Maybe Three was the Wrong Number

19 Sep

There is a dynamic with three boys that is very different with only two boys, though I suspect this would be true regardless of the genders of your children. Now that my kids are getting to the age where they have plans with friends that don’t involve their brothers or other things going on, I find myself more frequently with only two kids at home for short periods of time. I’ve got to admit, it’s kind of nice.

Today, Duncan left for the week for environmental school. Normally, Owen and Duncan get home from school first and then when Calum gets home, he joins Duncan in whatever he is doing (typically playing with Legos or watching stupid videos on the computer). Owen, being the sporadically bitchy teen that he is, sits in his room by himself, doing whatever sporadically bitchy teens do (typically playing with Legos or watching stupid videos on his iPod). Today, Calum wanted to make teeny pancakes. Owen helped him. And not just, “yeah, I’ll get the pancake mix out for you” help. He actually made them with him and showed him how to do things like flip pancakes and use the griddle.

Owen would claim that it’s because Duncan is somehow the problem, but I pointed out that things are the same when Owen or Calum are the one kid missing. They are simply nicer to each other. It seems that with three (and I remember this from growing up with two sisters), someone is always the odd man (or woman) out and that kids who are one of three take turns being the one the other two are mean to, or on better days, the one who is simply not interested in what the other two are.

Oddly, the same thing seems to happen when you add extra kids to the mix. The dynamic changes and they are just kinder (usually). Since I have no intention of sending one of them back to where they came from or of making any more small crazy people, I guess I will just have to enjoy these short periods of niceness when I can get them.

 

Not Enough of a Worrier

8 Sep

Tonight I attended the parents’ information night on the week-long environmental school my 6th grader will be attending later this month. Based on the stuff the teachers explained, it was clear that they had spent the last several years addressing the varied and extensive worries of 6th grade parents concerning this experience. I left early thinking that I can’t be the only one who isn’t worried about any of this. Or that maybe I was tragically born without some critical parenting trait which allows me to obsess about the minutia of every moment my children are out of my sight.

I probably could have skipped the info session; the packet of information and forms sent home gave me more than enough info. What I need to know: 1. what stuff I should help him pack, 2. when I should drop him off and pick him up. That’s really about it. What other parents apparently want to know: 1. where will they sleep, 2. the mailing address, 3. the qualifications of the medical staff, 4. when, where, and by whom will they be supervised, 5. what they will eat, 6. what activities they will participate in, 7. how they will be grouped, 8. how they deal with homesickness (a bizarre affliction that people in my family are not prone to), 9. if they need flip flops for the shower, etc, etc.

I get that some parents have legitimate concerns about maybe food allergies or health issues, though most of peoples’ concerns seem silly to me. My thinking is that schools have been doing these trips for decades without any major incidents. If kids were getting lost in the woods or not fed for three days, environmental camp/school wouldn’t be a thing. These trips sound like so much fun, I wish they were looking for chaperones.

I don’t care about any of the details, or I won’t until Duncan comes home and talks non-stop for an hour about how much fun he had. And I know he will. That’s when I want to know about activities and sleeping arrangements and meals. I also know I will hug him goodbye and he will be off without so much as a glance back. I won’t spend a single second worrying about any of it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Slingshots and Blow Darts

28 Aug

Some days I look at my kids and their antics and think they are typical boys. Other days, I’m not so sure. This is an actual conversation I just had with the two oldest.

Me, to O – “Don’t slam your door in your brother’s face.”

O – “He is shooting at me.”

Me, to D – “What is that thing?”

O – “It’s the blow dart gun I made him.”

Me – “Why would you make him a blow dart gun?”

O – “I don’t know. It was before he shot me with a rock with the slingshot. I don’t trust him now.”

I should point out that O also made him the slingshot, and that D’s  trustworthiness has been in question for much longer than that.

How do you even address these things? Is there an appropriate consequence for shooting your brother with blow darts? Or for making your brother a blow dart gun? Or maybe, the consequence is the irony of having the weapon you made for your brother used against you. O is smart enough to understand that irony, but apparently not smart enough not to build weapons for his 11-year-old brother. There may be a lesson in diplomacy and international relations in here somewhere.

