Hairy Spiders

My ten year old son shaved his arms yesterday.  For those of you that were around two years ago, this event might remind you of the last time he worried over his hairy arms.  If you weren’t, you might check out that story.  It sets the stage well for this one.

Despite his third grade concern about turning into a “hairy beast”, I was still taken aback yesterday.  He approached me and said, “Hey, mom.  Feel this.”  I rubbed the proffered arm and blinked in shock at the perfect smoothness awaiting me.  He smiled proudly.

“Did you shave your arms?!”  I asked.

“Yep!”

“You really shouldn’t have done that.  Come here,” I said, leading him to our bedroom where Jane and my husband were.

“Daryl shaved his arms,” I said.  His Daddy, never one for any sort of societal conventions or expectations, smiled.  I glared at him.

“Wait,” Jane said, “Did you use my razor?”

“No.  There were three razors in there.  I used the blue one.”

“That one was mine!  You used my razor?!”

“Why did you shave your arms?” I asked.

“Because I looked like a spider!”

“No, you didn’t.  You looked like a normal human.”

“No!  I looked like a hairy spider.”

“People have hair on their arms, Daryl.  Look.  See my arm?” I asked, showing him my arm.

“You people are missing the most important problem here!” Jane interjected. “He. Used. My. Razor!”

“Daryl,” I said.  “You don’t want to shave your arms.  Unless you are wanting to join the swim team, that is.  You have to keep doing it.  It’s a pain.  And the hair will grow back darker.  Please don’t do it again.”

“Is anyone listening?  He used my razor!”

“But it feels so good!  Feel it!”

“Yeah, ok,” I said.  “But you wanna know what it’s going to feel like tomorrow?”

“What?”

I took his hand and walked over to my husband.  I rubbed my son’s hand on his father’s stubbly shaved-the-day-before face.  “Like that.”

“What?!  Why?”

“Because hair grows back, honey.  That’s what hair does.  Jane, keep your razor in your room if you don’t want him using it.”

“Great,” she said.  “Now I’ll never shave again.  Because I won’t think about shaving until I’m already in the shower but then my razor will be in my bedroom.”

The conversation meandered on to Jane’s inconsistent shaving habits.  It was humorous and we all enjoyed the joking around, but I can’t remember the details now.  I guess I was in too much shock to take in much beyond the fact that my son approaching puberty decided his arms were too hairy and took action on it.

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What If They Just Stand Around?

One of the girls on Daryl’s Destination Imagination team is having a birthday party this weekend and he is invited. This is a semi-rare event since, as fifth graders, they’ve been conducting mostly single-gender birthday parties for at least a couple of years now.

Despite the rarity of the opportunity, attendance seemed like a no-brainer to us. Her mom is simply amazing and throws great parties, the girl is smart and fun, and Daryl loves hanging out with her slightly younger brother. And the planned activities are right up his alley. This is just proof that we, as parents, have no brains though because he wasn’t sure he wanted to go.

He finally reluctantly told his Dad that he would go. His Dad said, “Good, I think you’ll have a lot of fun.”

“But what if there are only girls there?”

“I don’t think that’s going to be the case.”

“But what if it’s all girls?!”

“I’d be very surprised if her brother wasn’t there. Besides, they are going to be playing Dodge Ball and Capture the Flag. You love that.”

“But what if they just stand around? Girls do that. They just stand around.”

“I really don’t think anyone would pick games for their birthday party that they don’t enjoy playing. It’ll be fine. Seriously. It’s Dodge Ball and Capture the Flag.”

The things our kids get hung up on. I’ll refrain from making any comments about gender roles, conformity, or how our society shapes us in stupid ways. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. But, seriously? It’s Dodge. Ball. And Capture. The. Flag. Get out there and play, kid!

Those Boys Would Hurt You

A lifetime ago, my husband and I played roller hockey.  It started with a handful of people playing pick-up in a converted tennis court in a city park.  It grew into a league of four teams that played two seasons a year, and eventually even involved us playing a season or two for the local university.

I wasn’t good and I certainly make no claim to have been, but it was fun and good exercise.  Very early on, I learned the value of a face mask (I was one of the few who were already wearing a helmet) when I collided with a co-worker who wore thick glasses to protect his eyes.  Those thick glasses were briefly smashed between our faces before I hit the ground hard.

As the only woman on the court, I felt the urgent need to get up quickly so as not to look weak and unable to take a collision.  I quickly rolled onto my knees and opened my eyes as I prepared to push myself to standing.  That’s when I noticed the blood gushing from my face and thought uh-oh.  I stayed put with my head down so the blood poured straight to the court instead of down my clothes.

