Quarantine Report #1

I had some stories I was going to write-up a couple of weeks ago. And then the world imploded and it seemed weird to write about events that happened before everything shut down. But I didn’t have anything to say about life in the Pandemic. So I wrote nothing. Seems time to rectify that, so here we go.

Here is a list of every fun thing my incredibly privileged sons could be doing or learning to do during their shelter-in-place at our house:

  • reading
  • writing
  • playing video games
  • working logic puzzles
  • throwing pottery on a wheel
  • slab or coil building pottery
  • firing a kiln: electric, gas, or wood
  • stained glass
  • glass fusing
  • bottle slumping
  • bottle cutting
  • jewelry making
  • painting
  • quilting
  • sewing
  • machine embroidering
  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • felting
  • Kumohimo braiding
  • 3D printing
  • coding (computer programming)
  • archery
  • basketball
  • four square
  • treadmill
  • stationary bike
  • laying outside in a hammock
  • gardening
  • cooking
  • baking
  • playing with the dog
  • playing the cello
  • playing the keyboard
  • working jigsaw puzzles
  • playing board games (we have hundreds!)

Here is a list of everything they are actually doing:

  • playing Terraria together on the ps-4
  • playing video games on the laptop or Kindle Fire or cellphone
  • watching Netflix

The eleven year old is also, when pressed to get off screens, sometimes building some KiwiCo kits he got in the mail over the last few months. And playing with the dog more than usual and helping bake some. And the sixteen year old is fond of sleeping. But that’s it.

So forget all your free virtual tours of museums and other cool stuff that everyone is sharing online. My kids have more variety available to them than I would wager any other people on the planet, and they. Won’t. Take. It.

I hope someday they look back and see how unique their existence was. And how much they squandered the possibilities. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to that 2000-piece puzzle I’ve been working mostly on my own. Then I’ll make some more progress on the quilt. And the book I’m reading. Oh, and that bottle of wine. 😉

Date Planner

This draft was sitting in my draft folder (with hundreds of others, to be honest). The date was June 1st of last year. I was obviously getting something off my chest and/or trying to just capture the details because all 150+ words were crammed together in one paragraph. I had forgotten all about the details of this particular Saturday morning but boy did it all come rushing back as I read it! That’s not always the case when I look back at drafts; for example, no clue what the one around the same time period that only said “football pract” was going to be about (other than, well, football practice). At any rate, here we go, with better formatting and a little more detail…

 

Teenage boys are.

I mean.

I can’t even.

He tells us that he and his girlfriend want to go on a date. He tells us that several days ago. No problem so far.

Last night, he said she couldn’t do lunch or dinner so it would be breakfast today. But as of midnight, he couldn’t tell us what time or where and seemed wholly unconcerned as to whether his desire for a ride would negatively impact any plans of any of the drivers in the house. He was even put out that I interrupted his PS4 game to ask questions.

His grand plan was to wake up early (after staying up late), even though he knows he sleeps through his alarm, and see what her response was. When I woke him up at 8:45, wondering what his definition of “early” was or exactly how late he though breakfast could start, he checked his phone and saw she had suggested 8:30. Oops. Wonder what she was thinking as she sat there waiting for a reply.

Now the plan is 9:30 and he just got out of the shower. He actually wanted me to drop him off at 9:30, come home, then drive back into town, and pick him up at 10:15. I mean, seriously.

First, this date is only 45 minutes long? You guys like each other that much?

Second, it takes 15 minutes to drive home and another 15 to drive back in. That leaves me 15 minutes to do…what exactly? And it puts me spending an hour on the road to support this 45 minute date. I don’t think so!

I told him I wasn’t going to do that so they made plans to extend the date to a more reasonable duration. I don’t recall now, months later, what they added to the plan or even whether I was both the dropper-off and picker-up or whether my husband took one leg of the obligation.

I just remember being amazed that he 1) was so cavalier about coordinating the event and 2) unconcerned about his impact on whoever had to drive him. He and his girlfriend didn’t contact each other much over the summer and parted ways just before school started back. I think she did the breaking up because she had changed schools and they weren’t likely to see each other much.

