Traveling with Asians

If you didn’t know me super well, you might think I like to travel. Those of you who know me well already did the spit-take on that idea. Bernie and I are big old crabs on the zodiac and prefer the couch to any castle or cathedral. Air travel is disgusting, and the world is still a bit unprepared for the (gasp) interracial couple. I’m used to being waved away from my family with a chipper offer to extricate me from these Asians: “Ma’am, I’ll take you over here!” But this week, traveling home from a week abroad, a French couple actually inserted themselves between me and my children right there in the security queue.

TSA checks are such an enormous stress bummer. I’ve already written oodles of times how it’s additionally fraught for the cancer-ed as a pseudo-scanner reveals our fake bits to everyone on the other side of it. But no one enjoys being berated for forgetting to take out the laptop or being an idiot with liquids while exposing feet and midriffs to surly uniformed staff and impatient (French) travelers who sigh loudly because you have children or difficult buckles or a watch. I was diligently getting all of my things in order when this over-tall and stylish couple pushed my tray back a few feet and plopped their carry-ons right in front of mine.

“What sort of brazen assholery is this?” I asked with my entire face but, you know, not out loud. TSA was blasé. TSA was probably preoccupied with the single dad ahead whose boys packed every electronic they own to go to Europe. Honest to God, Teddy brought a full size keyboard and a gigantic microphone to Barcelona.

To be fair, I don’t look my children. But it takes only 12 seconds of observation to see that I might be associated with or employed by them. Also, while traveling, Teddy is unrelenting with rhetorical questions and observations that include an introductory so Mom? so Mom? Mom? Mom? followed by a dissertation about European urinals or stage whisper wondering if that guy totally just farted or inexhaustibly explaining why his bracket is winning. You know, the sort of charming chitchat you save for your mère. But even when they are exasperating, I still hug them tight and touch their perfect faces. It should be plain that they are mine mine mine.

In June we’re going to Taiwan and probably Japan and possibly Korea–with the kiddos and my in laws. I need matching travel clothes. In the bottom of drawers all of us have I LOVE TAIWAN t-shirts. (Of course we do.) It might be a bit like wearing the ears to Disney Land, but hey, maybe it’ll keep the French from cutting the line.

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Duh. They’re totally MINE.

 

Boys in Pink Tee Shirts

Before I became a pledge in The Shittiest Sorority, the Pepto Bismol dipped month of October didn’t make much of an impression on me. Plus, pink is the principal color in my closet, so I was happy to buy an umbrella or vacuum cleaner in rosy hues. But for those who have spent a year (or lifetime for metsters) preoccupied with mutilating surgery and poisons, wigs and neuropathies, PTSD and depression, that pink ribbon-emblazoned hosiery egg becomes irritating and dismissive. Control Top for the Cure in nude and suntan!

Pinked-up products are like that girl in high school who does a happy, drunken jig to The Love Cats, but cannot name a single song on any of the B sides. She likes The Cure because The Love Cats is upbeat and silly and ba dum dum dum dum dum BAH da da da da da! The peppy cheerleader doesn’t know The Cure, though. Don’t pretend to understand the tortured genius that is Robert Smith. That’s what we’re like in October. We’re eye-rolling goth girls and YOU DON’T GET IT. We’re barely tolerating your cheery enthusiasm and goofball Facebook status jokes (“no TP, goodbye socks” isn’t saving lives, y’all.) The #FuckCancer slogan, though– that one we can wave a foam finger for.

This month, my favorite gals in the blogging world are posting under a common theme: #BreastCancerRealityCheck. This hashtag is our clubhouse—a place to vent about the realities of breast cancer treatment as our social media feeds fill with well meaning, but miss-the-mark slogans and fundraisers or complete inanity (Save the Ta-tas, No Bra Day). A brief scroll through these tweets will immediately acquaint the un-cancered with the uglier side of the disease, and explain why your friend who you assumed was “cured” gets a bit bitchy in October.

