Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Giving rides in the dressing room. Alternate title: Doesn't that elderly couple look relaxed? Sigh

I rarely take the kids clothes shopping. I'd rather order 50 different sizes of 150 different pieces of clothing online and pay $50,000 in shipping costs to exchange it than drag a three year old and six year old to the mall to try on clothes or footwear.

(To the overly enthusiastic mothers who were on Shark Tank recently to pitch an app that measures your kids' shoe size then links you to different online shoe stores, your idea is genius.)

I ran into a snag this week, though. My 75 year old father is getting remarried this weekend and I guess you could say I've been struggling to digest it (a new step-mom and step-brother? At the age of 40?). Because of my gestational difficulties, I realized yesterday morning that I'd waited until just four days before the wedding to figure out what the hell the kids are going to wear.

For whatever reason, I woke up feeling ballsy. I'm no rookie, I thought. I have almost seven years of practice at motherhood. I can do this.

"I'm taking the kids to the mall to try on dress clothes," I announced to the cat (Chuck had already left for work). She meowed and licked my hand; the kids, on the other hand, moaned. "Listen!" I said. "If you're good, you may each pick out a toy for under $10 at the end of the trip. But ONLY IF YOU'RE GOOD. ARE WE CLEAR?"

(Part of my parenting mantra is that I clearly define expectations and outcomes at the beginning of each outing. See? The boardroom does prepare you for parenthood.)

Off we went to the Mulletville Mall. I won't go into all the grueling details of the try-dress-clothes-on-a-thon except to say that at one point, somewhere around hour two, I glanced over at myself in the dressing room mirror and saw this: myself, on my hands and knees, dripping with sweat, yanking down Junior's pants while he picked his nose, and Everett, sitting on my calves with his fingers laced around my short's buckle loops, yelling "Giddy-up."

Truthfully, this did constitute "good" behavior. Junior was nicely lifting his legs out of his pants, like I'd asked, and when I told Everett he couldn't ride me, he politely climbed down.

Their congeniality fueled my brazenness. Even though we hadn't eaten or had anything to drink in hours—and even though Everett had only napped 15 minutes in the car—I announced that they were going to try on shoes.

"We're in the homestretch!" I said cheerfully.

Two pairs of loafers later, we were.

And that's it. They each picked out a toy and we left. I don't ever want to do it again (the image of myself on all fours, getting ridden while Junior dug for gold, is one I don't want to revisit any time soon) but it's good to test your kids' tolerance for misery. It's good to get down into the trenches with them, to park them on the floor, rip off their shoes and tell them to try on three more pairs. THREE MORE. NOW!

I jest. Mostly.

Now what the eff am I going to wear??

Monday, June 9, 2014

Raising "that guy"

There goes Junior. Running up the bus line.

He begged me to drop him off at school again. The 40 minute bus ride makes him bus sick unless he eats a bland breakfast (his words), but lately that isn’t even helping. It’s nerves, I know. The end of school. The possibilities of summer. The uncertainty of second grade.

I relent. Yes, I tell him, I will drop you off. He and Everett settle onto the couch, to eat a banana and English muffin (appropriate items on Junior’s bland food list) while they watch Curious George.

“Everett, it’s a new episode!” he says with the same overdone enthusiasm a parent might use as he or she exclaims over the slide or a small feat at the playground and I can see Junior already as he might be someday with his own children. At almost seven he has mastered the nuances of relating to a small child, of slowing down to help his brother navigate the world. He ties his brother’s shoe laces. He explains his bad dreams. He lets his brother use his Legos (“Just don’t take the character’s hat off again, ok? Ok, Everett? Because then it gets loose and falls off and I’ll lose it. Ok, Everett? Just don’t take if off again.”).

He won’t even take a sticker from the doctor’s office unless he can have one for his brother too. ("My brother might be disappointed if he can't have a sticker too," he'll tell the receptionist.)

It’s really rather endearing.

But there’s exasperation too. Of course there is. I see it as we get ready to leave, after Curious George is over. Everett doesn’t want Junior to leave and Junior is suddenly ready for his day to begin.

“I’ll be home soon, Everett,” he tells him. “I’m six and I have to go to school. Ok?”

“I need a kiss!”

“In the car, Everett, we still have to drive to school.”

We drive. Junior reminds me to sign him up for camp (“You’ll have to go to a different camp, Everett. One for toddlers. Ok?”) He tells me he’s not really that "juiced" for the class field trip. Then there we are at the beginning of the drive-thru bus line.

“You can take off your seat belt, honey,” I tell him.

“The car’s moving a little, Mom.”

“Junior, you’re next. I can stop here. It’s ok.”

“I want a kiss!” Everett shrieks.

“Just a minute, Everett! I’m unbuckling!”

He leans over to give Everett a kiss, then climbs out of the car. I can see the right leg of his shorts is wet. His water bottle, which hangs on the side pocket of his backpack, twisted free of its cap and is leaking. As he runs up the lawn to school the water splashes on his shorts. He stops and looks at me, confused. He’s so overly in tune with the details he misses the obvious. He starts to run again and stops. He can’t figure out why he’s getting wet—he’s that in his brain.

I roll down the window. “Your water bottle is missing its cap!”

He slaps his forehead and gives me a thumbs-up sign.

I realize, with affection, that he's probably going to be that guy. The not-so-smooth one who trips on his sneaker as the girl drives off. The one in chemistry class who doesn't realize his science partner wants a kiss because he's too intent on his beaker.

But that's fine. I knew plenty of those guys. They were great guys.

His schoolmates have now bottlenecked around him by the front door. The teacher waves him in but he can’t go in yet. He needs to explain what happened. To her. To the kindergartners. To the first and second graders. To anyone who’ll listen, really. His head is full of words running a million miles a minute and God bless his tongue, so far it has kept up.

“I really love my brother,” Everett says as we pull away from the school.

“I know,” I say. “Me too."


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