He seemed to be ok with that because he really didn’t have time for a girlfriend (his words). He wanted to focus on football and hanging out with his friends and playing video games. Fast forward six months… I’ve heard rumor of a girl he’s interested in but his life has mostly revolved around those things he mentioned back then. Main difference now is that he’s driving. So if he botches a date again, it doesn’t affect me.

Nipple Ring

It had been a long day, as so many of them seem to be. I had happily crawled into bed at the end of it and snuggled into my pillows. Sleep was going well but I can only assume I was too close to a sleep stage transition when my husband suddenly asked, “Hello?”

My back was to him so I rolled just enough to look over my shoulder. I saw him pulling the phone from his face so I glanced at the screen: Daryl. He pulled the phone back to his ear, repeated his question, then looked at the screen again. The call had just ended.

“What’s going on?” I asked. Silly question since he obviously had gotten no answer, but it was two in the morning and I don’t function well at that hour.

“I don’t know. He didn’t say anything.”

“Is he home?”

“I don’t know but I’m going to go check now.”

Daryl had spent the evening watching the NBA All-Star basketball game over at his sister’s place. He wasn’t home by the time we went to bed. I started to wonder if he had fallen asleep there. Or had he been in a wreck on his way home?

My husband returned from his sojourn down the hall and told me that he was home and asleep in his bed. He shrugged it off and went back to sleep. I, as I am prone to do after such events, lay awake for hours waiting for sleep to reclaim me.

My alarm woke me soon after I fell back asleep. I dutifully got up and we went to the gym. The boys didn’t have school that day so we were letting them sleep. As I prepared to leave for work, I paused at Daryl’s door. I don’t know if it was honest curiosity or a desire to pay him back, but I went inside.

“Daryl,” I said, shaking him gently. “I’m going to work, honey. Where’s your phone?”

He had just been groggily stretching until I asked him about the phone. He pushed his torso up off the bed and looked around confused. As he stretched up higher and looked down, I saw it. His phone was face-up under his bare chest.

“That’s it! Daryl! You nipple-dialed your dad in the middle of the night! It woke both of us up! It took me hours to go back to sleep.”

He didn’t respond.

“The least you could do is say Sorrrryyy Mooooomm.” I said the “sorry mom” in an exaggerated put-out-teenager voice. He repeated the words in exactly the same tone. Maybe my version wasn’t so exaggerated after all.

“Thank you,” I said, picking up the phone, now at 11% battery because it had spent the night under his chest instead of on his charger. As I plugged it in for him, I confirmed what time he needed to be at Destination Imagination practice. And then I told his dad to make sure he was awake when the time came.

Because, you see, it’s always mom’s job to take care of the kids. Even if the kids wreck her sleep. You take care of them. And then you take care of yourself by increasing your caffeine intake for the day. And then you cross your fingers and say a little prayer before trying again for a good night’s sleep at the next opportunity.

Tick…Talk…

I don’t know about other teenage boys. So far, I only have the one. But I find the one I have to be a little lacking in the communication department. Trying to carry on a conversation with him is often less fruitful than talking to an infant. At least the infant makes eye contact, coos in a way that seems responsive, and maybe drools on you a bit. This guy, he just looks somewhere past your shoulder or toward the floor and shrugs. Mumbles in a way that could be words or could just be him clearing his throat. Waits quietly for you to release him.

That’s what makes the talkative times so unbelievable and special. I drink them in and try to store them up, in the hopes the maternal high will hold me over until the next time. It’s what makes me willing to talk about literally anything, just to keep the conversation going. I’ll talk NFL, NBA, rap stars, internet personalities, high school drama, Modern Warfare. Literally anything. Or, at least, I’ll ask questions and sit back and bask in the flood of words coming out of his mouth, hoping each question will keep the hole in the breached dam open just a little bit longer.

I had one of those nights recently. I came home from work late. Very late. It was almost 8:00 in the evening. Daryl was in his bedroom, I think. I’m not sure because he was walking toward me just as soon as I entered the house. He was already talking before I had set down all of my belongings. He had a big smile on his face.