Bernie, who is sometimes nicer than I am, says people should not be criticized for good intentions. I will never Walk for the Cure—I’ve given quite enough, thank you. Plus, cardio, so yuck. But today, both of my kids did that… for me. I think. I’m not sure. Teddy chose crossing the Smoot Bridge over the first performance with his choir. Brodie skipped the second tryout for travel basketball in favor walking all over Boston in the rain. Maybe they just wanted to ditch Church to hatch Pokémon eggs downtown. I’ll never know. But last night, their bedroom looked like this:

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and I gave them the benefit of the doubt. The only other time they have laid out clothes in anticipation of an event, we were going to watch the Red Sox in the World Series.

Thing is, Bernie and I can never underestimate how Breast Cancer has affected our boys. For nearly 5 years, they have been the kids at school whose Mom Had Cancer. It certainly doesn’t define them. But when other moms join The Shittiest Sorority, mine naturally become the go-to pals for information, possibly support. Two years ago, Teddy told me that a school friend’s mom “… has breast cancer, and probably is going to die.” Ooof. I reached out to her not only to offer help and a sympathetic ear, but also to be able to change that narrative for my own kid.

The boys understand that Breast Cancer Awareness is unnecessary—everyone is aware. They know there is no remission, that there is no cure, and also that many moms don’t die (but that some do). Why did they want to do the Breast Cancer Walk today? Not sure. Last night Bernie and I watched Deadpool, and I cannot stop thinking about this quote:

“The worst part about cancer isn’t what it does to you, but what it does to everyone else in your life.”

Some of these Pink Things aren’t really about us, at all. Instead, they give the people who love us an opportunity to do… something. If that something raises even the teensiest bit of money for metastatic disease research, that’s even better. At year five I feel less back-lashy about the Pinking of October, possibly because I know I have my sisters at #BreastCancerRealityCheck who will virtually high five my snarky aggravation with pink urinal cakes, Dill Pickles for the Cure, or silly slogans about boobies that insult the very people who no longer have them. (So, maybe still a bit back-lashy.)

But to all who gathered together in the rain to walk the city in support of people like me: THANK YOU. Thank you for raising money and caring and being silly and wonderful. This is what my boys need to see in the world: a bit of pink-drenched proof of generosity, encouragement, and love. And to my Shitty Sorority Sisters, hang in there. Only 29 more days…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Memories

My iPod is kaput. It’s (supposed to be) waterproof. I need it while swimming laps, so instead of being BORED OUT OF MY MIND, I can just tell myself I am freestyling for seven songs. I could endure any number of unpleasant activities for seven songs. Probably. If three of them were Rhianna. Oh na na… what’s my name. Or if even one was Justin Timberlake. Mirror starin’ back at me… whoa. But today I pushed off from the wall in the lap lane without a single top 40 accompaniment to lessen the obvious torture of exercise. And 30 minutes of nothing but your own thoughts and breathing is an eternity, so I stop a bit short of that. And dammit if Barb and Arnie, my elderly swim noodle bobbing exercise pals don’t notice.

“Cut it a little short today!”

Yeah yeah yeah. I know, cancer-surviving Barb and Arnie, with your plastic visors, million grandchildren, lovely personalities, and sweet inquiries about my boys. BUT I CANNOT SWIM WITHOUT BEYONCE! So it’s only twenty minutes of back and forth and back and forth until I quit the pool to sit on the decking and swap Chinese restaurant recommendations with Barb and Arnie. Octagenarian Jews who snowbird in Florida know every dumpling dive like there is some Old Testament footnote that thou wilst be cashew chicken connoisseurs.

And this is how mornings go here in the summer… and the occasional evening, too. I find myself chatting up the oldest person in the pool, bar, or grocery aisle. The cancer-ed part of me is charmed by longevity and experiences, because I occasionally and morbidly wonder if I might not get to see that later version in the mirror starin’ back at me… whoa. But mostly it’s because we can trade gardening tips and cluck disapprovingly at the maxi dress espadrille moms ignoring their bratty kids who encroach on the lap lane. Cluck cluck.

