How is it possible to trash talk during a FAMILY DICE GAME? As Mad Dog will tell you, he is gifted at a lot of things and trash talking is one of them. For him, it’s a subtle balance of talking up his legendary gaming status and pushing buttons whenever one of his opponents shows any glimpse of weakness. Not surprisingly, a recent game of Farkle pushed T.Puzzle to frustrated tears. He cannot stand to lose, but to lose to Mad Dog is anathema.
Then there’s me. I actually encourage family games. I have this deluded notion that I can spark a positive connection between my family members (ha!). Most of the time it is fun, even the trash talking part. The crazy things Mad Dog says are classic and lead to laughter. Laughter is where all the magic happens. Then, there are the times when the laughter turns sour. The game goes so far off the rails, you can’t turn back.
I also am not sure why I’m the only one in my family that truly appreciates the outdoors. To get all three of my guys to do something outside takes monumental persistence and strength. The pushback is incredible. If they were left to their own devices, I’m guessing they would just be attached to said devices (i.e.-smartphones, laptops, gaming systems).
Why do I insist on family games and outings? I like making the three of them step out of their comfort zone. I like that they are forced to interact with each other. This is how we learn and grow. This is how we bond.
I have days where I lose motivation due to the enormous amount of resistance I encounter. I asked Mad Dog why he always has to drag his feet on my ideas for family time. His theory is that he is trying to maintain the illusion that he is still the alpha of the house. Even though part of him knows what I’m suggesting is good for him and ultimately he will comply (mostly), he can only do so in his own complicated way. I appreciated his honesty. I didn’t fall in love with him because he always agrees with everything I say as soon as I say it. I like that he challenges me.
That’s the whole point of loving someone. You love them for exactly who they are, not who you think they should be.
I knew full well when I walked down the aisle towards Mad Dog on our wedding day, he was a trash talker of epic proportions. I kept walking anyway because there was so much awesome in him that it made everything ok. I knew my life would never be boring and it would be full of amazing adventures (see also Wrigley Rising).
I happened to get two bonus awesomes out the deal, too.
In a world where children are becoming more sophisticated earlier and earlier, I have been keenly aware of the changes in my boys, namely Full Speed. Yes, his body may not be totally ready to burst into manhood, but I’ve had a feeling for a while now, that complicated questions have been churning in his mind. I’ve always had a healthy sense of denial about the actual ‘birds and bees’ discussion because frankly, I thought I could pawn it off on Mad Dog. Oh, how I loved living on this little island of glorious, ignorant bliss where all I would ever talk to my boys about were sports and movies about sports.
Both Mad Dog and I felt like the time for the serious conversation had arrived. Mad Dog had the brilliant idea of finding some books about the changes boys face (see? I don’t even want to type the word puberty) and giving them to Full Speed since he is an avid reader. This way, he would get all the information he needed and would be a good basis for Mad Dog to have the necessary discussions with him.
Life was so much more simple when books about Elmo ruled
Well, this didn’t go exactly as planned. Full Speed, like his nickname implies, read the books speedily in one sitting. Then, he proceeded to get a stomach bug that night and I was left home alone with him, for an entire day with all these questions swirling about. I did what I had to do. I talked to him about things in such detail it would have made a sailor blush. While I was talking, I sort of had an out-of-body moment as I observed myself saying these almost unspeakable things out loud to my BABY. I was woozy and light-headed. Even though my insides cringed, I kept a calm exterior going. I didn’t need to add to Full Speed’s confused wonderment by being flighty. I had to sit there and I had to say it and I had to act like it was no big deal.
I think we both grew up a lot during this conversation. At times, I felt like I was speaking to the adult version of my son, at other times, I could see the shocked little boy within him. Either way, the timing and the conversation felt right. I left the room knowing that he is armed with the correct information, he knows that his parents are there for his questions no matter how embarrassing and that some of the details of growing up are just plain gross.
All I can say is when it’s T.Puzzle’s turn, Mad Dog…. I happily pass the torch to you.
Posing in front of the Disney Dream
There comes a time in your life when you finally understand that while you may not always get what you think you want, you end up with exactly what you need.
This blog about motherhood has always been my attempt to make sense of what it means to raise two active and highly spirited boys. I have learned that while I may never totally understand their temperaments, they are pretty amazing exactly the way they are. There is great freedom and beauty in this acceptance.
I have never appreciated their personalites more than I did on our Disney Cruise over the Labor Day weekend. It was an absolute blast. The boys and their phenomenal energy and spirit only enhanced the experience. Well, except for the few times we were confined to our cabin. At these points, I may have appreciated considerably less energy as would any rational human being. Despite the slightly cramped quarters, the whole cruise was fantastic. And best of all? I got to bring home two of the best Mouseketeers any Mom could hope for.
A neighbor and I were recently chatting about raising our boys. Hers are grown, as you all know, mine are not. We both said that in our experience motherhood gets better with each passing year. It’s a combination of learning to accept things exactly as they are and the natural maturation of children. Basically it’s easier to let things slide if your kids are more self sufficient, follow directions better and have more fully developed personalities to entertain you.
I was keenly aware of this conversation as I took T.Puzzle to lunch at Chik-fil-a. It was a breeze. He sat quietly and promptly ate his food. He went and played independently. Instead of endangering other kids with aggressive behavior, he actually helped a little girl who was stuck halfway between platforms. Yes, that’s right, he HELPED her. He didn’t bite her, kick her or punch her. He was so proud of himself he ran out to tell me all about it. He also lobbied that this may be a great item to include in his behavior report for tae kwon do this evening.
Naturally, there will be times today when he tests my patience. The nice thing is that now there is more balance. He gives a little and therefore so do I.
And for the record as I sat alone drinking my soda and watching him play, it may have been the best Diet Coke I ever tasted.
This has happened to me countless times. I’m on an errand of some sort with the boys that inevitably places us in a too small, overcrowded waiting area. This week it was for my allergy shots. Part of the problem is I stubbornly refuse to use electronic devices to keep them entertained and quiet. They each are allowed to pick two hotwheels cars and must use their imaginations to pass the time.
It quickly becomes an experiment on a sociological level. I am able to divide the people in the waiting room into three categories:
1. People who think my lively boys are adorable and highly entertaining. Which naturally they are.
2. People who have never raised boys, who rarely are around boys and who clearly wish that the world was child-free. These are my favorite category of people. They are so bright and cheery.
3. People who don’t care. No, wait, these actually are my favorite category.
Small spaces, big spaces, crowded or deserted, none of this changes that my boys are who they are.
Thankfully I happen to fall into the first category so it works out.