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.
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?
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.