I do have some lovely summer mommy friends, though. I might have written that I like children about as much as exercise, so it’s rare for me to share a Chardonnay with someone whose spawn I can stomach. Also, I might be a terrible person. But my boys play tennis with a gaggle of tweens that off the courts are like a pile of ever-hungry puppies that remember to say please and thank you. Our house looks like this. Every day.

Ours is the house with the yummy snacks.

Ours is the house with the yummy snacks.

We are in the sweet spot of parenting here and know it. In a few years, these boys will never choose to spend an entire night playing board games and video games and those made up games with the complicated scoring and occasional broken window… certainly not with moms upstairs. They’ll want to troll for cuties at the movie theater. In five years time, they’ll all be driving and dating and sneaky and smelly. The very idea that these kiddos once let us Twist and Shout with them during an impromptu dance party will be a remotely fond memory. We’ll miss them begging for brownies, sleepovers, and just five more minutes after spending untold hours together. But if we have Barb and Arnie luck, we’ll share these memories over our swim noodle bobbing routines in the lap lane.

Happy summer, friends. May all the bikes stop at your door.

Potty Mouth Christmas

Those of you who include me in your Facebook feeds might occasionally wish you didn’t. But if we’re friends (in the world webby ether or of a fleshier variety), you know that the Christmas Market at the Church of the Redeemer has mercifully and finally come to an end. As the Church Service League President this year, it was my job to interrupt your BuzzFeed shares, What Color Is Your Animal Spirit?, and Santa’s lap pics with my Shop for Jesus alerts. Organizing the yearly fundraiser is truly an honor, but in the 11th hour, it feels more like that dream where you’ve forgotten to go to class all semester and here’s the final exam.

Churchy do-gooding is mostly fun; and the entire week was peppered with the Christmassy smells of wreaths and greens, giggles between good friends, and moments when the Holy Spirit is tangibly flowing all over the garland-draped church. But the rather awesome responsibility of raising money loomed… and that made me want to hurl my chicken and mushrooms all over the place.

Terrified that the generous people who had donated houses and family jewels and lavish parties to our live auction would be rewarded with a quiet room of un-bidding church folk, I couldn’t push anything past my pylorus. I recently raved about people who have the Godly gift of inspiring generosity in others, baffled by the criticism of any sort of philanthropy. Though I thrive in the busyness of passion-fueled volunteerism, asking people for money will always be awkward for me. Bernie keeps reminding me that this aspect of charity work isn’t really one of my keener skills. And because it makes me physically ill, he’s probably right.

What my stomach always forgets is that this annual event is a team effort coordinated by really lovely souls and presented to a parish hall brimming with people who want to be part of something great and good. Nearly all of the money we raise is channeled to outreach efforts, and results in real improvements at our sister Church, our food pantries, care for our community’s elders, even our West African brothers and sisters afflicted with deadly Ebola. It’s a night to think about others, and that’s what everyone does, and there’s really no reason to get all pukey.

Floating on that isn’t-everyone-and-everything-just-wonderful feeling that accompanies a weekend of Christian fellowship, I returned my attention to my own home and hearth, sorely neglected during Christmas Market week. The halls were un-decked. The cupboard was bare. The checking account was overdrawn. Sagging pumpkins at the doorstep, half-unpacked clothes from Thanksgiving travels, and not a single photo in any of our cameras or iThings worthy of a holiday card quickly froze all those floaty feelings and grumpy, potty-mouth mommy delivered chastened, weepy children to the bus stop yesterday.

Yelling at the boys to “Fucking smile! We’re going to miss the goddamn bus!” in order to snap the Christmas photo before school doesn’t align terribly well with the spirit of the season. Zealot Sister wisely counseled that I should avoid unimportant activities that sap the joy out of the next two weeks. And after a deep breath and a pot of coffee, the necessity of a perfect picture or pumpkin-free stoops seems… stupid. So does cursing at small children, in spite of the breadth of their early morning assholery.

