Personal Entries

Don’t pee on the couch

Karen and her kids, Emily and Patrick, have come down for dinner.   Karen and Emily sit down to keep me company while I finish cooking, and the boys head into the living room and the PS3.  Patrick, 12,  is the last boy to leave the kitchen.

“Hey Patrick,” I say, “don’t pee on my couch, OK?”


“Please try not to pee on the couch?”

“Miss Katie, why would I pee on the couch?”  The boy is understandably perplexed.  I’ve known him since he was a year old, and he’s never peed on anything in my house.

“I have no idea,” I tell him now, “but the bathroom is right there if you need it, OK?”

“But…why…..  Why would I pee on your couch?

I don’t know.”  I say. ” But just don’t, ok?”

His head cocked to the side and his eyebrows knitted, Patrick heads into the living room while Karen grins at me, shaking her head slowly from side to side.

In a moment Patrick returns.

“When did I pee on your couch?”  Patrick demands of me.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?”

Through a fit of giggles, Emily shouts at her younger brother, “JUST DON’T PEE ON THE COUCH, Patrick!”

“No, wait. ” I put up my hand to forestall another outburst from Emily.  “He was about to tell us when he peed on the couch.”

“I DIDN’T PEE ON THE COUCH!” Patrick exclaims.

“OK.  If you say so, I believe you.”

“I didn’t.”  He insists.

“That’s great!  And I really appreciate that.”

“So…why are you telling me not to pee on the couch?”

“Because it’s a leather couch, and once that smell gets into it, there is just no getting it out.  I don’t want to have to replace the couch.  It’s expensive.”

“But… why do you think I’m going to pee on the couch?”

“Patrick,” Karen puts up a hand to stop her son’s questions, and with each word clearly articulated says,   “just   do   not   pee   on   that   couch. “

“But, why would—“

“Just don’t!” Karen orders.

As Patrick leaves the kitchen, Karen, Emily and I double over in silent laughter. Each of us knows what will happen next, and almost immediately, it does.

Matt bursts into the kitchen, “Why did you tell Patrick not to pee on the couch?”

“Because I don’t want him to pee on the couch,” I explain.

No one should pee on the couch,” adds Karen.

“When did he pee on the couch?!” Matt demands.

We didn’t say he did.  We just don’t want him to pee on the couch.”

“You shouldn’t be peeing on the couch, either.” Karen informs Matt.

“I’m not going to pee on the couch,” says Matt.

“I hope not…..” But Karen sounds dubious.

“I’ve never peed on the couch!”  Insists Matt.

“You sure? ” I ask him, “You haven’t? “


“We don’t know.”

And then suddenly the kitchen is full of  boys, all talking at once, all insisting that they have NEVER peed on my couch or any other couch, anywhere.  Ever.

“And no one said you did!”  I explain, “And we want you to keep up the good work.”

Karen sums it up for them, “Don’t pee on the couch. It should go without saying.  Now, we’ll call you when it’s time to eat.”

Muttering and confused, indignant and questioning each others’ urinary histories, the boys leave the kitchen to return to their game.

“And don’t pee on the chairs, either! ”  Emily calls out.

Really, how do people amuse themselves when they don’t have children?


Personal Entries

To my sons

My dear sweet, beautiful sons,

This weekend, you watched as my heart shattered.  After weeks of worry– of ups and downs, of questioning myself, of waiting for things that were out of my control–I fell apart.

Children aren’t supposed to see that, are they? Parents are supposed to leave the room for their disintegrations.  But you three watch me like hawks, as if I am the most interesting and important creature you’ve ever encountered, and  I don’t think there is anything I’ve ever done or felt that went unnoticed.  To assure you that I am OK when I’m not is to teach you that your instincts are wrong, and your instincts are rarely wrong.  I learned a long time ago that attempting to slink off to lick my wounds privately only makes you three nervous, and it’s best to be honest when I am struggling.  What you imagine is always worse than the reality.

And so you’ve been aware of my recent worries, and your patience and quiet concern have helped me stay calm and guardedly optimistic.

But suddenly it all became too much, and as I took one blow too many you watched at I crumbled. You gathered around me, encircling me with your skinny boy arms, shushing me as I sobbed, kissing me on my head as the first real hope I’ve felt in years drained away like the last light of the day;  as old scar tissue was carelessly ripped apart, yet again.