For the record, I did not take away the blow dart gun as there is now a specific rule concerning the use of blow darts, while no rule yet exists for the next ridiculous thing O builds. Sometime next week, I will find myself saying, in my mother’s voice, “what did I tell you about the blow darts?”

 

 

Nobody is Dyeing their Penis

22 Aug

Duncan and I came home from school shopping today to find a pretty epic blanket fort that Calum and Owen built while we were gone. We have spent the last fifteen minutes in the blanket fort, laughing so hard we’re crying. They are at pretty fun ages right now since they still love and want to snuggle with me in blanket forts, but they have the conversations skills of very small truckers. If anyone wonders what it’s like to have three boys, I give you the following:

“I am going to name these underwear Calvin (as in Klein), Hobbes, and Red Nuts.”

“The foam roller is not a penis.”

“Don’t throw your brother’s dirty underwear at me.”

“You may be the best at some things, but I am the best looking.” “I have the best penis.” “Mommy is the best Mommy.”

“Nobody is dyeing their penis.”

“If you want to come snuggle with us, you need to put on clean underwear.”

“I don’t think Cloud will appreciate the blanket fort.”

“Underwear is not a sharing thing.”

“The hair dye is not a penis.”

“Let’s not put a bathroom in your blanket fort.”

“These underwear match your wrestling uniform. Go put it on so we can wrestle.”

“Yes, the word pianist is funny.”

“If you have enough hair on your penis, it will grow a beard.” Um, what?

 

 

 

Why I Hate Homework

11 May

There are lots of reasons to dislike homework, and I agree with pretty much all of them. Kids need more time for unstructured play; they already spend seven hours a day doing school work. It isn’t proven to actually improve learning. It takes away from family time. In many cases, it is more work for the parents than the kids.

This last one! Most of the time, homework is at least as much work for me as it is for my kids and here is why. As Elementary school students (who shouldn’t even have homework!), my oldest two basically required me sitting at the kitchen table next to them to ensure they were actually doing what they were supposed to be doing. They needed constant reminders to stay on task. Oddly, #3 is way more self-sufficient as a 2nd grader than #1 or #2 were. Some days, I’m just not sure where he comes from. They needed me to repeatedly  hand them a new pencil when theirs mysteriously fell onto the floor for the eighth time. They needed me to keep them from bugging and distracting each other. It was not enough for me to be in the room; they needed constant attention. And it wasn’t that they wanted this. It was that NOTHING would get done without me or Oliver standing over them.

While they have become way more independent in terms of homework, tonight it became evident that not much has significantly changed.

Me: “O, go do your homework.”

O: Shows me a paper about a field trip that is happening next year. Tells me about the field trip. Explains the difference between the two 8th grade teams.

Me: “Great. Now go do your homework.”

O: Tells me about the prize he will get if he has managed to keep all of his RPS homework from the whole year. Goes in search of the few he is missing. Insists it is part of his homework. Comes back to show me he is missing only one.

Me: “Homework.”

O:  Goes outside to dig for worms while I’m not paying attention.

Me: “So you finished your homework?”

O: “Not all of it.”

Me: “Get back in here and finish your homework.”

O: Proceeds to tell me about the worms he has caught and what he has named them.

Me: “I don’t want to hear a single word about worms until your homework is done.”

O: Sits down briefly to do homework, then comes back into the kitchen. “I have this project where I am working with other kids, so I need to call them to talk about the project. I’m not just chatting. I’m doing work. Oh, my phone is dead.”

Me: “Perfect. Do the rest of your work and then your phone will be charged enough to call your friends.”

O: “I’m just going to feed the fish a little bit.”

Me: “Seriously? DO YOUR HOMEWORK!”

O: “You know I’m procrastinating. I can’t help it. It’s in my DNA.”

I have come to the realization that homework is why parents drink.