With a better attitude and entire platter of French toast, I greeted two happy little guys this morning who couldn’t wait to tell me about their ham radio exam. After umpteen classes and hundreds of sample questions, my boys passed the test and have earned operating privileges for vintage communication. Sometimes I wonder if we should install lockers in the home so my kids can practice escaping them. But most times, these boys delight and amuse me and I can go entire weeks without wanting to backhand them (kidding) or demonstrating the correct context for bad words in angry sentences (confessing). Fa la la la la… la la la la.

I’m going to slow down, friends. Drink the entire pot of coffee. Send the blurry Christmas photo… after the New Year. Watch “Love, Actually” over and over and over. Order takeout. Leave gigantic tips for the wait staff wherever I go. Pop the Prosecco and read every holiday letter enclosure. The King is coming whether I pitch the pumpkins or not. And though my home and hearth may not be ready, it’s pretty important that my heart is.

Fa la la la la… la la la la.

The best plot line in the movie...

The best plot line in the movie…

 

 

 

Ten Dollars

I only needed 10 dollars. That’s all– just 10 dollars would spring me from the cold parking garage. Who leaves the house without a purse, or a phone, or even a wadded up bill in a pocket? Me. I do. As I raced out of the house to the earliest appointment at the pediatrician so my kids can have flu MIST–not flu SHOTS because flu SHOTS suck, mom, and I DON’T WANT THE SHOT, did they promise the MIST?– I grabbed only my coffee travel mug. Admittedly, if you’re going to get stranded in a cold parking garage with your children, it’s nice to have a hot beverage.

I realized my mistake as soon as I pulled the ticket out of the machine, so I had the entire length of a flu mist appointment to hit up strangers for a ten-spot. I’m friendly; my kids are polite and cute. Easy peasy. I told the boys not to worry, people being mostly awesome and all. Right away, I planted the seed for charity with the piggybacking mom in the elevator.

“Mine are exhausted, too! Late night with all sorts of junk, right? Why did I think this early appointment was a good idea? Right? I LEFT MY PURSE RIGHT ON THE COUNTER!”

“…”

Whatever, piggy backy mom, I suppose you’ve got your arms literally full if your sort of large child with completely serviceable legs can demand carriage.

Stepping out of the now awkward elevator, it was too much to hope I’d see a mom I knew. Strike two. None of the other parents was chatty, either, but all quietly tortured with un-immunized children too early on a Saturday. Quickly, we were escorted into a room to await squirtable antigens and, with any luck, a tenner from the nurse. Sniff, sniff, thanks, thanks and then,

“Could you do me an enormous favor? I left the house without my purse! Stupid, right? But now I’m trapped in the garage. Is there any way I could borrow ten dollars from you—or the office—and I’ll drive right back to repay you?”

“…”

This ellipse was actually accompanied by slow, backwards walking and confused utterances including, “I don’t know. Um, can you call someone?” and other things that weren’t “I don’t have 10 dollars” or anywhere near, “sure, let me get my bag.”

Whatever, nursy. Maybe your credit cards are maxed and that bill in your wallet is destined for the Starbucks break that will safeguard your sanity during a Saturday spent injecting children. I understand. (I also hope your barista spelled your name all normal, thwarting a hilarious Facebook update.)

Stepping out of the now awkward exam room, Flustered Nurse was still offering inane suggestions that did not include giving me ten dollars. Certainly nurse #2 was sidling up to offer an actual solution to my problem,

“I can’t even call anyone. My phone is in my purse. Stupid, right? I just need ten dollars to get out of the garage.”

“Oh, just go talk to the garage attendant and explain it to him.”

Sure, because reasonable people will have a simple solution to this problem of being trapped in a parking garage. I wondered if it would involve me asking the garage guy for 10 dollars? Probably. I backed away with apologies and assurances that All Would End Well in spite of their eye-averting denial of how easy all of this could be remedied if they would just let me borrow ten dollars.

