We are a family rife with loud voices, discontent, arguing and lots of moments where I am telling someone (most often the hubby), “That’s inappropriate!” I’d like to think, too, that we are a fun family, but when it all comes down to it the kids rarely have fun that isn’t overbore by Dad or myself.
Case in point – pretty much every single time the boys decide to placate me and put aside their differences and play together inside the house, one of the disembodied parental voices yells, “Knock it off!” or “No wrestling in the house. How many times do I have to tell you?” or “Take it outside.” Or “what are you doing? Pull your pants up!”
It doesn’t make much sense, I know. We tell them to get along and then the second they are, we’re telling them to stop the noise. Sometimes, I swear that the sound that ruffles me the most is the sound of their laughter. Why does it make me so annoyed/vexed/exhausted?
These poor kids can’t catch a break. I’m always thwarting their fun, whether it’s halting the jumping from one couch to the other, pulling out a kid hiding in the dryer or snatching a ten pound steel (steel? Aluminum? Iron?) sword from swordsmen fighting in the basement with Dad’s annoyingly ritzy display swords. Even during playtime, I’m constantly admonishing them for rough play or potty talk. I am annoying my own self with my harpy-ness, so I’ve been sneakily letting my kids get away with stuff. Liam’s been staying up late every night listening to music on his iPod. Connor has studied for his weekly spelling test only once a week for nearly a month (and has probably skipped a worksheet or three). I watched four-year-old Jack hanging out by the fence and discussing life, poop and all things boy with our neighbor kids. I saw him pretend to pull his pants down and pee on a tree, all the while grinning while the other boys hooted and howled with laughter. Should I have stepped in? Maybe, but then what? What would I have said? “Don’t pretend to pee?” I was thrilled that he kept his pants up and only pretended. Should I be suppressing that behavior and potty talk? I can understand putting a limit on it, a la not in public, but your own backyard is fine; but I really can’t see putting the kibosh on it altogether. It’s unreasonable for me, as a mom of three boys, to expect potty-less behavior out of them. Heck, even I indulge in a little bathroom humor every once in a while, especially when cooing to the baby I babysit for (“There! Your witto butt-ski is all clean!” “Lets do the poopy dance! Poo-pee, poo-pee, poo-pee!”). Yeah, I don’t think that’s beneath me, so why would I attempt to hold them up to standards that even I don’t reach (even with platforms)?
The other night, Liam’s 11th birthday, our family threw caution to the wind and indulged a little in some sweets and some swearing. After Liam blew out his candles on his delicious-looking blueberry cheesecake, we all sat around stuffing our faces and pondering how quickly another year flew by. Out of the blue, Connor solicited a free pass to say a swear word. “No,” I said through my third bite of cake. I didn’t even have to think about it.
And then I astonished my hubby and myself. “Okay, sure. You guys each get five seconds to say any swear word you want.” I paused for a second and considered imparting a ban on a word or two, but then thought, ‘balls to the walls, let’s do this right.’
Squeals of delight, and perhaps a gasp of disbelief, made me smile. I was going to take a step back and let these boys be boys, even if it meant quite possibly doing the wrong thing and being a less-than-stellar role model.
Connor immediately piped up with three words and when he paused to think, I may have done back handsprings in my mind when I realized he used the three most overused and overlooked swears there are (a$$, $h*t and d@m&). Life could be worse. If Connor used these, and he exhibited self-control, then there is no way any more are going to be said. I know my boys, and –
“A$$! $h*t! D@m&!” Peals of laughter encircled the table. Holy buns! Did my baby just say that? Of course he did. He’s the parrot of the group, always looking to Connor for comic relief and material to be used at a later date.
“Go ahead, Liam,” I sighed, smiling. “Your time is almost up.”
“Mom! I can’t say a swear! I’d be too embarrassed.” His face was already pinking as he grinned crazily through his purple mustache of blueberry sauce.
“Really. It’s okay. Your brothers did and they aren’t in trouble.”
“No! I, I can’t. I’m . . . too . . . embarrassed.”
“Okay then.” I turned to Dad and began to talk about some mundane aspect of my day.
Liam cleared his throat. He coughed. “I mean, it’s not every day a kid can say a bad word like fu^&!”
According to my husband, the sound I made at hearing the holy grail of swear words come out of my innocent birthday boy’s mouth was a little like a foghorn mixed with a squeal . . . and lasted for an entire count of six.
Liam’s face was deep red. He was smiling, but scared. Yes, it was a scared smile. “Mom, you said-”
“I know what I said! I just didn’t think you’d drop the f-bomb like that in front of your brothers! In front of dad! In front of meeeee!” Now my face was red. I shook my head and stared at him in horror/humor. Where did this kid come from? Is this puberty? A new kid every week? My sweet boy resurfaced a few times later that night. Every time he would see me, he’d say, “I’m just so ashamed of myself!” Looks like I may be raising that one right.
So, I tried my hand at stepping back and letting the kids have a little free fun and it wasn’t too bad. Do I think I’ll do less of it? Maybe. The kids won’t be swearing anytime soon, and pulling down pants and showing off peepees is a definite no-no still, but letting them play chicken on their bikes in the middle of the road sans helmets and spray each other with the Weed-B-Gone will still be allowed. As long as they’re having fun. And not making messes. And quiet. I have to pick my battles.