Good Morning

Did I mention that all three kids were gone last week?  I have a post planned about how I think we will handle the empty nest based on our time last week, but for now I want to talk about my relationship with Hal.

Hal went to visit grandparents while his older siblings were at summer camp.  They left a week ago Sunday; he left Monday.  They returned Saturday; he returned Sunday.  We met my mom halfway to retrieve him.  I saw them exit the restaurant we were meeting at so I hopped out.

He saw me and raced toward me.  I scooped him up and gave (and received) a big hug.  Before I had a chance to ask how he was doing, he had spotted something behind me and was squirming to get down.

That something was his Daddy.

My reunion with my son was done.  There was Daddy, after all.

You might think I’m bitter, but really, I’m not.  He’s a Daddy’s boy and I understand why.  I mean, they spend all day nearly every day home with Daddy over the summer.  Daddy takes them to school.  I go to work.

Hal is remarkably devoted to seeing me off properly when I do leave for work.  Take Monday morning after his return, for instance.  I entered his room and gently rubbed his back to wake him up before I left.  I rubbed and rubbed and then gave him a kiss on the cheek.  He didn’t really stir until I said, “Hal, I’m heading to work now.”

He hurried to an upright position and wrapped my neck in a tight hug.  “I love you, Mommy.  Have a good day at work.”

As I prepared to walk out the front door a few minutes later, he called out, “Wait, Mommy!  I want more hugs and kisses!”

He could have stayed in bed – that’s what the other two would have done.  But instead, he ran down the hall to repeat the farewells.  And then he opened the door as I walked down the sidewalk and repeated all his well wishes, adding that he would lock the door behind me (a request I make frequently when leaving).  He opened the door again to ask me what it is I do at work.

I could almost see the little wheels in his head turning as it dawned on him that he really had no clue what I do at work.  Pausing to consider how to explain to someone so young, I finally said, “I write programs that run on computers.”

“Oh, ok.  Have a good day, Mommy.  I love you!”

We had to do double and triple good night hugs that night because I was leaving for the airport early the next morning.  I would not be going into his room to say goodbye.  This didn’t sit very well with him.

My first day of travel was such that it was well into the evening before I had a chance to call home.  While talking to my husband, I could hear Hal in the background yelling something about Good Morning.  “Why are you saying Good Morning?” my husband asked.

Eventually, Hal got on the phone and he told me Good Morning and suddenly, I understood.  This was his first opportunity to speak to me that day.  And it is very, very important to him that he tells his Mommy Good Morning.  It’s the first thing said to each other every day.  It’s why I never sneak out unless it’s unquestionably too early to wake him.  It’s part of how I know just how much he loves me.

Good Morning, Hal.  Mommy misses you very much.

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Taking Your Licks

Jane recently made some cupcakes from scratch. She didn’t use a box mix, she used extra vanilla, and she poked holes in the top to add hot blackberry Jell-O.

They were tasty.

Very tasty.

As such, they disappeared quickly. She made more but those disappeared quickly as well. In fact, one recent night, there were only a few left and the kids were fighting over them.

From the other room, I could hear Hal objecting because someone had eaten his cupcake.

I heard my husband tell him that he could have “this one” when he finished his dinner. “It’s ok,” he tried to assure him. “There’s enough for everyone. You can have this one.”

I then heard Daryl apologizing for eating Hal’s cupcake. “I didn’t know you wanted that particular one.”

All three people in the room attempted to comfort Hal, calm him down, convince him that the available cupcake would be sufficient and equally tasty.

Through the sobbing, I heard Hal’s desperately sad little voice:

“But I wanted the one that I had licked!”

I guess he hadn’t figured out that licking something to claim ownership only works if people actually see you do it.

Let’s Fix The Dog

Hal had a goody bag from his field trip that he was eager to show off when I arrived to pick him up from the preschool.

“Look, Mommy!” he cried, “We went to the place where you take dogs to get fixed!”

I raised my eyebrows at that. Interesting choice of focus, I thought. While spaying and neutering are important and certainly common at a veterinary clinic, it seemed a rather odd topic for a preschool field trip.