As luck would have it, Piggy Back Mommy was stooped at the elevator to let her spider monkey child push the down button. Testing the kindness of strangers again, I shamelessly floated my concerns about the garage,

“Well, that was fast! Did you get the mist?”

“Yes. Her nose is all tickly. It took longer to park than to wait for the appointment!”

“I know! But, silly me, somehow I left without my purse and now I might be in there for hours.”

“…”

doors open

“Good luck!”

Thanks. Thanks, Piggy Back Mommy. I think luck is all I need. I mean, 10 dollars will get me outta here, but luck is another fun route to take. Explaining myself to the slightly scary and certainly grumpy man in the glass cubicle should go swimmingly. And good luck to you with that whole daughter-as-sloth thing you’ve got going on.

Grumpy cubicle man wasn’t all that grumpy, just super suspicious of Weird Handout Mommy asking how to get out of the garage without paying. He offered to call my husband for me to get his credit card number. Whew! Really? It’s actually this easy? Yay, a solution! Numbers are written down, I am viewed not as a criminal peddling cash with my small children in tow, and the attendant slips my card into the magic machine that tells the electronic garage powers we’re square.

“You’ve only been here ten minutes.”

“I know. It was a quick appointment. All that fuss for 8 dollars, right?”

“Right. I’m cancelling this. No charge.”

Thank goodness for not-so-grumpy cubicle man. Because when you really want your kids to believe that people are mostly awesome, it’s easier when someone occasionally is. And awesome cubicle man is getting a thank you from Weird Handout Mom… with a 10-dollar Starbucks card. Because what you put out there comes right back atcha.

TEN DOLLARS

Why My Boys Don’t Need to See Me Naked

Did you see this floating around the interspaces?

Rita Templeton and her adorable brood.

Rita Templeton and her adorable brood.

Did you marvel at the loveliness of this honest, conscientious, nice lady who wants her four little boys to be accustomed to a “real” body before they are inundated with perky cantaloupe boobs and thigh gaps? Did you applaud her and share her article and feel a tinge of guilt that you aren’t quite broadminded enough to use your own baby-ravaged body as an edifying tool?

Not me. I recoiled faster than my deflating pocket hose.

The message to her bathroom-barging boys is a good one, but the language saddened me. Look at her in the photo, surrounded by adorably healthy children she clearly adores and enjoys. This woman–this goddess who birthed four times and still has the energy to pen ten paragraphs about raising them to appreciate women kindly–she can only describe her own body with a jumble of smushes and jiggles and marks and sags and flab. By her own admission, she is lying through her teeth to fake a positive body image. And then, even though she is “dismayed” by her post-baby body, she’s putting it on display for some sort of greater good? Blech. I couldn’t read this without fantasizing about a warm, thick terry robe and doors that lock.

Me, I don’t give a shit about ensuring her boys will become sensitive men who shun silicone or tolerate ass dimples. Whatever, little dudes, you’re going to see movies and find dad’s Playboys and meet TriDelts and develop your own ideas of Beauty no matter how many times you’ve seen mommy poo or reposition a leaky breast. What I want is for your mom to know she’s stunning, to feel it in her bones, to own it in her sometimes-too-squeezy jeans. And I want her to know it NOW. No more stretch mark explanations and false bravado. Kids smell phoniness more keenly than sharks in chummy water. A far more challenging task than feigning pride in our muffin tops is to assert an honest confidence… which, for me, would be impossible to attain while allowing an incessant, pinching reminder of my jiggly bits by chubby little fingers.

Gorgeous Mommy has earned her privacy. Beautiful, lively, full-of-love and giver-of-life Mommy also deserves her right to modesty. If that is what she chooses, of course. I marvel at any number of Naked Families who don’t mind open doors and full frontal-ness. But these homey nudists seem comfier than Rita, who eschews personal boundaries to personally champion the ptotic breast and poochy belly so that her sons won’t be duped by Photoshop someday.