You three didn’t even flinch.  In one moment, you morphed from trash-talking, wrestling, nut-punching hooligans into pure goodness. Your compassion, your empathetic tears, your calm self-assurance as you shuffled me up to my bed and told me to lie down for an hour until I felt better, your protectiveness of me over the past few days  ….  it humbles me.    How do an 11, a 14, a 19 year-old know how to care and love this way?

You are such kind people, and that kindness and those skinny arms have lifted a bit of the heaviness from my heart–just enough that I can take a deep breath and steady myself.

You are my heroes, and it is an honor to be your mother.

Thank you for loving me so much,



Personal Entries

The boy. He rocks so hard.

Photo by Buren Foster, one of the team’s Dads.

I love my Riley.

Sometimes I’m a bit overwhelmed by the demands  the boys’ soccer puts upon me,  but then I see pictures like this one taken at last weekend’s tournament.

My boys go full-throttle, caution-to-the-wind, go-big-or-go-home, and I admire them for it.

How could I not go the extra mile to let them do something that makes them feel like this?  Because this?  This must feel pretty awesome.


*Visit Buren Foster Photography


Personal Entries

Tournament + Katie = No

I don’t think I’m a good fit for the boys’ out-of-town soccer tournaments.   I’m not sure that I’m equipped for that level and type of stress.

Mike has always handled these away trips, and so Riley’s tournament in Richmond this weekend was my first.   Mike seemed surprised when I volunteered for this trip, but I was adamant:  I felt as if I was missing out on something, and so I would be taking the boys to the Richmond tournament.

Ima tell ya why I won’t be doing this again.

1. Hotels often have balconies. This one did. The first four floors sported balconies overlooking the lobby (why? WHY?).  Does picking up your teammates and acting as if you are going to throw them four floors to their death ever get old? No! In fact it gets better each time someone does it, because each successive attempt is that much more out of control; that much more fueled by rising adrenaline and unbridled testosterone.  It is an awesome, awesome game, blogosphere, and you missed it.

“Guys!  Stop!  Please!”  I’d say.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”  The thirteen-year-olds would say.

2. They go out, and they can’t get back in. Because all the team’s rooms were clustered together, there was a great need to go in and out of our room. In and out.  In and out.  But the IN part was difficult because my boys had lost two keys and demagnetized a third by Saturday morning, and I was not handing over the last key.

Every time I’d hear the door click shut, I’d hold my breath, waiting for it….. Two minutes later:  Bang, bang, bang, bang.

“Mom! It’s me!  Mom! Mom! Can you let me in? Mom! Mom!”

And then, a chorus of:

“Dude!  Your Mom locked you out!”

“Aw, man, Riley’s Mom locked him out!”

“Your Mom hates you because you suck!”

I’d open the door to a sea of disappointed thirteen year old faces (it was much better when Riley’s Mom had locked him out because he sucked), only to have Riley grab his cell phone and head back out for another five minutes.

And, repeat.

3. “Hotel Tag” in the parking lot after dark is not a good game.

4. Hotels have hallways, and soccer players have balls. Lots and lots of balls.

5. Eating in public with a team of thirteen year old boys is a stressful thing. The spitball fight.  The cup of team-concocted “soup,” passed around with dares to drink it.  The way they kept putting the “soup” in front of me, because the way Ms. Stein gagged was hysterical. The sneaking off to the bathroom to dump the “soup” in the toilet.  The cup that went into the toilet.  The young, pregnant waitress who looked with terror upon her future by the time we left.

We left her an enormous tip, but really, is there any tip big enough to compensate for the soccer team-induced, pre-partum disillusionment in parenthood which she must be feeling?  No.  No, there isn’t.

6. Hotels have hair dryers. I don’t understand this: every drip of water on Matt’s body or clothing called for the use of the built-in hair dryer in the bathroom.   I’d never before realized how wet Matt must perpetually be.

Having just fallen asleep, I awoke at 10 o’clock to “ZZZHHHHHH!!!”

“Honey, what are you doing?”  I asked.

“I had a wet spot on my sleeve.  I dried it.” Said Matt.

And the next morning, “honey what are you doing?”

“I’m just warming up my clothes in case they’re wet.” Said Matt.

“Well…..are they wet?”

“I don’t think so.” Said Matt.

7.  Driving with a car full of thirteen-year olds is challenging. Especially when they sing this song to each other, whilst rubbing each other’s heads.

After that, they needed to sing it to inanimate objects.  “Soft shin guard, warm shin guard….”