Someone eventually gave me a dirty T-shirt to press against my forehead and then people helped me strip off my skates after guiding me to a bench to sit down.  Then my husband, very carefully avoiding the I told you so that had to be in his head (we had argued about the need for face masks just that afternoon), drove the co-worker and me to the emergency room.

He got 8 stitches.  I got 11 – straight through my right eyebrow.  Since he arrived to work before me the next morning, the crowd eagerly awaited my arrival.  Ah, yes… those were the days.

Pregnancy and hockey do not mix well, so my career, such as it was, ended a couple of years later with the Fall 1999 season.  The summer of 2000, about 6 or 7 months pregnant with Jane, I briefly donned skates and wobbled unsteadily around the rink, taking a shot – and scoring – on one of my fellow goalies.  That was my last time to wear skates and hold a stick.  Motherhood took over from there.

Until last night.

One of the men from those days was looking for a way to get himself back in shape.  And looking for a way for his son to play hockey without having to travel to a major town.  He’s starting up a league and holding pick-up games in the mean time.

He’s been encouraging my husband to join him and he finally did last week.  I went too because Hal wanted to see what it was all about.  That set a series of events into motion where we dug out our gear, found some cheap gear for the boys at a thrift shop, and took them skating a couple of times before they headed off to summer camp and grandparents’ houses.  Jane declined to participate.

Last night, with all the children gone, I joined my husband at the rink once again, this time dragging my dilapidated and broken bag behind me.  When I told the ticket man that we were paying for two people, he looked shocked.  “You are going to go out there and hit?!” he asked.

“I’m going to give it a go,” I responded, not bothering to mention that checking is usually avoided in recreational play.  At forty years old and after a fifteen year break, I wondered a bit if I was crazy.

I had a blast.

A serious blast.

I felt so alive skating back and forth, even if a bit unsteady.  It was a thrill to hold the stick and control the ball or puck (we had both out there).  There were three young boys too and we worked with them on their skills.  I was exhausted and exhilarated.

At one point, as I sat on the bench, panting for breath, a very young, small girl walked up.  She indicated to her mother that she wanted to go out on the rink.  Her mother told her no.  One of the men pointed out that I was skating.

“Yes,” her mother said, “She’s already told me that there is a girl out there.  But she can’t play – she’s a girly girl through and through.  The first time she fell down, she’d cry.”

“The first time those boys fall down, they cry too,” I commented.  And it was true.  Tears had been shed by at least one boy already.  I wondered briefly if girly girls are girly girls because they are or because their mothers insist they are.  Because that’s what they want.  This girl certainly appeared interested in joining the game.

The girl, of course, was not dressed appropriately for playing hockey.  In my mind, she wasn’t dressed appropriately at all, wearing just sandals, short shorts, and a sports bra-like top.  But she was obviously interested in what was going on on the rink.

I died a little bit inside when she reiterated her desire to go out there and her mother murmured, “No, honey.  Those boys would hurt you.”

The woman, I knew, wouldn’t have said that if the girl had been a boy.  The girl’s seven year old brother, after all, was out there right then.  All the boys were heavily padded and flopping down constantly.  None could stay on their feet for long nor move particularly fast.  No one was going to be hurting anyone.

But this girl was already learning her proper place in the world – on the sidelines unless it involved dance or cheer.  A hockey rink is no place for a lady.  With a sigh of regret, I slapped my helmet back on my head and returned to the action.

I should have said something.  I shouldn’t have worried about meddling with this woman’s child-rearing and her narrow view of the world.  I should have turned to the little girl and said, “Yes, you might get hurt.  But it’s not the boys that will hurt you.  It just happens when you do something worth doing.  You have to get up and keep going.  You can do it if you want to.”

Sharing the Burden

I consider myself to be a modern and progressive woman, fully capable of accomplishing most anything. I have a college degree and work in a male-dominated technical field. I am the primary bread winner while my husband is the stay-at-home parent.

I’ve always had the attitude that I can do anything a man can do. In fact, as a kid, I used to try (repeatedly) to pee standing in front of the toilet. As a teenager, when a boy offered his hand as I climbed down off a rock, instead of viewing that as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a cute guy, I glared at him and haughtily announced that I could get down by myself.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that when I married my high school sweetheart, I married a very capable man. And since I’ve been married to him for my entire adult life, I have become accustomed to him always taking care of certain things.

Driving is one of them. If he’s in the car, he’s usually driving. He’s better, safer, and likes it more. As he’s getting older, he seems to want me to share the burden but I’ve come to enjoy my chauffeured status and tend to resist at every opportunity.

