heaven?”

Me:  “Maybe. Do you remember being in heaven?”

Rhys:  “No. But I know Auntie Marie is there. Because she died. Was I dead too?”

(To Myself:  Why do I get all the hard questions? Where’s Mike (my husband)? Go ask your dad, kid.)

Me:  “No, honey. You weren’t dead. You were actually in my body from the day I was born. Girls are born with the eggs that can make babies inside them. You have your babies inside you already. When you grow up and get bigger, if you want to have babies, you can help them grow in your tummy too.”

(To myself:  Tummies? Really , Mary? Babies don’t grow in tummies. Ridiculous. This poor kid needs a mom who knows what she’s doing.)

Me:  “Rhys, you know how I said you were in my tummy? My tummy is where the food I eat goes. Babies grow in a part of a mom’s body called a uterus. You have one, I have one, and Ava has one.”

Rhys:  “And my friend Tomas has one. He said his utters hurt last week.”

Me:  “Boys don’t have a uterus. Only girls have them.”

Rhys:  “Tomas isn’t a girl but he has utters. Maybe Tomas and I can have a play date? Can we borrow your utters?”

Me:  “We can‘t share our uterus with Tomas or anyone else, honey. Your uterus is in your body, right here underneath your belly, just like mine.”

Rhys:  “Tomas will be sad. He wants to have a uterus too. Maybe you could call him?”

Me:  “We’ll break it to him next time we see him, ok?”

Rhys:  “Ok, Mom. (Pause) I’ll tell Tomas to ask Santa for a uterus for Christmas!”

What are the chances I’ll be getting a call from Tomas’ mom? How likely is it Rhys will talk about her uterus in preschool? Will Tomas ever be invited/allowed over for another play date? Stay tuned for our next episode! 

Merry Christmas, Tomas!!Photo courtesy of Google Images

Merry Christmas, Tomas!!
Photo courtesy of Google Images

If You Give My Kid A Donut …

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

If you give my kid a donut, she’ll ask for a glass of milk to go with it.

While you’re pouring her milk, she’ll sit on a stool at the kitchen counter and happily pick apart the donut, eating only the insides.

While she’s busy eating, she’ll send an absurd number of donut crumbs onto your newly washed floor (the one you wash once a month whether it needs it or not).

When you notice all the crumbs, you’ll mutter under your breath and grab a wet paper towel to clean the floor. While she watches.

While you’re on your hands and knees, her older sibling will try to snatch the donut remnants off her plate. Without asking.

While hitting and screaming, my kid will pull her plate of glazed scraps to safety, knocking over her full glass of milk in your direction.

Because you are still under the counter, cleaning up donut crumbs, the milk will spill all over your head.

When you feel the rush of cold liquid down the neck of your sweater, you’ll squeal, stand up quickly and promptly hit your head on the kitchen counter.

Hitting your head that hard will cause you to swear like a sailor.

As you stomp and moan, you’ll remember reading that people who swear aloud when injured feel less pain.

While you’re testing this theory and questioning why you can remember random research but never where you put your keys, the children will laugh hysterically at the milk in your hair.

While the children shake with glee, more crumbs from the donuts they’re still eating will spill on the floor.

As the crumbs hit the floor, you’ll yell like a deranged lunatic and rub the growing bump on your head.

Seeing the bump on your head will remind my kid of donuts.

And she’ll ask you for another.

When you reply “no” to her (with a twinge of “not a chance in hell” in your tone), she’ll repeat the word “shit” to your face.

As you watch her face break into a grin, you’ll decide to blame this entire episode on your husband who bought the donuts in the first place.

While you’re busy blaming your husband (and deciding you’ll never have sex with him again), chances are, your husband will come in to the kitchen and ask, “Who wants another donut?”

Inspired by the wonderfully silly children’s book “If You Give a Moose a Muffin,” by Laura Numeroff. 

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Hey, God – Let’s Make a Deal!

No parent is prepared to see his or her child like this:

Ambulance Fun!

Our daughter, Ava, is fine.

And I’m still terrified.

We recently went on a family bike ride at the Morton Arboretum in suburban Chicago.

Lovely grounds, perfect weather – we enjoyed the sumptuous views, laughing and complaining about pedaling up the many hills (unlike our usual route of flat, paved city streets).

Ava is a solid bike rider, but has no experience navigating hills. Specifically downhill.

As she picked up speed down a steep hill, I heard her yell, “This is sooo much fun!”  Next thing we knew she was sprawled on the ground, covered in blood, screaming in pain and shock. She had skidded and spun on the pavement and took the brunt of the fall on her knees, chin and elbows, in that order.

My heart pounded as I ran to her yelling “no, no, no” silently to myself. Screaming rang in my ears, hers aloud, mine inside my head.

Terrified and shaken, Ava was inconsolable.

Thankfully, a passing car offered to drive us to the park entrance. From there, the Arboretum’s security guards took excellent care of Ava while we waited for an ambulance.

After some time in a local Emergency Room, Ava walked away with several deep scrapes and vicious bruises, all of which are healing beautifully.

I walked away with a wake-up call. Being a parent is terrifying. (You guessed it, I will make our child’s accident all about me. It’s one of my most adorable traits. You’ll have to trust me on this.)

Standing by and watching my child get hurt, knowing there’s nothing I can do to prevent her pain, is excruciating. When did I sign up for this?

And why didn’t anyone warn me?

Amid all the baby gifts, prenatal classes and casseroles, I didn’t take time to think about my fitness for this side of parenting.

My kids are going to get hurt. I am not in control. I can bubble wrap them (anyone know a good supplier?) and still not protect them from the world’s whims, accidents and injuries.

I want to be in control. And I’m not. Gulp.

We’ve been fortunate to avoid any major injuries or accidents (knock on wood) during our nine years of child rearing.  Now one accident in and I’m ready to pack it up!

Before I became a parent, I anticipated the difficulty of watching my child in emotional pain, believing emotional pain (disappointment, frustration, hurt feelings, etc.) would be the hardest to handle. Yet while I hate when my children are disappointed or sad, seeing my oldest in physical pain hit me to my core.

I don’t love easily or necessarily well. Like many, I protected my heart from hurt, rejection and pain and hid behind a wall of ambivalence for much of my life. Now that my heart is open and full and walking around outside of my body in the form of our two daughters, I feel much too vulnerable. I want to be the only one to extract pain from them! Only me. The rest of life needs to stay away! Is that wrong?

Fine. I’ll focus on the positive for a moment, damn it. Ava is safe. She’s healthy, happy, confident, blah, blah. All is well.

I’m the one who needs valium support and faith to let go and trust the universe with my children.

So, here’s my prayer.

God/universe,

I get it! I get the lesson. I’m not in charge. You are. Amen.

So … now that I’ve taken that to heart, there’s no need for me to learn this lesson again. Right? There’s no reason my girls can’t be safe. Are we on the same page here, God? Good.

I’m too old for this kind of excitement.

I get it – kids fall. Falls teach them resilience and confidence. Accidents teach them faith and discernment. Injuries teach them about limits and life.

Got it! Thanks. We’re done here. You can move on to others who needs to learn this lesson. God speed to them.

As for us, if Ava can muster the strength and confidence to get back on her bike …

Back on the horse!

I can muster the faith to let her go.

Not on my watch!

Tomorrow. Or maybe next week.