Nocturnal Journeys

Well, our fears have returned. Just when we thought our youngest was cured of his late night voyages, we discovered him wandering outside at 1 am! The motion light and storm door closing was what woke me. I peered outside to see our seven-year-old barefoot on our front walk calling for his bigger brother. We called him in and he still wasn’t quite awake. He usually does this when he has to use the bathroom, so that’s where I sent him and, sure enough, he had to go. Looks like it’s time to start limiting those drinks of water right before bedtime!

Persistence

My wife and I are blessed with two wonderfully spirited children and many days I ponder how their ‘challenging’ traits might positively benefit them later in life. Take for instance our youngest, who, not kidding, threw an all out tantrum that lasted almost two hours about having to eat a burrito made with a corn tortilla rather than the flour tortilla he is used to. After countless explanations of how he would not be permitted to leave the table to play until he had finished his supper, he went on to plea bargain, begging for us to ‘save it’ so he could ‘eat it later’. We explained to him that that would not be an option and if he chose not to eat it for dinner, he would be getting it for breakfast.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting, it’s that you don’t try to bargain with children. Their inexperience and inability to see the big picture and how their choices can bring about negative consequences is for us as parents to teach them. It’s our responsibility to make sure they are loved and cared for to the best of our abilities; to equip them with the knowledge to make the right choices for themselves when they’re older – even if that means eating stuff they don’t like (which, by the way, turned out to not be the case. Once he started in on the burrito he realized it wasn’t half bad and finished it within minutes).

I know that his stubbornness and persistence will both benefit him later in life, but seeing him exert these qualities now is not only difficult but very frustrating. I have to admit though; it is developing patience in us both.

Library Books

Part of our boys’ weekly routine is a visit to the school library. They’re allowed to check out two each week, which isn’t much but when you consider we borrow twenty-five or so books from the public library each month. Combined with all the books we already own, there is no shortage of reading material at our house.

With so many books to keep track of, we need to be careful where we store them. The four school library books seldom make it further than the living room coffee table whereas the public dozens have a special shelf in the boys’ room.

We’re usually really good about keeping track of all our books but one library book about Puffins went missing almost a month ago. We’ve searched high and low. Even an exhaustive room cleaning today left us empty-handed. Looks like we’re soon-to-be proud owners of an MIA Puffin book. What the heck is a Puffin anyway? Unless we find that book, no one will ever know.

LEGOS

If there’s one toy my two boys play with the most, it would have to be LEGOS. And just when we think they couldn’t possibly store another brick, they want more. I swear they have enough now to erect a modest tower to the moon. Their constant wanting is not without cause, however. We caved to their requests a while ago to subscribe to LEGO Brickmaster Magazine, which is nothing more than a glorified catalog that’s being passed off as a legit publication.

Featured betwix the covers of this full color, slick bi-monthly you’ll find: a comic strip of LEGO characters interacting in the latest LEGO theme set, submitted ‘Brickmaster’ reader photos of their LEGO creations, and several full page advertisements for the next ‘must have’ theme soon to be released by LEGO.

I try to explain to the boys the impossibility of them acquiring an entire set because some collections are endless. I’ve also tried convincing them that, believe it or not, more toys will NOT satisfy their selfishness or supply their eternal happiness. The usual response is either disgusted or puzzled looks that seem to say “Dad, you don’t know what you’re talking about”.

All things considered, LEGO is still the most ‘creative’ toy you can invest in and my boys never seem to tire of them. I’m sure there will come a day when I will miss constantly having those wretched LEGOS underfoot because right now they’ve basically taken over our entire basement.

Joy in Mudville

The spring thaw has spawned yet another veritable paradise for boys… Mudville. Regardless of how many times we remind them to avoid the water and mud it seems to find them like iron filings to an electromagnet. Of course, I didn’t exactly make it easy for them not to get dirty.

Last fall, just before the snow flew, I managed to finish our brick paver patio (it’s been doubling lately as the neighborhood boys’ hangout for half court basketball). Unfortunately the yard surrounding the patio was not yet seeded so the recent foot traffic has dug up plenty of earthy, adobe goodness. Ahh, Spring!

The Talk

I knew the day was coming, but the school curriculum pretty much sealed the date. My oldest son’s class will soon be covering HIV in science and with it will come some talk about ‘changes’ they are all going through. Rather than have a bunch of squirrelly school boys educating each other, I thought I’d step in.

After having a nice lunch I thought I’d take him for a drive where we could discuss the topic with some privacy. After pulling into a parking lot and turning off the vehicle, I knew he was suspicious about why I wasn’t getting out. Nothing can prepare you for the awkwardness that this moment brings and once I started there was no turning back. I was going to have ‘the talk’ whether either of us were ready for it.

I must have gotten a little too graphic because at one point he complained of having a stomach ache and actually got out of the van to sit down in the parking lot. I thought he was going to refund his lunch. After the initial queasiness wore off I found out a little about what he knew and let him know where the boundaries were. We even shared some stories that we could both laugh about. Ultimately I wanted him to know that if he ever had questions about anything, that he could come talk to me.

Afterward he looked at me and said, “Dad, I feel more mature right now.” I told him how proud we were of the young man he was becoming but that he was still a boy and not to get carried away with his ‘maturity’. He’s a smart kid and I know he’ll learn more than what I’ve told him today, but being there to teach him the secret handshake of manhood was quite the experience. The talk with son number two will be in another three years. I should be ready.

Sickness

It never fails. Just when the weather starts improving the sore throats start scratching their way into our home. Our oldest started complaining that his stomach hurt and has been pretty hoarse the past few days. The kid’s ten years old but his cough sounds like croop. I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t the beginning of allergy season. I don’t know the first thing about allergies but am starting to believe that I, too, suffer from some spring allergies. Is it too early? I mean there’s still snow on the ground. I’d love to be able to justify this sore throat and headache.

Time

Just a few weeks ago my youngest son had a very interesting conversation with my wife. He started by commenting that “the day after yesterday was a great day.”

To clarify, my wife corrected by asking, “Do you mean the day before yesterday?”

“No.”

“Do you mean today?”

He responded flatly with, “No. I took a time machine back a day.”

It’s no secret that he and my wife look at time differently. My wife is very punctual. The adage “if you’re on time, you’re late” is very true for her while my son is a bit more relaxed. I realize he can’t tell time just yet, but he really operates on his own time. Some days I can really appreciate his perspective – especially when I’m not on a tight schedule.

Playgrounds

School playgrounds have gone through a bit of an evolution since I was a kid. Padded plastic and rubber have replaced the metal and timber structures that endured the use (and abuse) of hundreds of schoolchildren. It’s a wonder that more of us weren’t permanently maimed by these ‘slaygrounds’ of yesteryear. Next to today’s brightly colored, safety-approved ‘play kingdoms’ the old equipment looks medieval. Don’t be fooled; if there’s one thing our children have proved to us is that no playground is 100% safe. In fact, every playground you visit has at least one guaranteed discovery – the infamous used band-aid.

It’s a Mystery

We spent some quality time last night playing with our youngest. I’m amazed at how perceptive he is, though strategically he’s still a little green. It appeared that he knew what he was doing but overall I think he was more intrigued with moving from room to room. It was a great way to pass the time on a cold and rainy night. Hopefully nobody’s left in the dark about what we did.