It’s a fascinating thing about boys: five seconds after you tuck in their angelic little faces, you close the door, get half a step away from their room, and utter bedlam breaks loose.
Almost every night, same thing. No talking, I tell them. No goofing off, I tell them. And absolutely, under no circumstances, no wrestling, I tell them.
Smiling nods. Suppressed giggles. I am prepared. I shut the door…wait…and kaBOOM. Someone has set off Roman candles while simultaneously doing the high dive off the bunkbed.
Okay, maybe not exactly that. But it sounds close.
So we’ve had enough. Not tired, boys?
We’ve had them swat mosquitoes, pull weeds, do push ups, scrub lawn chairs, clean out the rain gutters, anything we can think of at the moment to help them decide that being in bed is a good idea.
Moms also need to keep boys’ little minds and hands busy. It’s in their best interest to do so. My father once said about our energetic toddler, “If you let that kid get bored, you deserve what he’s going to do to you.” Shirley’s stepfather, who has a South Dakota accent, once said after baby-sitting our kids for a week, “Oh, der good kids. You just gotta keep ’em out in da open.”
– James Dobson, Bringing Up Boys
Tonight I was proactive. I had two of the boys run ten laps around the house right from the get-go. Problem was, I didn’t expect one of them to take a drink out of the hose somewhere around lap seven, and then decide that his brother also needed a drink…while he was running…and not expecting the full force of thirty-degree water to hit him in the face as he rounded the corner.
My grandma raised five boys, and she let all of them live to tell about it. There’s a story about one of the boys – I won’t mention who, but (cough) he’s the one most closely related to me – he was sitting on top of a cardboard box with his pocketknife, just stabbing the box, over and over…and the only reason (he says) he got in trouble for it was because…his little brother was inside the box.
It’s a miracle that I’m here to tell you about this, really.
Yesterday one of the boys hid Iree’s much-loved locket in the tiny crevice between the floor of our garage and the pavement of the driveway, wedging it in just perfectly so that it fell (!) beyond reach and vision. Thirty minutes later, after chipping concrete and poking around with a flashlight and a hacksaw blade, Vince and Mattie emerged victorious, and fifteen hours later the perpetrator was still working off the consequences for it, carefully filling in the crevice with dirt and doing a few other chores just for good measure.
This afternoon, he put soap on Reagan’s toothbrush. Ha ha.
This gave me occasion to observe that when men are employed they are best contented; for on the days they worked they were good natured and cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done a good day’s work, they spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their pork, the bread, etc., and in continual ill humor, which put me in mind of a sea-captain whose rule it was to keep his men constantly at work; and when his mate once told him that they had done everything, and there was nothing further to employ them about, “Oh,” says he, “make them scour the anchor.”
– The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
So tonight, this particular little man is on the back deck. After expressing that he really wanted to run laps after bedtime, he learned that not everyone gets the consequence he is hoping for…and he is out there with a commission to get ten mosquitoes and a yogurt lid to display them on as evidence.
Minutes of whining, sulking defiance, and halfhearted mosquito-swatting pass. He has thrown the yogurt lid out onto the lawn and declared he won’t do it. It starts to drizzle, because God loves me.
“Mom!! Iss raining!”
“I know!! You should probably start obeying soon and get those mosquitoes!” Smile.
Furrowed eyebrows, and I can see he is considering it.
I check on him a few minutes later. He’s got four of them on the lid, and he catches my eye.
“Dere’s no ‘oskeetoes!” he protests. I can see them hovering around the back of his head. One of them lands and he swats. Examines his hands, all ten fingers, and scrapes the remains of his prey onto the lid. Shrugs and pouts, letting the lid tilt carelessly as he scans the horizon for sympathy, for release, for another mosquito – he suddenly realizes what he is doing and rights the lid quickly, but too late – he’s back down to four mosquitoes.
He looks through the window, but can’t see me – Sophie’s sitting on the counter in front of me and I’m ducking behind her in muffled hysterics.
He inspects the floor of the deck. Sadly, not only is the mosquito that fell off of the lid not there, but no other dead insects have chosen to lie in repose in that exact spot for his sole benefit, either.
Attachment issues come into play, and he tells me that he is done as often as he can make eye contact, with six, then eight, then nine, then eight again, and finally twelve (you heard me mention attachment, yes?) dead or dying mosquitoes. Eventually he is sent to bed without much further drama, and I didn’t have to drag him (or drug him) to get there. Win.
Tomorrow, Vince will be home at bedtime. It will be our almost-sacred date night and we’ll have no sympathy for disturbers of the peace. If they pull another stunt, we will take orders from friends who need help lawn mowing, weed-whacking, dandelion-pulling, driveway sweeping, garden watering, leaf-raking, window-washing, or any other anchor-scouring you can think of. You can even play the Imperial Death March for them while they work; I’ve heard they like it.
But maybe you shouldn’t ask them to water your garden. One of them might get thirsty…and decide to use the hose…on someone else.