Teenage Boy

Teenage boy.

Really, that’s all I need to write and so many of you nod your heads and think, yeah, I know. But maybe it’s more fun to give you the details of my latest encounter with teenage boy in the wild.

Daryl had a track meet.

It happened to be in a town not too far away so my husband took on Hal’s soccer practice so I could go watch Daryl run. He was to run in the 800 and then the anchor leg for the 4×400. I was particularly excited to see him run the relay.

So off I headed about 30 minutes down the road from home, found a parking spot (which was fairly fortunate), paid my entrance fee, and sat down by myself in a crowd full of strangers to wait.

Not too long after I got there, they called for the 7th grade boys 800. About 6:15, I watched the very large group of mostly gangly, awkward looking boys line up at the start line. The first thing I noticed was that Daryl was not wearing the new, specialized, spikes-included, long-distance running shoes we had bought him. Why wasn’t he wearing the shoes? Why had we bought the shoes if he wasn’t going to wear them?

And then the race began. He fell behind pretty quickly. This doesn’t look good, I thought to myself. By the time he came around on the second pass, only four boys were behind him. To his credit, he still kicked it into gear and ran his heart out to the finish line. But he certainly didn’t look like a kid who had finished 4th the first time he had run this race.

He didn’t come up into the stands to see me – even though I had texted my exact location to him. I asked if he was OK. How did he feel about the race? “Had a cramp” was his response. Ok, when is the 4×400? “Soon, I think.”

I know now that there are just a small handful of variations of track meet schedules. And the 4×400 is not that soon after the 800.

I watched the 100m dashes. I watched the 110 hurdles. I watched the 200 races and the 300 hurdles. I watched all of these for 7th and 8th grade girls and 7th and 8th grade boys. All the while, hoping to hear first call for the 4×400. It didn’t come. My butt was numb. My phone was nearly dead. No one to talk to and not enough juice to lose myself in a game.

So I watched a small slice of the 400s from my car as I charged my phone. And I knew that the 4×400 couldn’t be anywhere near the 400.

Back in the stadium, they made the first call for the 7th grade girls’ 1600. I cried.

I mean, not literally, on the outside, tears streaming down my face, but on the inside, yes. I was going to have to sit through four 1600’s first? And then essentially two more with the girls’ 4×400’s?

“I think the 4×400 is last,” my son texted me.

“Yes, I figured that out,” I said. “Why don’t you go ahead and come get your note so you can ride home with me?”

“But it’s the last race.”

“Yes, but it’s still faster for you to ride home with me than ride the bus. Come here.”

That’s when he stopped talking to me. Convenient.

About 9:15, he showed up in the stands. Limping.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I hurt my ankle. Nate is taking my spot in the relay so we can go ahead and go home.”

Three hours. I had sat there for three hours!

“When did you hurt your ankle?”

“During the 800.”

Three hours. I had sat there for three hours.

“Why did you wait so long to decide you couldn’t run?”

“I kept hoping it’d start feeling better.”

Did I mention how butt-numbing bleachers are?

“Did you ice it?” I asked.

“No.”

“Did you tell your coaches?”

“I didn’t know where they were.”

Three hours. I sat and waited for three hours while the boy merely hoped his ankle would feel better and did absolutely nothing to enhance his chances that it would. And said nothing to me as we texted back and forth. Three hours.

That’s when I noticed he was wearing the new track shoes. The ones he hadn’t worn when actually racing – he was wearing them now.

“Why didn’t you wear those during the 800?” I asked, pointing. He shrugged.

“It was a longer distance.”

“They are long distance shoes.”

Shrug.

As we began the drive home, he told me, “Coach had me do the high jump!”

“What?” I asked. “Why didn’t you tell me? When did you know?”

“It was earlier in the meet. I figured you couldn’t be here anyway. Coach said he saw me play basketball and knew I could jump.”

“But the motion is completely different,” I countered. “Had you ever practiced the high jump?”

“No.”

“Which coach said he’d seen you play basketball?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know. He told you in person, didn’t he? Which coach was it?”

“I don’t know. They look the same.”

I’m surprised I didn’t run off the road at this point. I had previously met one of the coaches and knew he was black.