Most challenging was when they decided to sing it to me, while trying to rub my head.  “Soft Ms. Stein, warm Ms. Stein, little ball of fur……”

I feel their behavior was why I kept getting lost.



Personal Entries

Now and before

It’s been, what?  Six weeks since Matt started middle school? But Matt, being Matt, has thrown himself into this new stage of his life: he is middle school and middle school is he.

Now he is very grown up, whereas before he was not.  The  delineation between now and before is quite clear.

The night before the start of sixth grade, Matt was annoyed with Riley about how long Ri had been sitting next to me;  it was his turn to smoosh up against me on the couch, and only fair and right that Ri shove off.   Only twenty hours later,  Matt walked in the door from his first day of middle school and was disgusted and confused by my kiss on his head. Why would I DO that?  He made clear to me that there will no longer be any tolerance of maternal affection, because it is gross and a violation of his manly boundaries.

Middle school Matt has been curious to watch.

As he sits at the kitchen table after school,  he chatters on about his day.

“And Andre called Bethany a ‘B’ !”

A “B,” blogosphere!  He called her a ‘B!”

“Oh no!” I say, “Was she upset?”

“No.  Bethany says Andre in an ‘A.’  She just ignores him.”

There is something endearing about him swinging his legs and eating cookies while telling me, matter-of-factly and yet in code, about the use of profanity on the bus. Something very young, and yet trying to be big; a poignant straddling of what came before and what comes next.

He wonders if he should start shaving, and tells me knock-knock jokes.  When I order pizza, he offers to pay for it.  He’s frustrated and angry to realize he needs help with his math homework, and then practices burping the sentence, “I just farted.”  My cuddliest child no longer allows affection,  but the ban on affection clearly corresponds  with him becoming grumpier and grumpier.  Grumpier with me, grumpier with his brother, grumpier with the cat and the dog.  Everything is an insult to him, everything is frustrating.

I desperately want to gather him in my arms and gentle his spirit, and yet to attempt to do so would be disrespectful.

In the mornings I’ve always woken Riley, first.  I  rub Ri’s back  until he wakes, and then head in to do the same for Matt.   Since school started and affection is no longer allowed,  Matt has been awake enough when I come to him to assure me he needs no waking.

The past two weeks I’ve switched it up.  I’ve set my alarm a bit earlier, and quietly gone in to Matt, first.   As the mattress sinks under my weight, he instinctively turns to cuddle up to me, just as he always has.  I kiss his head and rub his freckled cheeks until he wakes.  Having momentarily forgotten that warmth is verboten, he wakes as the sweet Matt he’s always been, spouting questions as he’s always done.

“Hey Mom? Do you think I’ll get into the Ping-Pong Club? Did you sign my reading log?    So, can I stay after school for the football game on Thursday?” Silence, and then, “Ha!  I just farted on you!”

With one last kiss on his head, I disentangle myself and move away before he realizes I’ve committed the felony of affection.


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.


Personal Entries

Turkey sex

After a weekend of non-stop soccer games (nine of them, blogosphere!)  I’m a bit tired this Monday morning.  Riley, who played five of the nine games, is not.

Concerned about commitment in turkey relationships

As I prepare to make his breakfast, I ask him how much he’ll eat this morning.  One egg, two eggs, egg-bacon-and-cheese sandwich?

“One and a half eggs, and bacon,” Riley answers.

“One and a half eggs, it is. ” I say.

“Seriously?  They don’t really have half eggs, do they?”  My son has a  special knack for being very bright, and yet obtuse, at the same time.  It’s kind of charming.

“Yes, Riley,”  I say,  “Sometimes when the chickens leave work early, they don’t have time for a full egg, and they abruptly stop.  They go half.”

He shakes his head at me as he starts to put on the clothes he’s brought downstairs.  “I don’t think I like your attitude.  But you know what would be perfect?  Turkey eggs.  They’d be the right size. Why don’t we eat turkey eggs?”

“Maybe turkeys would be harder to farm for their eggs–“

“That’s discrimination!  Turkeys get it on, too!”  And he finishes with a low, Barry White-style, ” Yeahh, baby!”

“Dude, I don’t think I can deal with turkeys getting it on at seven in the morning.”

“Now Mom,” Riley says, “Turkey sex isn’t something to be embarrassed about.”

I look over my shoulder to see him looking at me with a mock- serious, quasi- parental look.  It’s makes for a comical blend with his skinny little farmer-tanned, boxer clad body.

