Personal Entries

The joy club

As I go through life and meet new people, I sometimes meet another mother of three or more boys.  In a check-out line,  at a sporting event, a school function– those moments when we knock up against strangers long enough to engage in small talk.  Upon realizing this commonality, there always follows a small, silent exchange;  a moment of recognition and appreciation.   We meet each other’s eyes, break into a grin, shake our heads and roll our eyes: boys.

My mother’s sister, Joni, and her husband, Tom, have five boys.  There is a very special place in Heaven for Joni and my Uncle Tom.  They will have a full staff who jump to do whatever they say, the first time they say it, complementing them on their wisdom.  No one will require emergency medical care after five o’clock.

Clockwise from top left: Mike, (married to the awesome Cory, Dad to two) 36, Tom (musician and headed to college) 18, Bob (soon to be married) 31, Tim (college student and skate gangsta) 23, and John (USAF stud) 22

Growing up, I used to be baffled by the things I heard my Aunt and Uncle say.

“Don’t give them that key!”  Joni would say,  “They’ll just go put it in the outlets.”

Why, I’d think, would nine, ten, eleven- year-olds put a key in an outlet? They’re old enough to understand the danger at the age.

“Don’t tell them the light goes out when you close the refrigerator door,” Tom would say, “they’ll put each other in there.”

THAT is ridiculous.  They wouldn’t get into the refrigerator.

Joni and Tom were part of a club I had not yet joined, and now I understand what I did not then:  with boys, you must constantly suspend all common sense and consider the most unreasonable thing to do at any given time. Then, you must assume your sons will think of something worse to do.

They might not have put that key into the outlet when they were younger, but now that they know they can be electrocuted, they will spend hours attempting to electrocute themselves and each other.

And yes, they would get into the refrigerator.   I know this because I am constantly telling my boys to let each other out of the dryer.

Three seems to be the magic number.  Two boys can think of some really stupid things to do, but throw in the third and now you have an audience. Add an audience, and that last trace of common sense disappears.

I thought of my Aunt and Uncle tonight, as I said goodnight to Matt.

Matt fell asleep on the couch, and as Jake carried him up to bed, he woke.  As he neared the bed, he twisted and torqued like a hooked pickerel, flinging himself out of Jake’s arms and face-first into the wall over his bed. BAM…thunk.  And because that is all shades of AWESOME, he burst out laughing.

Laughter is the rallying cry for boys, and so Riley came running.  Seeing Jake in Matt’s room, he headed straight for him, ramming him with his head to cause as much pain as he possibly could.

“My NUTS!” Yelled Jake.

Jake, in turn, beat the snot out of Riley, causing him as much pain as he could.

“My NUUUUTS!” Yelled Riley, as Jake picked him up by his testicles, it seems,  and threw him onto the bed.

I had followed Jake as he carried his brother upstairs, and now, as I sat on the bed with Matt, his two brothers put on the Sunday Night Show.

“THIS is why I’ve always had the rule of no brothers in each other’s room at bedtime!” I say.

“I’ll take care of it, Mom!”  Says my oldest son.  And he grabs Riley by the ankles, and drags him from the room.    THUNK, face-down, off the bed and onto the floor. AHHHH, as the rug rubs the skin off his face.  THUNK, against the door frame.

Riley, at the last minute, grabs my leg and attempts to pull me with him.  My leg doesn’t bend at a 90° angle sideways, and in the midst of the craziness the most natural reaction is to laugh and hang onto the boy beside me.  Matt and I are dragged halfway off the bed before Riley releases his grip.

I spend the next half hour beside my laughing son, my gaze swiveling between him to my left, and his brothers to my right.  Matt, the youngest, big-eyed and freckled,  head thrown back as he laughs deep belly laughs at his brothers’ antics.  Jake,  standing bouncer-like in the doorway, hands held together to protect his crotch as Riley gleefully attempts to batter his way into the room, again and again.

“My nuuuuuuuts!” Yells Riley, as Jake drags him away from the doorway once again,  “He’s dragging me by my nuuuuuuuuts!”

For a half an hour I find myself crying out warnings and orders; setting limits which are not so much ignored at not heard through the laughter.

“Be careful of his head and his spine!  WATCH HIS NECK!  His HEAD, HIS HEAD!”  I plead.

“DO NOT  get that gun out at this hour.  NO WEAPONS AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK AT NIGHT!”  I order.

“Put the cap back on that deodorant!  Put the cap on that deodorant!”  I command, and then,   ” Oh yuuuuck! Now I have deodorant all over my arm.  Ew.”

“OK, let’s not move the furniture right now, LET’S NOT MOVE THE FURNITURE!”

As I sit beside my laughing son, I’m aware of how fleeting this time is, and I think of my Aunt and Uncle.  What do Tom and Joni feel as their boys get older and head off into the world?  My youngest cousin is eighteen, and only two boys are still at home.  Are Tom and Joni ready for a bit of quiet, or will they miss the ridiculous out-of-control of so many boys?  Is it heart-breaking, or a relief?   Both?