“I’m moving up to varsity,” he said.

“This week?” I asked.

“No. For the playoffs. I’ll finish the season on JV this week.”

“Oh. That’s not a surprise, right? I thought the whole starting team was moving up for the playoffs.”

“No.” He was obviously pleased. “Only about 7 of us moved up.” He rattled off some names. I started preparing a salad for my late dinner. I asked questions about the names he didn’t mention. We talked about who moved up and who didn’t and why we thought that was and whether he was likely to actually play.

“They said they might put us in for special teams some. And maybe a play or two. Maybe.”

I sat down next to my husband to eat my salad. I expected our son to wander off but he kept standing at the corner of the table, shifting his weight and flipping his hair back, and talking. Talking, talking, talking.

It was, simply put, glorious.

By the next night, we were back to our regularly scheduled programming. He didn’t look up from the PS4 when I walked in the door. He didn’t say hello. I wondered if he even noticed I was home. When I spoke to him, he’d quickly mute his microphone so his friends wouldn’t hear me, then he’d nod or give a one-syllable reply before resuming the online conversation about the game.

I was busy working on a project later in the evening when my husband walked up and said, “Did Daryl tell you about getting pulled over today?”

“By a cop?!” I asked, shocked. How, exactly, does a newly-minted sixteen year old fail to mention that?

“Yes,” my husband smiled. When I asked if he freaked out, he responded, “Thelma said he did.”

“Wait, Thelma?” Apparently a friend happened to be driving by and saw it. She said he looked really worried. It was during the school day. He was returning to the high school from a class at the middle school and had two other students with him. It was a legitimate trip for legitimate reasons, but having more than one passenger is technically against state law. I would have expected him to be terrified!

He didn’t get a ticket – just a warning for his brake lights not working. But still. I would have expected getting pulled over to rank up there with making varsity on newsworthy events. But then, I’m not a teenage boy.

I got his attention later that evening. He muted his mic. I asked him to come talk to me when he finished that round. “You aren’t in trouble,” I reassured the lad who was not the least bit concerned about what I wanted. The mic was already released; his attention had never left the screen.

A few minutes later he came into the bedroom, where I was propped up against pillows, writing this blog post. He paused at the corner of the bed, glanced at me, and rubbed his right arm with his left hand while he waited for me to speak.

“Is there anything you forgot to tell me about today?”

I got a brief confused glance and a mumbled “I don’t think so.”

“Nothing out of the ordinary happened in your day?” There was a brief pause.

“Oh, do you mean the brake light?” he asked.

“You getting pulled over. Yes. That’s what I’m talking about.”

He shrugged. “I wasn’t worried about it. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong.”

“That’s not what the bystander said.”

“What?”

“Someone saw it. They said you looked freaked out.”

“I wasn’t. I told Brian and Aaron that it was probably a taillight or something.”

“You were away from school during school hours with more than one passenger and you weren’t worried at all?”

“No.” Shrug. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Ok.”

Silence.

“Just for the record, this is the kind of thing I expect to hear about.”

A single nod.

“Anything else happen today that I should know about?”

A single head shake.

“Bomb threat? Lock-down? Teacher had a heart attack and you had to use the defibrillator on them?”

Slight smile, amused huff, more pronounced head shake followed by a “no.”

And that was it. He was back to his game and I was back to my blog. Wondering what makes him tick and when the cat would release his tongue again. And could I hold over until then. Ticktock… Ticktock… Tick… Talk…

Selective Idiocy

The serial nature of the teenage mind never ceases to amaze me.

Sunday morning, as we prepped for church, I found my son sitting on his bed wearing shorts but no shirt or shoes and watching videos on his phone.

“Why don’t you put a shirt on?” I asked.

“It’s in the dryer.”

“Okay, well we need to leave in 15 minutes or daddy will be late to choir.”

“Okay.”

Fast forward 15 minutes.

“Come on! We need to go!” I called out.

“My shirt is still in the dryer. It has another minute on it.”

“It’ll be fine. It’s close enough. Go ahead and put it on. Let’s go.”

“But I still need to put my shoes on and brush my teeth.”