He stuck his right foot out in front of him, wiggled it, and then pointed to it. “Next time Rose hurts her foot, we need to take her there.”

Ahhh…. That kind of “fixing”. Okaaayy…

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.”

What Hal Thinks of Mommy

Only one more post about Mother’s Day, I promise.

This was going to be my first post concerning Mother’s Day, possibly even published on The Day.  I itched to tell the story all weekend but never got around to it.  And then I needed to vent about my stressed-out crummy day.  And then I felt the need to illustrate that I’m not a total crab and can actually notice and appreciate the good stuff around me.  Which then left this one to get written and published last.  Oh, well.

Last Friday was a special day for moms (or some other special someone) to come to the Preschool and have cookies and tea or lemonade with their child.  I took off work early and came by.  Hal was waiting.

As soon as I arrived, he led me to the refreshment table and announced that he wanted tea…mixed with lemonade.  Smiling at the fact that I was serving him instead of what probably was supposed to be vice versa, I mixed his cup and poured me a cup of lemonade.  We each grabbed a cookie and headed to his table.

I sat down and he began to pull items one at a time from the bag.

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I had a nice pen with a scented flower attached to the top.  A portrait of the most beautiful preschooler in the room surrounded by a bright multi-colored pasta decorated heart.  A bookmark.  And a dozen different pictures made out of thumbprints, handprints, and footprints.  Several of them with various versions of the “I grow up fast and these are to remind you of when I was small” poem.  I couldn’t help but think to myself that the teachers really should have maybe not had the kids make quite so many similar art projects.  Then again, Hal was plainly proud of each one.

My favorite, by far – it always is – was the page where he answered questions about me.

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We’ll ignore the fact that I would have had to give birth to his sister at the tender young age of 8, that I can’t remember when I last had a picnic, much less felt relaxed at one, that he’s never actually seen me play hockey (although I did back before Jane was born), that he drew me as a very rudimentary stick figure when he can draw a mean pirate ship complete with cannons and Jolly Rogers on the sails if he’s interested.

We’ll ignore all that and remember that I am special because I like him.  Yes, yes I do.

Preschool Coming of Age

We received an invitation to a birthday party for a girl in Hal’s class. I wanted to know how he felt about the girl before giving him the opportunity to decide whether to go to the party. Call me a party pooper, but I wasn’t interested in attending a party for a kid that he didn’t particularly like just so he could get a goody bag and jump in a bounce house.

“Hal,” I asked, “are you friends with Kennedy?”

He looked up at me with a slight shrug.

“Is she one of your friends?”

He gazed carefully at my face before saying, “Mommy. I’m hungry. I really don’t want to talk about this right now.”

Fair enough. If only his older siblings could communicate that clearly. For that matter, if only he could consistently.

He has recently been expressing his displeasure with attending preschool. I suspect it’s one part restlessness, one part boredom, and one part irritation that he isn’t allowed to play on his Nintendo DS on school nights. For awhile, he’d get upset when I would respond in the affirmative to his question: “Do we have school tomorrow?”

So I was rather surprised one day when he responded, “Yes! We have school tomorrow!”

“You are excited that you have school tomorrow?” I asked.

“Yes, Mommy. You see, the more you have of something, the closer you are to being done with it. So I’m happy about going to school because that’s just one day closer to being out of school.”

The night that the boys had to sit through both a worship service and a symphony performance, Hal had swiped three coffee stir sticks from the church kitchen. Later, at the symphony, I saw my husband snatch them away from him before thrusting them into my hands.

Apparently Hal had just told him, “Daddy, I pushed this one all the way up in the top of my nose and it really hurt.”

A few days later, my husband was horsing around with Jane at the dinner table. He grabbed a spear of asparagus and acted like he was going to shove it up her nose.

Speaking with an almost professorial lecturing tone, Hal informed his sister, “Sissy, you don’t want to stick anything up your nose. I tried that once and it really hurt. So don’t do it.”

