My husband’s coaching schedule means that our family time is very random, and weekends together like this one are rare. It was really great morning. The kids woke up at 8-the holy grail of wake-up calls, isn’t it? Well, as a parent anyhow. Michael, my five year old, runs in our room and whispers loudly with the speed of the Micro-Machine Man, “Mom, how about you paint my face like a snake again? We should do it now before I get dressed, because I’ll wear my polyester shirts and I want to– oh, wait, I’ll get dressed first so it doesn’t smear, cuz sometimes it does and I don’t want to get on any face paint on my good polyester. It’s good to always get ready for the day because we have a lot to do and the first thing is always getting –oh, wait I have to go potty. the first thing should always be going potty.” whew. This monologue was done before I even got the second eyelid open.
And yes, he is concerned about polyester. Excuse me, his good polyester. Because my child loves his polyester. It’s my fault. I over explained why I didn’t want my super sweatbox to wear his beloved hand-me-down jersey on a 90 degree day 3 years ago and he held onto that little nugget of info for dear life. Like a priest at the pulpit he will extol the virtues of the leisure suit fabric, convincing you that coats are unnecessary in a world where polyester exists. In fact, today he wore two. For extra awesomeness.
I let my husband sleep in because naps are how we show love. I fed the boys, painted faces and put together a toy semi-truck with a detachable trailer-a constantly detachable trailer. 48 tears/fix/play/break/tears cycles later, I had shown enough love and I told our two year old to wake Daddy to tell him he was in charge of the truck. After we hid the truck, we all took off for a walk to Target and took a little bike path with plenty of spots to throw sticks in to a creek. We raced just long enough for my husband and I to realize we need to work out more. A lot more. The boys were thrilled with the fresh air, fresh dirt, and the occasional duck. Don’t worry, they didn’t harm the ducks. (If you have young kids, you know that they can easily confuse target practice with a little friendly conversation when it comes to small woodland creatures.) They ran for giant sticks over and over again, coming back to the little bridge to watch the tiny current pull them away. It was my perfect kind of day. Nowhere to be, figuring it out as we go, watching the kids be kids. Simple as that. Life is good. So, so good.
As much as polyester, Michael loves a good garage sale. Our long walks around our old city neighborhood really laid the ground work for our favorite mother/son sport. We’ve been gearing up for the season and when he saw the sign we knew we had to stop on the way home. So we split from the other guys and took a quick run. Lots of tools. Michael is sure he needs those concrete tools. “Those would be great for our inventions or when we have to move stuff around. You just put it on there and it gives it support.” I’ve got to give him credit for the sell. He even offers to negotiate the price since he doesn’t want me to spend too much money. ha! My stifled laughter turns into disgust when I spot the worst possible thing to spot at a garage sale with your kids…..the ginormous bins of stuffed animals!!!!! AHHHHHH! Note to the universe, PLEASE stop putting out your vintage, deformed, drooled on carnival prizes out for sale by the dozens. And telling me how much your child loved them only makes me want them less. I know the most loved animals also spent the most time on your bathroom floor, under your kitchen table, and under your child’s butt as he slept. I’m the farthest thing from a germaphobe. I grab public door handles with reckless abandon. But you best take shelter if you tell my boy that the cholera-laden Scooby-Doo is “on the house.”
Luckily, this seller took my warning glance seriously and we progressed to the costumes. Anything easily washable is fair game. When we originally went up to the house, I heard a young man’s voice forcefully muttering something. As we stepped on the lawn, I could make out the f-word. Six more were blurted out in as many seconds. Only his feet and his shoulders were clumsily racing toward adulthood, the rest of him was very much a boy. He spoke to us, at us, came and went as Michael contemplated between the firefighter and the power ranger.
I consciously didn’t shield Michael. I didn’t create conversation to drown out the profanity. Obviously, I’d rather he didn’t hear it, but I didn’t want him to think something was “wrong”. I assume the boy has Tourette’s Syndrome, and not that I know much about it, but I know he can’t control it.
His parents were there and another younger brother, maybe 11 years old. The younger boy was casually lurking as if he had a stake in the sales but was too shy to actually play salesman. He perked up when we crouched by the costume box. The older boy came back, asking the younger, “f-love, f-power rangers, f-what you want to buy with your f-money?” The younger boy pretended he wasn’t there. His cheeks turned blotchy red. I could tell it was for my sake. He didn’t want to be a part of swearing in front of a little kid. I smiled at them both agreeing that the Power Rangers were, indeed, awesome. Big fat juicy lie, but I was desperate to send them a lifeline. The older boy grabbed a fake knife with blood on it and happily shouted that it was fake sprinkled with the same kind of language and interruption. Frankly, he was talking so fast, Michael missed the fun words. As we waited to pay, the older boy kept prodding the younger one for attention, occasionally poking him with the rubber knife. My heart ached for the younger one. He looked as if he was praying for the lawn to swallow him up right then and there. And when he realized he didn’t have enough change and that meant we had to stay a few moments longer, I could almost hear the f-bomb that went off in his own head. He slowly lowered his eyelids and shook his head the slightest bit as the older one kept talking and swearing. The parents acknowledged the boy, but not the language. There was a lot of love in what they were not saying; in the apologies they were not making. His mom told him kindly, but firmly to stop it once while we were waiting, but again, I felt like it was for Michael’s sake. I put my arm on Michael’s head, hoping the words, “I’ll explain in a few minutes, but please, oh please, don’t say anything just yet” would somehow pass from my brain down my arm and into his head. I didn’t want us to add to their pile. I hoped our smiles and light conversation spoke enough.
I started the conversation as soon as I could as Michael hopped back on his bike. I chose my words carefully, avoiding words like “wrong” or “normal”. I told him that boy’s brain made him say words that may not make sense to us. It’s just how his works. It’s not a choice. I wanted my definition to do all the right things, but who knows? Five years old is funny age. They are starting to see glimpses of life’s injustices. He seemed to get that this was probably hard for this kid. He felt a little bad, but didn’t know exactly why.
As we made our way home, my heart went out to them. That boy is so much more than those unfortunately-timed outbursts. I’m sure he has adorable quirks like Michael’s deep love of polyester. There is a voice beyond those swear words. Part of my version of a perfect morning was the joy in seeing strangers interact with my kids about their painted faces. The boys love it, smile proudly and meow/hiss/bark at them. Strangers smile back. Done. Simple. There are no double takes, no furrowed brows, no blushing cheeks when my children meet people. What a gift that simple thing is! And I’m sure that boy is a gift to many. I just have to say, that must be hard. And to anyone that has something like this on your plate, you have my admiration.
There are dozens of everyday things that are simple for one person but downright complicated for another. How do you teach your kids to recognize and respect those moments? I hope I did right by that family and by Michael, but I honestly have no idea.
As for the brothers, I hope they made gobs of money on their sale and get to go treat themselves to whatever has replaced Power Rangers on their wish list. I know a new toy won’t help in any real way, but we all deserve a treat now and then, don’t we?
Thanks for reading!