Colin passed us both in the kitchen this morning, on his way out the back door. He had wet hair, no shoes and was carrying a clear, plastic cup with something in it. We watched him grab a shovel out of the shed and start working at something in a corner of the yard, his back to us.
“What’s he doing?”
“Probably collecting something for his tanks. Rocks? I don’t know.” Mike went back to his computer.
Colin returned the shovel back to the shed and came back in.
“One of my fish died.”
“Oh honey. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, I could see it had dropsy last night. I knew it probably wouldn’t live.”
Dropsy, he explained, makes a fish’s scales stick out like a pine cone, instead of lay flat. It’s also an indicator of liver failure.
“I guess I never thought about fish having livers,” I said.
“I knew fish have eyebrows, but not livers,” Mike said.*
I didn’t know about the eyebrow thing, either. Clearly I haven’t been keeping up.
The other day I entered my son’s bedroom on some errand or another, and realized something important. It had to do with the olfactory impact of enclosing an adolescent and his Axe body spray in a small space with a fish tank and an only halfway clean lizard terrarium.
I realized my gag reflex has returned.
I’m not sure why this surprises me, but it does and I’m kind of sad. I used to have an iron stomach when it came to unpleasantness. But my once desensitized sniffer must have been part of a latent superpower that surfaces when I need it most; like back in the day when I’d decide whether a toddler needed a change by putting his diapered butt right up to my face. When this superpower is fully engaged, I can scrape dried poo off my shirtsleeve with the aplomb of a Ludlum CIA operative pitching a Molotov cocktail at a Russian mafia stronghold and then taking a slow-motion saunter toward the camera with a wink and a hair flip.
I have to tell you, that thought made me do a Google search for something like this:
But then I stumbled upon this … and it made my day.
(and, well, let’s be honest, it probably more accurately resembles me leaving the scene of an explosion).
Could you pick me up? I had a panic attack in history and I just can’t do this today.
Ugh. Crap. I was in the middle of a run, and then I needed to shower, go to a meeting, go to another meeting, and then, well, work. Jack’s school is 30 minutes away, in good traffic. I didn’t have that kind of time.
And … crap. What did he mean: panic attack? Sure, he had enough going on to overwhelm a person. It could be finals, or the speech he’s supposed to have ready this weekend – four minutes translated into Danish and memorized for a youth exchange retreat. It could be something a friend or a teacher said to him. It could be the weight of the world. Or it could be everyday teenage angst.
I know a few people with very serious anxiety problems. Some who can’t sleep through the night, or speak to a crowd, or – I don’t know – navigate a car through traffic, depending upon the day. What if this episode was the start of something chronic and debilitating?
When the kids were little, I was known for making threats that would be difficult, inconvenient or downright impossible to carry out.
Mostly, this consisted of vowing to deposit a passenger or two on the side of the road if they didn’t stop arguing, or to “turn this car around” when we all knew wherever it was we were headed was someplace I particularly wanted to be.
I loved the whole “natural consequences” idea the Love and Logic practitioners touted. I gave it a good, college try for a while.
I rarely got it right, though. Somehow “I’m sorry your inability to clean your room has resulted in your being late to the birthday party because you can’t find your shoes,” always morphed as it was coming out of my pie hole.
What my kids ended up with was usually more like: “I’m sorry you can’t find your shoes, jeez, what HAPPENED to your ROOM? Oh MOTHER OF ALL THINGS HOLY WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO BE ON TIME FOR ONCE?”
“We are new to the area. What time does school start and end?”
This was the question hanging out there on our neighborhood social network last week.
I had to think. When does school actually start and end? These days, only thing I’m sure of is what time I have to shoo kids out the door to catch the bus, or to get on the road in time to beat traffic.
Last year was the end of our ushering anybody into the venerable halls of elementary school. It was also the end of my keeping track of exact school start times.
I used to know. I used to calibrate all our clocks in the house to the school bell right down to the second. We needed every minute of the morning. It wasn’t uncommon for me to deposit a kid at the crosswalk or at the edge of the drop-off late enough he had to sprint across the playground to hit the door before the tardy bell. The difference of one second could mean escaping the notice of the duty in her bright, yellow vest, or hearing “stop by the office for a tardy slip, sweetie.”
There I’d be, the lone mom in the drop off area, calling out to my kid and all his fellow latecomers from the car like we’d just hit ground on the beaches at Normandy.
What’s missing from those What to Expect books is a chapter (or maybe even a whole volume) on parenting in the age of the World Wide Web. Right about now, something like: What to Expect when your Child Gets Sucked into the Matrix and their Brains Turn to Jelly, would be helpful.
I’ve done my usual exhaustive research (i.e., read a couple related articles online before getting distracted by lists of celebrities who Botox their pets), and come to the conclusion that no one really has a handle on the convergence of kids and the Internet.
Last night, Mike and I stayed up to attend a late night dog round up where our kid was head dog rustler. Or maybe it was rodeo clown. I can’t always tell with these things, but whatever. Gainful employment for a twelve year-old boy isn’t always easy to come by.
Not long ago Colin would regularly set up a lemonade stand in front of our house and sit in the summer heat under our patio umbrella, waving at passing cars. I still have a collection of hand-lettered signs stowed behind our bedroom dresser.
If you’ve been with me the past couple of posts, you know we just wrapped up our Epic Family Summer Road Trip. At one point we took a shuttle boat across a lake and a short, guided hike up a mountain to see a secluded waterfall. The scenery took my breath away, but something else also caught my attention.
Along for the hike was a family with three little girls. They were well behaved, but also talkative and precocious. There was little whining but lots of activity.
They reminded me of when our family was younger. Our boys would have charged up the trail, all arms and legs and loud voices. If we were lucky, they’d maintain their enthusiasm long enough to complete our hike without complaint. Their dad and I would have been on constantly our guard lest someone shove his brother into a stream, or a bug into his mouth, wander off the path, or collect handfuls of rocks to be found later, rattling in the dryer. We would have fielded endless questions, stepped off the trail repeatedly to root around in a backpack for snacks, reminded people to keep hats on, hands to themselves, voices down.
There have been times when the worry that I have screwed up one of my kids keeps me up at night.
Then one of them will say or do something to make me realize (a) any mom guilt I carry around is probably unwarranted, because (b) everyone I’ve raised likely stopped paying attention to me by about kindergarten anyway.
Take the thing with sports. Since the kids were enough to walk, we’ve had them in one sport or another, season after season. It’s not that either of us is particularly athletic. And if we ever wondered whether anybody around here harbored some latent talent that would one day fund college, that ceased to be a question the minute somebody lobbed a ball into his own team’s net, or became so engrossed in conversation he forgot he was in the game.