That same night, he told Daryl authoritatively that the brown spots on the extremely ripe strawberries were the best parts. It didn’t faze him that everyone was dubious at the news.

It’s fun watching your children grow up. And also sometimes sad. But I love moments like these where he steps up and claims his place as an equal of worth in the family rather than the little baby that everyone smiles at, does stuff for, and pats on the head.

Tell Me How It’s Fair

Chivalry is dead. Actually it’s not, but I kind of wish it were. Don’t get me wrong – I think being kind to someone is a good thing. And I think helping someone out who is weaker than you or who needs help is a wonderful thing. I just don’t like the assumption that in any pairing, the woman is the default one who needs things done for her.

I’ve had this discussion with many people and they always argue that the man is just being a gentleman. He’s trying to be nice. And I’m sure the particular man in question is. But I feel like the cultural underpinning, the long forgotten motivations behind it are actually harmful to women on the whole. And I wish people would spend more time thinking about it.

I don’t mind someone holding the door open for me if they get there first and I’m close behind. What I don’t like is someone rushing past me to get the door, actually impeding my progress, just so they can hold it open for me, as if I am incapable.

I don’t mind someone helping carry something heavy either. But when I’m already competently carrying it and a bent over man thirty years my senior shuffles over to try to take it from me, I’m baffled. What crazy societal rules dictate that he should struggle to carry something for a young, strong woman?

I also don’t mind someone opening a car door for me. As long as I’m not sitting captive in the car while I wait for him to run around the car and open it for me. Unless I happen to be wearing something that would make it difficult for me to get out without assistance, that is. But who are we kidding? I’m never dressed like that.

On a recent school day, as Hal and I exited the preschool and approached our car, another mom was opening the back door of her SUV so her two kids could climb in. There was a little boy and a slightly older little girl. I’m guessing he was four and she was perhaps six.

I’m not sure who was initially closer to the door. I wasn’t paying that much attention until the woman grabbed the boy by the arm and yanked him out of the car that he was already halfway into.

She hissed angrily at him, “You don’t get in the car first! She’s a girl! You let her go first. I don’t want to have to tell you this again!”

I was befuddled. And more than a little heartbroken for the poor little boy. The problem, according to her remarks, was not that he had shoved his way past his sister, which would universally be considered rude, but that he should have known to always let her go first.

Why?

Seriously. WHY?

Ladies first? Why should his sister get to get in the car first simply because she lacks a penis? Huh?

I mean, there are logical, sensible ways to determine who gets in the car first. Whoever was standing by the door would be a good criteria. Or, since they were both piling in from the same side, whoever was expected to sit on the far side would make sense. Or, even, the youngest gets in first because the older is more capable of being patient or remaining safe while outside the car. But simply because one was a girl?

How is that fair for the boy?

Women have fought to gain equal rights for so long. Equal rights isn’t just about gaining what the men get. It’s about being equal. That means we don’t get to be placed on a pedestal and pampered simply because we are women. The whole reason women have been treated like that over the years is because we are viewed as the weaker sex. People that need to be cared for and protected.

I’m not a fool. I know that women are, on average, physically weaker than men… on average. With the added tool of rape, I recognize that women have more vulnerabilities than men. I know all that.

But we can open a door. We can carry stuff. We can wait our turn to get in a car.

That poor little boy is being taught a cultural standard that really doesn’t make any sense. Which is probably why he’s having such a hard time remembering it. If I were him, I’d be thinking, how come she always gets to get in the car first? And quite frankly, the only way it’s fair is if he gets some sort of special thing that she doesn’t.

Which, in the archaic society in which so many of these gentlemanly acts came from, he does. He gets to be in charge when he grows up. He gets educated. He gets to make the rules. He gets to basically own the woman.

But wait. He doesn’t get to do all that anymore. She can be in charge. She can make the rules. She can outpace his education. So any way you slice it, one of these kids is getting robbed. Either she’s being held back because she’s the weaker one who needs to be allowed into the car first but from whom little is expected. Or she’s fully equal to him and he still has to wait for her to get in.

How’s that fair to either of them?