I think of my Aunt and Uncle in my first defined memories of them: the weekend of their wedding, almost forty years ago.  Joni: a red-haired, round-faced teenager, and Tom: youth-slim and dark-haired, dashing, and a bit cocky.

They’ve had quite a ride, and I’m sure it’s not what they imagined it would be.  Is it ever?

Tom, Joni, John (USAF)

More than time and all else in life combined, Tom and Joni’s boys have made them what they are today;  that half-wild, rough-sweet mass of constantly moving boy has been their life.  Their sons are the Sun around which their world has revolved, and at this moment I feel so lucky to be a member of the same club.

To be the mother in a house full of boys is joy, pure joy.



14 thoughts on “The joy club

    1. They are wonderful! When comparing with my friends who are mothers of girls, the heavy work of boys is more front-loaded. It is exhausting until they are around 9 or ten, challenging until 12, and then really, really lovely and fun. With girls, the younger years sound much, much more peaceful, and THEN it hits!

  1. In my successful run as the neighborhood babysitter, you boys were one of two groups of 3 that I watched. The other group of boys were super young, so they don’t count. Coming from a family with three other girls, the boys might as well have been aliens to me. One on one, they were so sweet, introspective, and helpful. Put two together and they start to bicker. Add a third one and all I could do was sit back and say “I told you so” once someone got boxed in the eye.

    My sisters and I did our fair share of fighting. The difference is that no one is laughing and the fighting is more malicious (scratching, biting, hair pulling). I didn’t (and still don’t) quite comprehend the notion of fighting for fun.

    ps. I wanted to stop by the other day when I was in town, but I was just too busy and lazy. I LOVE the necklace you made for my mom. She said you were going to turn the remaining metal into 4 rings for us girls! I love it! Also, I wanted to ask you if you still paint and sell your paintings. One of my good friends saw a painting on facebook and would probably kill a baby duckling to have one of your pieces. Also, one day when I’m rich and famous I would love to have a Katie original on my walls.Is there hope?

    1. When they were younger, I had to be such a drill sergeant because things could go from playful to furious in the blink of an eye! It got exhausting! Now that they’re older, more self aware, and have more self control, the rough stuff is usually straight-up play, thank Heavens! A huge part of every day is spent pummeling each other. It is very, very different from girls, and I really believe it’s innate. They were born physical.

      Your Mom’s necklace….. I wanted to turn the ring into something very Jeannie;something she’d use. We talked about using the metal of the ring to create a new setting, but I knew the ring itself was precious to your Dad, as the design was his. When I talked of just opening it out into a bar pendant, your Dad’s face lit up. It was very cute!

      The extra… I hoped you would like that idea! There isn’t much left, but I wanted to put a delicate bit on each of three skinny bands, and then maybe something different for Kat? I don’t know if she’d wear something delicate, and I want to make something she’d really enjoy. A heavier, chunky ring? Something to hang on a chain or rope? Thoughts?

      1. The necklace is just mom’s taste. I think maybe Kat would wear a skinny ring on a necklace, but if it was a ring she’d probably want it to be chunkier. I think she would be more likely to wear a ring if it is plain with no frills.

        1. Clarification: When Jimazing and I were discussing his custom work (mentioned in my response to Erin), at no time did he look cute. He looked manly and masterful, and it took all the strength in my body to not quake in fear at his manly masterfulness, such an imposing visage was he. I, Katie Stein, have never seen Jimazing look cute.

  2. OOH! I’m in the club. 4 boys ages: 12, 9, 7 & (almost) 5. But coming from a family of 3 boys, nothing about them is that strange to me.

    OTOH my brother-in-law has 3 girls. I went over to their house one day last summer to fix their computer. I worked on it for about an hour in silence. At which point I asked my sister-in-law where the girls were. And she said, “In their rooms.”

    I was shocked. The only time my house is that quiet is when the boys aren’t there or when they’re asleep.

    My wife has taken to fusing at them when they’re … uh.. adjusting the package. I keep trying to explain it to her but she doesn’t get it. The best I’ve come up with is asking her if she’s ever had to adjust her bra because the girls were just out of place. Same deal for the guys.

    The other thing that’s a mystery to my wife is how all of them, from before they could talk, thought that burps & farts were hilarious. She’s concluded that this appreciation is encoded on the Y chromosome.

    That said I would have liked a girl. There’s something about a father daughter relationship that I fear I’m missing. OTOH my pastor just married off his oldest daughter. I can NOT imagine the sleepless night he must have went through knowing what his daughter was doing that night. So I’m spared that.

    1. I did not include details of the monologue Riley ran (as he readjusted) on how “lefty and righty” needed untangling after all the “nut” dragging. Oy.

      The quiet of your sister-in-law’s house….if boys are home, awake, AND quiet? Time to panic!

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