My To-Do List

22 Apr

We are the type of people whose friends fall into two categories: people we clean for and people we don’t. I could claim it’s three boys and two jobs, but honestly, it’s just not a priority for me. Tomorrow, we are having a party, which falls into its own special category of cleaning, the last-minute, panicked, “need-to-put-the-Christmas-stuff-away-so-people-will-have-somewhere-to-sit” type of cleaning.

There will be a bunch of people here, so I decided I am going to finally clean my desk. It has been on my to-do list for probably a year, but I am going to do it today, this morning even. So naturally I am sitting at the computer, eating leftovers for breakfast, listening to Pandora, and writing. I am at least in the correct room, sitting at the computer on Oliver’s desk; there is no room for a computer on my desk what with all the other crap there.

My to-do list has become somewhat of a joke between Oliver and me. He will ask if I’ve done something yet, like get the oil changed in the car, or mention that maybe I should put away the bag of soil that’s been sitting on the porch since last summer and I will reply that it’s on my to-do list and then we both laugh. I have an actual list on my iPad, though I also have a mental list. I put things on there that I intend to do at some point, though perhaps not imminently. I also don’t look at it very often, so occasionally there are things on there that are no longer relevant. There are also things that don’t really belong there, like Duncan’s cholesterol numbers or a phone number I wanted to remember, but no longer know to whom it belongs.

Now that I am looking at it, I realize how many things on here I should actually do today, like get the snow tires taken off the civic, schedule annual check-ups for Duncan and Calum, get a passport so that I can fly to California in July (seriously, NH, get your shit together), and mail the school pictures that were taken in September and I forgot to hand out at Christmas.

Looking around me at my house and at my iPad to-do list, I realize it’s a miracle I ever get anything accomplished.

 

Why I Love Dr. Loh

12 Apr

When I was pregnant with my first child, one of the many things we had to do was choose a Pediatrician. Because I worked at the hospital, I knew most of them, but all of the “good ones” weren’t accepting new patients. So, I chose one from the list that were. Though we didn’t agree on everything (I learned that sometimes what your Pediatrician doesn’t know won’t hurt her), we had a good relationship. And I will always be grateful that when Duncan was hospitalized in Boston, she called to check up on him, and me, every day.

That was fine until Owen was about six, when my super-laid back kiddo became a neurotic mess going to the doctor. I figured I had a year until his next check-up to corner one of the “good ones” in the ER and get him to take on a totally healthy kid that just needed, as I put it at the time, “a boy doctor.” And it worked.

From day one, Owen loved Dr. Loh. I loved Dr. Loh. And a couple years later, when our first Pediatrician left the practice, Duncan and Calum loved Dr. Loh. He is silly and fantastic at relating to them at their level, but totally able to have a serious conversation with me while three boys are hanging from the scale, the exam table, and anything else they can find. Noise doesn’t bother him. Stunts and general craziness and don’t faze him. It’s like he was made to deal with my kids.

He will have conversations with the kids, while they both look at the growth chart on the computer, and say things like, “you probably find that many of the guys are taller than you,” as my kids nod seriously. They giggle uncontrollably, as do probably most kids, when he asks them “who’s in charge of this body?” When Owen wanted to debate getting vaccinations, Dr. Loh was ready with a counter-argument and specific reasons. More than once, when talking about ADHD (2/3 of my kids have been diagnosed), he has looked knowingly at me and acknowledged that, “lots of us have a bit of this.”

He is always totally open and honest with them, a fact I am growing to appreciate more as my kids get older. Recently, Owen had his annual physical. Now that he is 13, the questions have changed. While they still ask him about seatbelts and helmets, they are now also asking him about smoking and depression. This recent appointment was notable for phrases like, “erections in math class,” and while discussing HPV, “it prevents genital warts. So, some guys ask, ‘Where are you going to put that shot, Dr. Loh?!'” We also spent a fair amount of time discussing music festivals.

Seriously, if this man would take a healthy 42-year-old female who mostly does what her doctor says, I would switch to him in a second.