“Daryl! You do realize that that’s the most stereotypical racist thing you could say? ‘They all look alike’? I mean seriously.”

“I didn’t say they all look alike. I said these two guys do. They are about the same height and sometimes they wear glasses and they are both bald.”

“I can’t believe you. You see these guys every day and you don’t know who is who.”

Shrug.

(To be fair to him, he joined athletics part way through the year so he missed introductions. I’m guessing he can distinguish these two guys from each other but doesn’t have a good handle on which one is Coach X and which is Coach Y. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.)

Conversation continued on for a few more minutes before his face became lost in the glow of his phone and I stared at the dark road ahead of me and pondered what I could have done with those three hours. What he could have done with those three hours.

Like maybe finish the major science project due the next day that he had thoughtfully tried to complete the day before but couldn’t because he had forgotten to bring home the rubric? The project that he had been given days or weeks before? The project that he would now have to stay up even later to complete?

I also thought about how sorely disappointed I was to not see him take the baton and run. How that three hours and the additional 30+ minutes that I likely would have waited would have been all ok if it meant I’d see him run.

But I didn’t. I waited ignorantly for an ankle I didn’t know was injured, didn’t know wasn’t being treated, didn’t know wasn’t known by the coaches. Because. Teenage boy.

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The Great Lizard Race

The lizard skitters along the road, no cares in the world. Sure, there are people here but they mostly leave him alone. Besides, they can’t catch him. A few of the little ones have tried.

A boy appears along the road. The boy sees the lizard. The boy remembers the conversation over dinner the night before. Specifically, the part about the lizards. His family had commented on how fast the lizards were. I bet I’m faster, he thinks to himself. And then, on the kind of whim that only young boys seem to have, he decides to prove it. He takes off running.

The lizard doesn’t know he’s been challenged to a race. He only knows one of the not-so-little-but-not-full-sized people is running roughly toward him. He picks up speed accordingly.

The boy steps it up a notch. He is faster than the lizard. He knows he is. He runs alongside the lizard, gaining ground. He’s winning! He’s winning! He knew he was faster!

Suddenly, the lizard leaves the boy in his dust. The boy doesn’t know what happened. He was winning. And then he was on his back, dazed and confused. He rolls over and struggles to his knees. He sees a rock nearby. He crawls over to it before attempting to stand.

Once on his feet, he sees a concerned woman nearby. “That was quite a crash. Are you OK?” she asks.

He stares back at her blankly. She asks again. He mumbles his response before heading off to find his mother.

At least, that’s how we think it happened. We have to fill in the blanks because my son Daryl, the great and mighty lizard racer, doesn’t remember anything between winning the race and the second time the woman queried him.

When he walked away from the woman, she assumed he was embarrassed and trying to act tough. He entered the room where his sister and I were working on our stained glass projects. He was sweaty and agitated. I could tell something was wrong but was unsure whether he was in physical or emotional pain.

“Mommy,” he started shakily. He looked back behind him and then turned back. His words came out in a rush. “I was racing a lizard and I ran into that white thing out there and… and… and… my head really hurts! It hurts so bad!!”

He grabbed his forehead and burst into tears.

Jane hurried to get some medicine out of her backpack while I gently moved his hand to check his forehead. There was nothing there. No bump or bruise or abrasion. I found a nasty line of bruising on his right forearm, but nothing even remotely tender on his forehead.

“You said you hit your head?”

“Yes. It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!”

This was not like him and I was confused. I glanced out the window. “What did you hit your head on?”

“That white thing out there.” He motioned vaguely out the window. I didn’t see a white thing that he could have hit his head on. I gently pulled him outside and asked him to show me.

He pointed to a white barrier, about three feet off the ground, that was essentially permanently across the road between the buildings at the camp and conference facility we were staying at.

“Honey,” I said patiently. “There’s no way you could have hit your head on that. Especially not at the same time you hit your arm.”

“Well, maybe I didn’t hit my head then. But it really hurts!”

“Maybe you didn’t? Did you or didn’t you hit your head?”

“I don’t know!”

I was confused and a little concerned. I sent him back to our room to tell his Daddy and then went back into the stained glass room to gather my things for my basketry class that was starting in a few minutes.