My dear friend Nicole has four children, too. They’re girls. When they tumble out of her minivan and skip into my house, they transform it into a bouncier place peppered with songs and stories and hair and accessories and tears and cheers and dancing. All of them are psychically–and often physically– tethered to their goddess mommy whose actual body is still their safe place, their re-charging station, their home. I hope her girls overheard her when she dropped this gem:

“Ugh. Aren’t we just too old to not know we’re awesome?”

At the time she was probably exasperated with the petty grumblings of a perfectly perfect mom who wasn’t feeling up to snuff. Nicole’s children (and her lucky, lucky friends) are privy to this sort of confidence that hails from deeper places and has a much stronger effect than an exposed belly roll flapping over a c-section scar.

For me, there was something sort of demeaning–something that made The Goddess Mommy somehow lesser—in her exposure. Certainly, Rita handles it well, and it’s easy for the reader to imagine the cacophony of cuteness that surrounds her every day. I already like her so much, I want to peel the small boys off of her, send them outside, pour this gal a Prosecco, and remind her she’s awesome. And because she’s awesome, her boys will be, too. And they’ll turn out that way without seeing all of her bits and pieces.

My boys know I’m off limits behind a closed door… and I protected my privacy long before my body was transformed into a different shape plumped with silicone and marred with scars. I still look great naked, and the only one who is granted the privilege of audience is Bernie. The kind of beauty I want my little boys to appreciate right now is that of a girl with great posture in a pretty dress, a young woman who would rather swim than maintain her perfect ponytail, a mom who respects her body enough to protect its exposure (if that is what she honestly would prefer), a lady who knows she’s awesome.

Me and my little guys (photo cred: http://drewkids.com)

Me and my little guys (photo cred: http://drewkids.com)

 

 

 

 

 

Cool Mom

I don’t blog much in the summer… it being all gorgeous outside and whatnot. Also, I have a July birthday to commemorate with unnecessary shopping and enthusiastic drinking which leaves little time to assemble (coherent) thoughts into silly paragraphs. Also, I have Stevie to pick up the slack with his smartypants hilarity and thoughtful musings. But now that we’ve waved good-bye to visiting family and re-claimed the house to the quieter, lazier place we’re accustomed, I’m drawn to the computer to waste your time with ridiculous stories.

This week, shuttling the boys from the pool to a playdate, an unfamiliar 12 year old was assigned to my car during the divving of children. This is the kind of kid you love instantly: his humor is generous, his charm effortless, and his kind attention to your maybe-sort-of-dorky kids a blessing. His parents certainly could take a fair share of the credit for the likability of their kid, but they wouldn’t. Some things are just God-given.

Do any of you share a family affliction for singing in the car that cannot be cured? The Lees know no shame… nor, on occasion, the correct lyrics. Nonetheless, the situation found us subjecting the unfamiliar 12 year old to booties needing no explanations because that’s what we do. We sing in the car. Them’s the rules.

The tweenager beside me was initially surprised, then happy to sing along, and then this:

“You’re like one of those cool, Capri Sun moms, aren’t you?”

Giggles from the backseat, and then upon dismounting the SUV, my oldest dropped his voice an octave and said,

“Thanks for the lift, mom.”

Less kind friends have since forwarded me the juice pouch commercial wherein I am now likened to a dowdy mom in Capri cargo pants one-upping another for having provided chemical-riddled sugar drinks to a busload of children. (Thanks, STEVE.)

But this is one of those moments where I passed muster as a parent, and because it may never happen again, I knew it was worthy of a few paragraphs, or a tweet, or status update, or whatever.

Been around the world, don’t speak the language… but your booty don’t need explainin’!

Sing loud and often, friends… it’s never wrong. xoxo

All I can hear is my mother's voice saying, "would it kill them to wear a stitch of makeup?"

All I can hear is my mother’s voice saying, “would it kill them to wear a stitch of makeup?”

Third Grade

Because I recently wrote about Brodie, my second-born is now desperate to be the topic of a blog post. He won’t let it go, or for that matter, GO TO BED. He insists on reading over my shoulder at this very moment to prove that I am, actually, writing about him.

“OK, mom. I’ll go upstairs now.”