“And why didn’t you do that while you were waiting on your shirt?”

*Shrug*   (Seriously, no words. Just a shrug.)

It’s like his brain went: Must get dressed. Underwear on. Shorts on. Shirt wrinkled. Put in dryer. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….

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Like it absolutely couldn’t proceed to any other step until the shirt was on. Even though they aren’t sequential steps. There’s absolutely no tooth-brushing dependency on wearing a shirt.

Encore performance – later that afternoon. He came into the house claiming to be done mowing and weed-eating. I dragged him back outside to point out all the places that I knew had not been touched. (He’s yet to get all the grass cut in a given outing. Or in two or three redo’s for that matter.)

Among other things, I pointed out the basketball goal.

“I weed-eated that,” he said.

“Where?” I asked, staring at the taller-than-the-other-grass-around it blades surrounding all four sides of the goal’s base.

“There,” he said, vaguely pointing in a circular motion around the base.

Exasperated, I retrieved the weed-eater and in my shorts and sandals, demonstrated a proper, albeit slightly unsafe, weed-eating job. “That’s how it is supposed to look,” I said.

He just stood there with the mad-at-the-world-you-are-so-incredibly-mean-and-unfair teenager look he has perfected in recent months.

Since the weed-eater ran out of gas as I finished, I told him to get it filled up while I moved the cars off the grass so he could mow. After an attempt to open the tricky gas cap failed, he moved to sit on a bench and wait it out.

“Go get your dad to help you fill it back up with gas,” I said.

As I finished moving the first vehicle, I saw him sitting on the bench.

“Where’s your dad?”

“I’m going to mow first.”

“Seriously, Daryl! Don’t just sit there. You can still get him to help you fill up the weed-eater while you wait for me to move the cars. Otherwise, it will all take longer because you’ll have to go get him after you mow instead of doing it now while you are waiting anyway.”

He went back in the house in a huff.

I think I’ll call this condition Selective Idiocy. When a capable person knows they must complete an undesirable task yet deliberately engages in steps to draw it out as long as possible, as if they are too dense to put together the most efficient way to complete the task. Add that to the general teenage conditions of moodiness and disconnect from the world around him, and you have the perfect recipe for Parental Frustration Overload.

Hello? It’s me. You know, your mom?

This is what I typically see when I look at my conversation history with my 13 year old son. Sometimes it feels really lonely. Like I’m talking to myself. I know he has a phone because his nose is in it much of the time we are together. So what happens to it while we are apart? Strange, I tell ya. Maybe I should ask him about it…

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Daryl, (Never) On His Own

Daryl recently attended a summer camp out of state with a friend. His dad told him to be sure to send us a picture every day.

By the end of the first day, there was no picture. No surprise.

“Where is today’s picture?” I asked in a text. “How was it?”

He responded the next day with this:

That was it. No text, no nothing. What a punk. I said as much in the conversation that ensued.

(My husband responded first. I was calling my son a punk, not my spouse.)

That was Day 2 and the entirety of the conversation. Notice he left me hanging.

Day 3 brought more silence and no picture. I gave up. You honestly shouldn’t expect much out of a thirteen year old boy.

And then, nearly 48 hours after I asked my questions, he responded, “Yeah, it was cold and sometimes scary.”

Then… then… he sent a picture! Unprompted! And it wasn’t of his feet in socks he’d probably been wearing for several days. It was an honest-to-goodness quality picture of a creek surrounded by trees from a hike he had gone on.

He topped it off by carrying on a conversation with his dad about the hike and what he had purchased as gifts for his siblings. When his dad told him he loved him, Daryl responded, “I love you too.” And that’s when I knew.

The boy was ready to come home.

He’s typically an aloof child and not very expressive of his emotions. But one of the best things about him going on a trip like this is the quality of hug I get when he returns.

He actually hugs back instead of waiting patiently for me to finish and he’ll stay in the hug as long as I want. For minutes even. I sometimes wonder if he’s just being tolerant of his mother. My husband is pretty sure that he does it because he needs the hugs too. Which makes me all sorts of warm and happy inside.