When I came out of the room, my husband and son were standing nearby and my husband was trying to get a handle on what happened.

“So you were chasing the lizard and then…?”

“I was racing the lizard.”

“Ok. And then what happened?”

“I don’t know. I think I hit my head.”

We exchanged glances. I ran my fingers through Daryl’s hair. He winced. I checked the back of his head, where I could see that a portion of his scalp was red.

“Did you hit the back of your head?”

“I don’t know.”

“What did you have for lunch today?” my husband asked, after checking the abrasion on the back of our son’s head.

“I don’t know.”

“Daryl,” I said sharply, getting worried but hoping he was just playing it up for some sort of perceived benefit. “This isn’t funny. It’s very serious. Don’t think that it’s better to act like you don’t know what’s going on. You won’t like where this is headed if you can’t answer our questions. So please don’t play it up. What did you have for lunch?”

“I don’t know.” Lunch had been less than two hours earlier. Each ‘I don’t know’ statement was delivered the same. He wasn’t getting irritated or defensive. He was just calmly and a little distractedly answering. This didn’t feel right.

“What did you have for breakfast?” my husband tried.

“I don’t know.”

“What day is it?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Shoot, honey!” I said. “Jane couldn’t tell you what day it is. It’s summertime! Daryl, what did we do yesterday while Daddy was at his meeting?”

“We waited.”

“Yes, we waited at first. But then we went and did something. What did we go do?”

“I don’t know.”

“You and Sissy and Hal and I. We all put on our swimsuits. What did we go do?”

“I don’t know.”

I looked at my husband. We were at least a half hour from the nearest hospital.

“I’ll take him back to the room and keep an eye on him,” he said.

So I went with Jane into our basketry class, where I sat down next to a woman who turned to me and asked, “Is your son OK?”

I glanced up sharply. “Did you see what happened?!”

“No, but I heard it. I thought he was on a skateboard or something – it made so much racket.”

“No, he was just running. Racing a lizard. What happened? Where was he?”

“Well, I don’t know, but I guess he ran into that road barrier. He didn’t get up right away. He crawled over to a rock first.” She would later decide that she was pretty sure he had been on the far side of the barrier, crawling under it to get to the large rock. This led us to believe that he had likely run into the barrier, flipped over it, and landed on his back, hitting the back of his head.

With a pediatrician and two nurses attending the conference with us, not to mention my husband’s own past emergency medical training, we decided that we did not (yet) need to take him to an emergency room. In fact, he seemed to be doing better that afternoon and soon returned to his own sketching class, with Dad in tow to keep an eye out for further symptoms.

For the rest of the week, he’d complain of headaches if he was too active. He felt a little nauseous the first day. We nixed his participation in the high-ropes course on the last full day and grew irritated with him when he reported a new headache after spinning on the tire swing “really, really fast”.

It’s hard to get kids to take brain injuries seriously.

But he rested as much as could be expected and limited his screen time and tried to take it easy. It’s been three weeks since the concussive conclusion of his lizard race. He’s doing much better.

And he’s learned to grin sheepishly when folks ask him if he’s seen any lizards lately.

Why Do They Call Them SLEEP Overs Anyway?

Daryl had his first sleepover party Friday night, with four of his closest friends.  The last sleepover party (being distinguished from just having a friend or two over) was 3 or 4 years ago for Jane.

Let me just say that boys are waaaaaaaayyyyyy different from girls.  The biggest mishap with the girls was when someone dropped their nail polish bottle and some of the polish splattered out all over the we-don’t-care-about-it-30-year-old-linoleum floor in a room marked for remodeling.  And it was easily cleaned up.

The boys…  well… the boys had a lot of energy.  And they were loud.  They opened presents while my husband and I were back in our bedroom trying to get a little quiet time while we ate our pizza.

They went outside before it got dark.  I stepped out to check on them just in time to see a boy throw something that made a clunk as it stuck into a piece of plywood on the ground.  The other two exclaimed in delight and I began to suspect that… surely not…

“What are you guys doing?”

“Oh, just throwing a sharp piece of wood to see if it’ll stick.”

“Are you sure it’s not a sharp piece of metal?”