In a soothing voice,  Riley continues, “When a man turkey and a woman turkey want to be very close—“


“Mom, it might embarrass you now, but turkey sex is a normal, healthy part of an adult turkey’s life,”  Riley explains.  “So, as I was saying, when two turkeys want to be very close, and they are in a committed relationship—“

“Riley, ” I laugh, “Stop it!”

“A committed relationship, Mom!” And then he breaks into a speech I’ve given many times,  “and if the turkeys aren’t sure that this is a committed relationship, they should wait.  If turkey sex is a good idea this week,  it will still be a good idea next week, too.  So just wait.  There will always be more turkey sex available—“

“Breakfast is ready!”  I announce. “You’re a turkey,” I tell him as he sits down.

“A COMMITTED relationship, Mom.”

Thank you, Riley.



Personal Entries

A different grocery store

As we discuss what we should make for dinner,  I realize a grocery run is needed.   Jake offers to do the shopping trip, and while I write up a short list, I also issue instructions.  I want Jake to go to a specific store; not our usual grocery store, but to the Harris Teeter down the road.

“Go ahead and grab my ATM card out of my wallet,” I say, ” but I need you to go to the Harris Teeter—”

“The hairy titties?” Asks Riley.

“Really?”  I ask Riley.  “Really?”

Riley grins, and I sigh, shake my head, and begin again.

“As I was saying, do not go to the hairy titties, Jake—”

“No, ” he assures me, ” I wasn’t planning to go to the hairy titties.”

“Good. Good.”  Jake and I nod in agreement.  Hairy titties are out.   “But,  if you would go to the HARRIS TEETER–”

“The hairy testes?’ Asks Matt.

I close my eyes for a moment, and then continue,  ” If you could go to the grocery store–”

“The hairy testes, Jake,” clarifies Riley.

“Would you STOP with the hairy testes, please?” I ask my younger sons.  I’m trying not to laugh and,  like predators, I’m sure they sense my weakness.

“Well, Mom,” Riley explains,  “that’s not really gonna be up to me.  I mean, that’s kinda what puberty does.”  He and Matt are grinning from ear to ear,  nodding in agreement.  Yes, This is true.  Hairy testes will not be up to them.

Jake is biting back a smile, and his upper body shakes with the laughter he’s holding in.  I can’t look at him or I’ll start laughing, too.

This is one of the greatest joys and most difficult challenges of parenting Riley.  He finds humor in almost anything.  Year after year, I’ve received phone calls from his teachers which begin, “I love Riley, and I really enjoy him, but…”  The “but” is inevitably followed by a request that I talk to Riley about curtailing his comedic comments while in class.  I’ve had many conversations with Ri about time and place; about using his powers for good and not evil.

And as Matt’s sense of humor has matured, he’s become Riley’s partner in crime.  Recently they’ve mastered the two-pronged assault: one riffing off the other,  each providing fuel for his brother’s fire,  perfecting their A, B, A, B  rhythm.  Riley plants the seeds, and Matt cheerfully helps bring that crop to harvest.  I’m just happy they’re cooperating.

The two of them are waiting politely for me to continue.  I glare at them, and they smile, sweetly.

I hold my hand up like a stop sign, and blurt out the rest of my instructions to Jake, ” If you go to the Harris Teeter, they have big bags of Scott’s mulch on sale, and I’d love it if you could get as much as you can fit in the trunk of your car, ok?”

“YOU’RE GOING TO MULCH THE HAIRY TESTES?”  Matt is shocked. “That’s GROSS!  You’re not mulching my testes, lady!”

Riley slowly shakes his head from side to side.  He’s disappointed in the kind of woman he just realized I am.  A testes mulcher.

An image of my front flowerbed filled with mulched, hairy testes flashes through my mind, and I’m lost.

“Would you two stop?!”  I laugh, ” Just stop it!  No more hairy testes!”

“I haven’t even started my hairy testes yet, Mom, ” says Matt, and adds matter-of-factly, “that’s probably going to happen in middle school.”

“No,” says Riley, “Highschool.  We hit puberty late in this family.”

Jake takes the list, and heads for the door.  “I’ll get as much mulch as I can, ” he assures me.

As he leaves, Riley calls out, “Don’t forget the hairy titties, Jake!”


Personal Entries

I will stab you with my fork

When Jake started applying to colleges this past fall, panic set in.

Jake's prom, last night

My friends and family noticed the change in my attitude toward Jake: I am less patient, more prone to criticize.  A wee bit more uptight with the boy than I’ve ever been before.