Having read the opening sentences, Teddy is appeased and off he goes… moonwalking to the stairs, then catching a glimpse of himself in the hall mirror, giving quick finger guns to his striped pajammied image. If I stop him now to remind him to brush his teeth, he’ll turn around with a raised eyebrow and say in his best Jackée,

“Gurrl… I was just going.”

Teddy’s never seen Jackée, and we have no idea where this half Asian third grader picked up the mannerisms of a sassy black woman… but that’s Teddy.

Yesterday, I eavesdropped on a gaggle of kids watching mine on the tennis court. They were wondering whether my boys were twins or brothers. Just last summer, Ran’s sweet little girl turned her blond-ringlet head toward me and asked in all earnestness, “Mrs. Lee, how can you tell them apart?” It’s true, these two Bernie clones are Pete and Repeat, nearly Irish twins, and often mistaken for each other. But they couldn’t be more different.

While I’ve been worrying about Brodie and the endlessness of Fourth Grade Torture, Teddy is cruising through Third with nary a care. Teddy is a good sport about his athletic shortcomings, knowing he’s destined for greater things: the fame of a multi-platinum rapper/zoologist. He dances without provocation or embarrassment, suddenly channeling Michael Jackson, but really looking more like a frenetic Bill Cosby. Teddy knows all of the words to a catalog of (inappropriate) songs, and few things are funnier than his sultry rendition of Beyoncé, “…surfboardt… surfboardt… grainin’ grainin’ on that wood.” Bernie and I are forever trading those oh, dear head-shaking looks as this skinny kid in a Star Wars t-shirt croons, “Oh, I’m drankin’.”

Teddy has an unquenchable thirst for explanations, and our appetites were curbed at the dinner table last night as he insisted on details about the spaying of animals and particulars of menstruation. Poor Brodie suffers through these embarrassing discussions, but I think benefits from the fearless inquiries of a little brother who Needs to Know. Fully debriefed on monthly female physiology, Teddy turned to me, aghast,

“Ugh, Mom! This happens to you?”

“Well, no… chemo kind of zapped it all out of me.”

“Oh, phew! Hey, high five!”

And then turning to his 22-year-old cousin, with grave alarm:

“You need to get a boyfriend NOW. And get married and have babies so you can stop bleeding.”

We didn’t take a moment to address all of those ideas, still snort-giggling about the inspired High Five for the awesome convenience of chemical menopause.

When asked in polite conversation, “How are your boys?” I light up with uncontainable joy. These are hilarious, touching, soul-warming days with my still-innocents who smell good and love me most and never lie. Teddy is right to insist I capture them now, particularly him of course, in all his glorious nine-year-old-ness. Teddy who doesn’t stop talking from the moment I pull him from warm covers until droopy eyes won’t let him finish just one more page. Teddy who occasionally swings his butt side to side doing his “supermodel walk.” Teddy whose tearful queries about why parents “get un-married” reveals a fear that rattles his belief in a safe world. Teddy who thinks anything below 94% is “failing” and wants to discuss tampons at the dinner table and wore a lion costume every single day for two years. Teddy who wants me to show everyone this ridiculous picture.

Teddy Tut

Teddy Tut

And this one.

This lion costume. Every. Single. Day.

This lion costume. For two years. Every. Single. Day.

And this one.

Lacking neither cuteness, nor confidence...

Lacking neither cuteness, nor confidence…

 

Personalities captured perfectly by http://drewkids.com

Personalities captured perfectly by http://drewkids.com

Delicious moments sit right alongside the heartbreaking ones. Brodie’s soulful introspection contrasts daily with Teddy’s infectious silliness. I’m astutely aware that I’m swinging in the sweet spot of parenting. It’s hard to imagine I could like and love them more than I do right now at these fun ages. And recording their blossoming personalities and peccadilloes and perfections here may be more valuable than what gets banked in my undependable memory.