Yep.  They were throwing a knife.  A long, former kitchen knife whose handle had seen better days that they found… somewhere…  After that, they moved to pushing a large tub of water down the slide to see what would happen.  Eventually, they returned to the house.

Where a boy promptly got himself trapped in the bathroom.  A mechanism in the doorknob had broken.  We tried to disassemble the knob from the hallway but weren’t successful.  My husband then went outside and instructed the boy to open the window.  He then fed tools in to the kid, who followed his instructions to finish disassembling the knob from the inside.  The door still wouldn’t release, until we saw what part was broken and compensated for it.

Freed from the bathroom, he rejoined the others, who were having yet another epic battle in that slated-for-remodel room that suffered a nail polish spill a few years earlier.  There was a rubber Minecraft sword, a rubber Minecraft pick ax, a couple of thin plastic swords, a wooden sword, and a “whip” that was actually the long plastic tube for some toy.  There were also projectiles: a football and my two exercise weight balls.  I quickly reminded them that there was pottery and glassware all over that room and I’d appreciate them not throwing heavy objects at each other.

The office chair that sits at our computer was used as a tank of sorts, with kids using it to glide quickly across the battlefield.  Until it broke.  When someone jumped on it.  We hated that chair but we weren’t necessarily ready to replace it.

During the night, they decided to add ice cubes to the bowl of Hershey almond nuggets.  So much for using the leftover candy for party favors for Hal’s party.  They also spilled stuff – just water, I think – on the rug and scattered candy all over the place.

And made a lot of noise.  I mean, a lot.

We told them at midnight that we were going to bed and they needed to try to keep it down.  I went in and reminded them again at 1:30.  And 2:00.  And 2:20.  And 2:55.  And 3:10.

By 3:30, I was fed up and desperate.  I stomped back into the living room and said, “Look.  I’m sorry.  But it’s time to turn off the TV, turn off the lights, and be quiet.  I mean, quiet.  No sound.  I’m done.  I have another birthday party to run today and I need my sleep!”

Of course, they were dead to the world the next morning.  I was dead to the world for the entire day.  Shoot, maybe the entire weekend.  Somehow, though, I managed to pull off Hal’s party that afternoon with only a few minor mishaps.  Like buying cups when I was serving Caprisuns.  And forgetting candles and a lighter.  And not bringing bowls for the grapes and cheese crackers.  Yet bringing forks even though they were eating cupcakes.

By the end of the day Saturday, I had also managed to confirm that none of the boys from Daryl’s party had accidentally ended up with one of the other boy’s Xbox controller.  And it was definitely not in my living room.  So it looks like the cost of the party will be increased by the cost of replacing the controller.  And the office chair.  And the bathroom doorknob.

Oh, well.  At least he had a good time.  And I truly wish him the best of luck in convincing me to ever do it again.

Underwear Escapades

The other morning, Hal approached me with a grin on his face.  And quite a number of stuffed animals in his Batman underwear.  They were all riding in the front, some poking up out of the top of his waistband while others poked out the leg holes.

I grinned at him, called him a very silly young man, and suggested that he go get ready for school.

My husband stopped by later to ask if I had seen.  Jane had apparently found this behavior odd.  After five years with the boy, I found her surprise itself to be odd.

After all, her two little brothers had recently decided to don every last pair of underwear they own.. at. the. same. time.  The layers of fabric on their bums had become so thick that they could barely walk and sitting was a particular challenge.

Yet they wobbled around the house like absurd, skinny sumo wrestlers, shrieking with the intoxicating joy of youthful abandon and the feeling that they had just unlocked some previously unheard-of silly activity.

Needless to say, they were affronted when, looking through a “Guinness Book of World Records” style book, they came across a grown man wearing a record-breaking number of underwear pairs.  “He stole our idea!” Daryl exclaimed.

Maybe this was what drove Hal to shove so many miniature stuffed animals into his pants.  Or maybe, considering the large Batman logo on the fly, my husband had it right.

“Maybe this is how Batman came up with the idea of his utility belt,” he said to our baffled daughter.  “He had been carrying all his tools around in his underwear, but a grappling hook is never a good thing to come loose in there.”