Driving with a trailer or a serious load in the truck bed is a no-brainer. I flat-out refuse to pull the trailer. I find the entire experience too nerve-wracking. And besides, he’s impressively good. He’s had a commercial driver’s license before. He can back a school bus into a narrow parking space with buses on either side. I’m doing good to attempt the same with the Prius.

Tying stuff down in the back of a pick-up truck is another one. He remembers all the right knots and how to tie them. He’s also stronger and thus able to ratchet stuff down better. I’ve become so accustomed to his competency in this matter, that I’ve become complacent, simply standing near the truck and handing him whatever he asks for or holding whatever he tells me to hold.

This had disastrous results earlier this year when we loaded our propane grill into the back of the truck to take to church for a cook-out. He made no move to tie it down. I had a niggling thought in the back of my mind that I should perhaps suggest doing so but then dismissed it. He knows what he’s doing. Less than two miles down the road, I found myself helping him chase down pieces of our former grill after it did a spectacular back flip over the tailgate.

And so we come to today. We had had a very busy weekend, pieces of which will likely be blogged about soon. Since we would be in southern Oklahoma on Saturday, we decided to take the opportunity to run up to the Oklahoma City area with the truck. My mom recently moved into a new house and her old refrigerator (which we love) wouldn’t fit in the new kitchen. She had offered to sell it to us and also give us the grill the previous owners had left behind.

There was just one problem. My husband woke up Sunday morning with vertigo. He then took some Sudafed on an empty stomach and that caused him to throw up. Mom, her boyfriend, my husband’s dad, and I all worked together to get the truck loaded. He spent the day in bed and when it was finally time to leave, it was obvious that he wouldn’t be driving.

I climbed behind the wheel and nervously pulled out of the driveway. My shoulders were tense and I checked the mirrors constantly. I was going to need a good table massage if I stayed this tense for the entire trip.

The first stop occurred before I made it to the highway. The tie-down strap across the fridge had a long loose end blowing around. I hopped out and tied it to itself, feeling a tiny bit pleased with myself.

The second stop occurred a few miles down the highway when I noticed that the grill cover looked like it was fraying. Sure enough, it was ripped to shreds. My husband couldn’t stand so I asked Jane to help me.

First, I retrieved a tarp and covered the grill. Then I grabbed another tie-down and wrapped it as tight as I could around the grill, pushing my feet against the tires to get it tighter. Finally, I found some bungee cords and used them to secure the tarp corners by the grommets. It wasn’t a great job, but it felt adequate.

The third stop occurred very quickly after the second. I had moved the little gas can in the back and forgotten to secure it back down. I pulled over as soon as I saw it fly out the back. My husband seemed flustered about the fact that I was stopping again.

“How badly do you want the gas can?” I asked. “I’ll have to walk back and get it.”

He said he wanted it but we got crosswise with each other. He was sick and weak. I was tense and flustered. Some F-bombs were dropped. Yes, in front of the kids. I trotted back about a hundred yards to the can, moving through tall, itchy grass. By the time I got back, my legs were itching almost as much as my poison-ivy covered arms that had been scratched during the emergency tie-down of the grill tarp (busy weekend, remember?).

My husband took the opportunity to crawl weakly from the truck to check the tie-downs. He expressed a wish for another tie-down to put around the fridge. I pointed to the one around the grill and said that I had used the last one.

“That’s not a tie-down,” he said. “That’s a tow strap.”

“Oh. Well, that would certainly explain why it was so stiff and difficult to work with!”

The fourth stop came after I worried over the loose corner of the tarp flapping on my side. The last bungee cord was put to good use then. I also removed the airport baggage claim tag from the suitcase that kept masquerading as a floppy strap-like thing I should worry about.

The fifth stop was because I noticed that the fridge had slid away from the back of the cab. A folded cardboard box had been used to protect it from rubbing against the truck but it was now flopping around. We investigated but decided it would be ok. At least for now.

By the sixth time I pulled over, he was asking “what now?!” The strap over the fridge had just come loose and I watched the heavy metal ratcheting device plummet over the side of the truck.

“I’m afraid I’m going to need your help on this one,” I said. I never have been able to master those devices.

After that stop, I actually began to relax. We stopped once more, this time for food and a potty break. My husband was starting to feel better. He didn’t get dizzy when he turned his head. He offered to drive the last hour.

I said that surely I was a better choice than someone who might still get dizzy and finished the trip, even though I really, really wanted to sit in the passenger seat and play Candy Crush. Hopefully this trip earned me some credit. Surely he’ll drive all the way to Denver next month without expecting me to spend any time behind the wheel. Right?

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