Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Ben and I gave him lots of lovin', took him for extra walks and reminded him he was a good boy. But he spent a lot of time in his bed, only raising his head to look at me forlornly every time I came downstairs, as if asking, "what did I do wrong? How can I get him back?"
It's strange how you don't really consider the dynamic of a family until it experiences a distinct shift. Kids, of course, are the first to feel the difference. Ben didn't seem to know how to behave without Jacob in the house. Who is he when not considered in relation to his brother, the guy who's been there just like Mom and Dad ever since the day Ben was born? I couldn't figure out if he was more outgoing than usual, or if I was just more tuned-in to him. But he definitely seemed to be feeling his way, clinging a little more and acting a little differently.
Ironically, Flash seemed to be feeling the same effects in Bailey's absence. Without 'big brother' by his side, he was hesitant to walk far from me when we went out, and was particularly happy to be petted indefinitely, getting closer and closer as I scratched his ears. He'd likely have crawled into my lap if I'd let him.
More than love, I think the little guys were feeling an indefinable loss of themselves with the big guys gone. As much as they squabble, jump claim on each others' toys and beds, they look to their elders for guidance in their behavior. Sometimes it's annoying when they're around, because they're around ALL THE TIME. But when they're suddenly NOT around, things just aren't right. There is comfort in knowing they always come back, so when they don't, there's doesn't seem to be proper closure to the day.
Happily, the entire pack was reunited by Friday night, along with the addition of my writers' group. To say it was crowded and chaotic is an understatement; to describe the noise level would be difficult. Everyone stayed up far too late. But one thing is certain: everyone was happy to have everyone home, to get back to our regularly scheduled, messy life.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Fast forward, er, a bunch of years. As soon as I had kids of my own, I sought out the library in our town for books, story time, sing-a-longs and every other bit of magic libraries offer. To this day, my kids love the library, for various reasons, including the after school clubs. My middle-schooler has been part of an Anime/Gaming club this year, and it's a great way for him to socialize with friends who have already moved up to the high school. Once a year, the library holds a lock-in: an overnight event open only to members of the club. This year, Jacob got to participate.
With Jacob's permission I offered to chaperon if necessary, and the staff took me up on it. I'm not sure who was more excited: me or Jacob. This past Friday, we showed up as the library was closing, sleeping bags, pillows and toothbrushes in hand, for our first ever library sleepover.
First off, it should be noted that, in this particular instance, the very definitions of 'library' and 'sleepover' go right out the window. This is because:
1) I am fairly confident the library walls have never contained the volumes it did that night (I'm talking audio, not literary or crowds). There were 15 of us: two adults, four teenage boys and nine teenage girls. If my calculations are correct, 9TeenG + 4TeenB (pizza + Doritos + Pepsi) = energy + volume levels200. When glow sticks are factored in, the exponent doubles.
2) Very little sleeping occurred. Apparently, teenage brains closely resemble those of bats in that they are most active at night and in the wee morning hours. As a result, things didn't really get rolling until about 10pm (note: this is my usual bedtime).
Despite appearances, teenagers are really just little kids in adult bodies. Even though I expected everyone to play video games, watch movies and text all night, none of that happened.
When the energy got high, there was a library-wide scavenger hunt, a multi-round game of hide-and-seek and a 100+ glow stick fight. And when it slowed down, there were lanyards and friendship bracelets, cookies and books, card games and nail polish, music and lots of conversation. One student even pulled out his favorite kiddie books from the Children's Room: Goodnight Moon, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and a stack of others. He read them all, out loud, and had an attentive audience.
I was able to stay awake until about 2:15, then dozed for another hour until it was finally 'lights out'. With the girls in one section of the library, the boys in another and the librarian and me in the middle, I slept like a cat, rousing whenever I heard the slightest sound. By 6:15am, kids were headed back and forth to the bathrooms, and it was time for breakfast.
Despite having too much junk food and not enough sleep, it was a great night, even for me. I got some reading done, some writing, and learned a few things from each kid I spoke with. Jacob loved it too. He had hours of play time with his closest friends, with no little brother or bedtime to interrupt the fun. Mom was there but somehow managed to not embarrass him. And best of all, a girl he's liked for a while asked him out, and everyone applauded.
(PS: he said 'yes'.)
On the way home, I asked Jacob if he would do it again next year. Through his yawns, he said his only complaint is that he has to wait a whole year. Would I do it again? Yes, especially if the kids are as terrific as the ones from this year. Next time, I may even get in on the glow stick fight.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
I was not one of those people.
When I hear the word "band", I think of horns and clarinets and off-key productions in the school auditorium. No, Jacob explained, a rock band. He saw a flyer in school, he went to the audition and passed the test. I was looking at the new lead singer for Black Magma.
Oh, ha ha, OK, great! Sounds like fun, I encouraged. The next day, he asked if he could host band practice at our house on Saturday. As far as I knew, they were still looking for a drummer, so I said he could. Five teenage boys and no drummer. How bad could it be?
Further investigation revealed that practice would include a keyboardist, a bass player, two guitar players, multiple amps and microphones and lots and lots of volume. We quickly deduced we did not have the space, relegated them to the outside deck and prayed for good weather.
Saturday came. We rounded up power strips and extension cords, warned the neighbors and locked up the dogs. Four vans full of gear arrived and emptied out. My husband was the roadie. Snacks and drinks were distributed. Plugs were plugged in. Instruments were tuned up. Lyrics were printed out. Our neighbors had guests over, and just as practice was beginning, we noticed them all filing out onto their deck. Had they forgotten our warning? Apparently not, because although it was chilly, they remained outside and the music began.
I went inside to try to do some work. I figured since the boys were outside on the lower deck and I was inside on the upper level, I might just get some writing done. Clearly, this was my first band practice. I got nothing done. But I did enjoy watching them from the window, listening to them laugh as they talked and worked together. When I heard them belt out songs by KISS and Iron Maiden in their sweet, on-the-verge-of-changing voices, and saw their smiles and pink cheeks in the cool air, I had to resist the urge to tell them how cute they all were. (I double-checked with my mom on this one: 'cute' is a definite no-no word when talking to rock bands.) But when they finished rehearsal and the neighbors all stood up and applauded, my heart swelled more than it would have if they had been at Madison Square Garden.
Yes, the dogs were out of their minds. Yes, it took 1/4 of the practice to set up and break down all the equipment and they only practiced three songs. But they had a great time, are planning their next rehearsal, and the whole experience made me realize my little boy isn't a little boy anymore. As I stood around chatting with the other moms about it, this sad realization was tempered when a few of the band members, after packing up, made their parents stay a few minutes longer so they could go play on the swing set in the corner of the yard.