Etiquette Anxiety

My son is missing a day of school and riding on a charter bus to his state Destination Imagination competition today. He’ll be staying in a hotel room without us. It’s a lot of responsibility to hand a third grade boy. He’s very excited and I’m happy for him, but also just a little bit anxious about his behavior. After all, he’s very excited and that doesn’t usually bode well.

So this morning when I walked by as he ate his cereal and I saw him wipe the milk off his chin with the top edge of his T-shirt, I had a mild parental etiquette explosion.

“Daryl! DO NOT wipe your mouth with your shirt!”

“OK.”

“I mean it! Please, please do not wipe your mouth with your shirt today. Please don’t do anything that will embarrass me.”

“It was just some water.”

“It was not water. You don’t have any water. It was milk and it doesn’t matter. You should always use a napkin. Do not wipe your mouth with your shirt!”

Daddy added in, “That’s with an exclamation point.”

“Yes, with an exclamation point. Two exclamation points. And all caps, bolded, with an underline. And highlighted. I mean it,” I said.

“And a question mark,” Daddy said.

“NO! No question mark! This is not in doubt. DON’T do it!”

My husband walked away laughing and said he was going to send the team coach a text asking her to write down all the times that Daryl did something that embarrassed me. Dads have such a higher tolerance for the foibles of nine year old boys. I guess they’ve been there.

Boys in Tutus

When I arrived at the preschool to pick up Hal this afternoon, a dad in the hallway informed me that Hal was wearing a pink tutu. Perhaps he thought this would faze me. It did not. I have a long history of little boys in frilly dress-up.

When I reached the half-door of the classroom, it looked like there had been a fabric explosion. A little boy, not Hal, was strutting about the room in a long gauzy green dress. Another boy was struggling with a hot pink tutu. Yet another was in a blue number.

A little girl in a pale pink dress and a cow head approached me at the door. She explained that her mom (who was not present) had let her wear her Halloween costume and patted the soft horns on her head.

“Are you a cow princess?” I asked her. She nodded and beamed with delight.

I hadn’t yet found Hal. The teacher was sitting against the wall, looking slightly apprehensive. “We are playing dress-up and they can wear whatever they want. That’s what he chose to wear.”

I followed her gaze and found Hal on the floor in a fairly unremarkable dress, looking worried.

“Hal, you look absolutely stunning but we need to go to church. Can you take it off and get your shoes back on, please?”

He smiled broadly and proceeded to talk to me about all the various dress-up options. I noticed that the only children wearing the boring “boy” dress-up uniforms were… girls. And if all the boys weren’t wearing dresses, I’m pretty sure it’s just because there wasn’t enough to go around.

Hal doesn’t have a lot of experience with dress-up dresses. Daryl, on the other hand, lived in them for quite some time at around the same age. His sister had a chest full of them. He coveted them, hoarded them, tried to sleep in them. He thought dresses were the best thing in the world.

One memorable Sunday before he was potty trained, he quickly dressed himself for church. Unbeknownst to me, he had taken off his diaper and donned a pair of ballet pantyhose instead. When I came to pick him up from the nursery after the service, the lady explaining his accident to me was looking at me very strangely. Since most kids his age couldn’t dress themselves, particularly not in something as difficult as pantyhose, she had assumed I had done it. That was a rather awkward moment.

As Hal and I left the school today, he told me how much fun it was to try on dresses and how much he’d like to have some at home. I agreed that it was fun to dress up. I’m not worried about my son and I am grateful that his school does not enforce strict gender stereotypes when it comes to playtime. Donning a fluffy dress doesn’t make a little boy confused or gay. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s secretly a girl inside. It simply means that, let’s face it, the fluffy dress is a lot more fun than the police uniform. Unless the uniform comes with a gun. Or maybe a sword. Daryl took the best of both worlds when he infamously ran around my brother’s house in a Disney princess dress with a plastic sword shoved down the front. I believe he called himself a “Ninja Princess”.

“Mommy,” Hal said as we approached the car, “I want you to wear some dress-up. I mean real play dress-up, but not little. Big. For you. Not a real dress, a dress-up one. I would like that.”

“Ok, Hal. We’ll have to see about that.”