 

Giant Cock Blocking

Is a tween-age Google search for “big boobs” any more terrifying than a fourth-grader sneaking peeks at Dad’s toilet-perched Playboys? This is the question I’m asking myself after an entire day spent disabling programs, changing passwords, enforcing restrictions, and downloading parental control apps on our too many devices. Attempting to block all inappropriate material from oozing through the interspaces is more exhausting than explaining the pornography they’re going to find, anyway. You win, naughty, naughty Internet… you win. I only hope that when my boys do, inevitably, browse across the filthy stuff… I will already have forced them into embarrassing discussions about the filthy stuff.

Until yesterday morning, we were parents who trusted our children on the Internet. Our kids ask to download things that are free, make compelling arguments for things that are not, are “caught” watching only super nerdy Minecraft videos on YouTube, and groan with wearied patience when I re-iterate don’t-chat-with-strangers edicts. We’ve had more than one discussion about why you should never SnapChat your butt, no matter how hilarious Teddy thinks this would be. But upon awakening, as we learned we were the unwitting owners of untold Clash of Clan riches, we knew it was going to be a long day re-inventing passcodes with one capital letter, a phonic symbol, three numbers, and whatever Prince used to be called. The boys’ answers to direct questioning– “Did you buy this virtual crap?”– were met with guilty, evasive answers and implications of “gliches” and “hacks” that sounded just like the lies I told my parents to justify a missed curfew.

Buying fake gems from a virtual world to buy an army of ogres and a pen of swine wasn’t the most egregious of Internet missteps. But after we ascertained it was inadvertent in-app clicking by our own children, and not our Amex card lifted by dorky thieves, we realized how poorly protected our web-connected lives have become. I took my 10 year old’s phone—programmed, I thought, to permit only PG content—and failed the Jenna Jamison Test, easily browsing right to eager mouth engulfing giant cock. Panic ensued. Will a quick check for bracket standings or Red Sox scores send him directly to Club Jenna due to my history-erasing incompetence? Will future Google searches aim him toward overblown implants traipsing through improbable scenarios involving repairmen? While I have no strong, political or religious opposition to pornography, I think small minds aren’t quite equipped to deal with circus sex of the Jamison variety. These boys still recoil in horror when animated Disney characters kiss. And we probably have a compelling parental duty spare our innocents eager mouths devouring giant cocks… especially since Teddy prefers to ask his unprompted questions loudly, and in public spaces.

Darling Bernie called midday to find me tethered to our devices attempting to disable all of our browsers and install protections that would probably prevent me from ordering a two-piece bathing suit. He suggested these endeavors might be futile, and quite possibly, a huge waste of time. What are we trying to prevent, exactly? Maybe we’re only trying to protect ourselves from talking to our kids about pornography and its utter distinction from sexuality. True. But I still need to prevent other people’s kids from voyaging through Giant Cock Territory in my home, on my watch. I think the only way to do this is to be home.

My friend April initiated a house rule, requiring surrendering of all electronics to the kitchen counter upon play date arrival. Automatic shutoffs at bedtime and restricted use in bedrooms can also curb sneaky peeks into Naughty Land. Because it is impossible to censor the Internet without driving ourselves bonkers, our best tact is to arrange our devices so that children can only Google search in our most public spaces. And then, when they inevitably wander into Jenna’s world of magnified parts and rhythmic gymnastics, we’ll need the talent and courage to explain that.

Recently, the school’s 5th graders viewed the sex education video. Because my younger boys had heard the whispered giggles on the bus and lame jokes in the cafeteria, our dinnertime discussion was all about sex for a couple of evenings. Exasperated and slightly embarrassed by my enthusiasm for the topic, Teddy complained,

“Why don’t you let us learn anything at school first?”

Well, because no one is learning everything from a 90-minute video, because your classmates are going to get it wrong, because this topic should be largely taught at home, because your parents are physicians, because I want you to be as smart about sex as you are about math, and because it’s my job. And if I can instill a few beautiful truths before they are exposed to the titillating confusion of pornography, then I win naughty, naughty Internet… I win.

PARENTAL CONTROL