Karen has asked if I am subconsciously pushing Jake away now,  so that it will hurt less when he  leaves this fall.

My Mom worries that Jake’s leaving in the fall will devastate me, and has asked if my crankiness with him is because I’m struggling with his imminent departure.

All around, the assumption is that my irritability with Jake is due to an anticipation of the pain I will feel when he goes to college this fall.

Nope, that’s not it at all.  Will I miss him when he goes?  Absolutely!  Unlike summers when he’s gone away or trips he’s taken, this big leaving in August is the end of the beginning of his life.  This is the end of his time spent with me, and that makes me sad.  From now on, his life will be lived under a different roof, and I’ll have lost my  front row seat.  Although that is as it should be, I’m not so big a person as to not use my impending loss to get more time with him, now.

“Jake, your brothers and I are going to play Scrabble.  Will you play with us because soon you will go away forever and a little piece of my heart will die?”

“Dude, do you want to come on a walk with me because you are my tiny baby and you’re going to go away and leave forever and I will never see you ever again for the rest of my life?  Ever? So……a walk? ”

That is about sadness and loss, and it’s separate from the new irritability I feel towards Jake.  My criticism of the boy has to do with what, I imagine, many parents of college-bound high school seniors are doing:  assessing the life-readiness of the child we are sending out into the world, and finding it lacking.  I’m frantically scrambling to finish this eighteen-year project; to plug the holes, polish the facets, drive home the importance of lessons I’ve tried to teach him.  It feels as if it is of the utmost importance to tie up all his loose ends, pronto, before he sets off to meet the world on his own.

Whereas before I would issue a two-word correction when table manners were shaky, now I go the Shock And Awe route.

Before it was, “Manners, please.”  Maybe with a raised eyebrow and a sharp look thrown in for good measure.

But now?  Now I say,  “Oh, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.  Son, if I see you chew with your  MOUTH OPEN just ONE more time,  I am going to STAB YOU WITH MY DAMN FORK.   I have been telling you this for over a decade, WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN?  CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED.  Always.  Every time.  Forever.  With God as my witness, I will stab you with my fork, and God will TOTALLY UNDERSTAND WHY I DID IT, TOO.”

Panicked that unfinished parenting might cause him future struggles,  I’ve lost any subtlety I ever had.  I’m not reasonable.

Discussions of daily plans are likely to turn into lectures on how one should hold oneself and look others in the eye, and then segue into a fifteen-minute directive on the use of dental floss and its ties to self-respect, dignity, and thoughtfulness.

In the middle of dinner preparation I’ll turn to Jake and declare, “You need to be really careful with doing shots.  It’s just too easy to drink too much that way.  Do you understand this?”  And when Jake doesn’t seem to take my warning as seriously as I think he should, I break into the statistics I’ve recently found on alcohol-related deaths at state universities.  When the look on his face indicates that he thinks my motherly rambling is cute, I end up in tears, urging him to take me seriously.

“Mom,” he asks, “don’t you think I have a good head on my shoulders?”

And I do, I really do think he has his head on straight.  So far, so good. But life is about to throw so much new stuff at him, and he’ll be facing it alone.  He won’t be roped-in on this climb, as he has been before, and if he falls I won’t be at the end of that belay line to stop his fall.

It’s not his judgment I worry about, it’s mine.

Have I done this child justice in my parenting?   Since the moment he was born, he’s trusted me to keep him safe.  Have I betrayed that trust, in any small way,  by failing to teach him what he needs to know to go out into the world and keep himself safe and whole and healthy?  To be strong and successful in whatever he chooses to pursue?  Because if I have, then I need to fix it right now or we will all die a horrible death, the end.

I tell him this, and he wraps me up in a rough teenager hug and says, “Mom, you’re awesome.  You’ve been the best Mom I could have–anyone could have– and I’m so lucky.  I’m going to be fine.”

I hope he’s right, and I hope he remembers to use dental floss.  Dental floss is very, very important.

Personal Entries

I worry when it’s quiet

Sometimes, I question the wisdom of my “no TV until 7:00 pm” policy.

“Find something to do, or I’ll find something for you to do,” I said.

“Bored people are boring people,” I said.

“You’ll have to use your own brain, because I’m using mine right now, ” I said.


And then I walk into the kitchen to find four boys all tied to chairs with gags in their mouths.

I found this note later, and it explains so much.  Sort of.