Target, the parking lot. Me and my troops.
“OK,” I say generously, evenly, not betraying my entire lack of confidence in what I’m about to say. “We are going inside Target. We are going to do this fast. I have a headache. We are late. You have been awful for the last hour and it ends now or no movie, no pizza, no fun. We will leave. Understand?”
Three heads bob in affirmation from the backseat.
“OK, hit it.”
We are out of the car and walking with purpose. First stop: Alleve. I really do have a headache. While I am calculating cost per pill for the economy size, they start in. Sam has decided to push over all the pill boxes. Calvin decided to discipline him. I grab the largest box imaginable and escape to the pizze aisle. Cost to keep Calvin from corporally punishing Sam: $15.75.
Here things got weird. All three boys want a different four cheese pizza. Like the difference is nuanced and discernible to a boy who picks his nose. A small skirmish breaks out and Calvin says if we don’t get his pizza he’s not going to eat – ever. Jack says he must have rising crust because the other is flat like cardboard. Sam says he must have the thin smear of tomato sauce between the cheese topping and the crust just like in the picture or he’ll throw up. I can’t take it. All three pizzas go in. Cost to avert vomit: $18.00.
Off to dvds in spite of my threats. This is only because we are going to the Boyfriend Candidate’s house and if the kids don’t have something kid-like to do they will act like themselves and I can’t have that. All the moveis stink and we already have every other G/PG film out there. We end up with two B level movies. Why? Because they are fighting about it, playing two against one games. “We want the owl movie, and two against one. We win.” The older boys taunting the baby. I got both movies. Cost to avoid years of therapy for Sam: $45.
At this point, I want out. I need to get these belligerent, ill-behaved, disrespectful, spiteful angels over to the BC’s house where he’s likely to take one look at all of the chaos and reconsider his relationship with me. The evening has taken a turn for the crazy and it hasn’t started yet.
Going into Target I thought we’d do a quick driveby. $30 and done. Nope. Keeping the peace cost right under $100. A babysitter would have been a helluva lot cheaper. And I might have maintained my sanity.
At our slumber party last weekend one of the boys came to me at 1:30am and said he was sick. He was crying, and I was quick to dismiss it as homesick or fear of a dark, strange house. I really did not want to call his parents in the middle of the night. They had a kid-free evening and were probably swinging from the chandeliers or playing naked Twister. Of course, if they were anything like me, they may have been so excited to be allowed their exhaustion, they smiled at each other before the sun set and fell asleep.
Naturally, the boy had a temp and was mortified that he might throw up in front of all his friends. We made the call. No answer. Visions of two middle-aged people bitterly wiping off whipped cream, cursing the whole time, danced through my head.
It took about twenty minutes for one of them to pick up the phone. The boy spoke to his mom. He was really crying hard. Still, just like me, he had to sell her on the idea that he was sick. About forty minutes later, his dad shows up at our house. You could tell by the way he slammed the car door he was not happy. But I opened the front door and his sick little cherub limped out, now hysterical upon seeing his father, and dad’s angry melted. It was heartbreaking.
I promised right then I would never doubt my kids when they called at an inconvenient time to tell me they needed me. Naked Twister be damned!
My oath lasted all of four days. My oldest called from school. He thought he broke his thumb and wanted me to take him to the hospital. If this was true, I reasoned, the school would have called an ambulance. I told my darling, brave, crying child that unless there was blood or bone I wasn’t leaving the office. I wasn’t even torn; there was no way I was leaving work.
Like most parents, I live for my children. Unless, of course, it’s inconvenient.
My son turns twelve today. As I type have ten boys running unrestrained and untethered in my house, junked up on caffeine, chocolate and the adrenaline of a post-Nerf war victory. I’d be lying if I said there was anything unusual about that. My three boys all by themselves can create quite a lot of noise and mayhem.
It is time for reflection. Twelve years. What the hell? I’ve never had anything for twelve years. Not a plant, a dog, even my husband, one could argue, punched out long before we got to twelve years. Of all things I might imagine myelf to have for twelve years – a car for instance, maybe a mattress – I would never have imagined a human being. And my son seems happy to have me. Of course I gave him a PS3 with ensures (and insures!) his devotion so I can’t be sure how sincere his undying affection is, but I really don’t care. I have it.
So tonight, I’ll listen to him and his friends scream like girls, echoing down the streets of the neighborhood. In a year or two they won’t sound like little girls any more so I’m going to enjoy this before they get neck deep in testosterone. They are a great group of boys. I’m not concerned about a single one of them. We’re really fortunate. I have a beautiful boy who made me a grateful mom. I love him in ways that can’t be expressed.
A year or two ago, I was really worried about his life and how it might turn out. Not any more. I’ve got it covered. And for those times when I’m not there, his trusted friends and their families will be. All things considered, it’s good to turn twelve.