“Eventually, at the age of ten, I found myself invited to a party during which reverberations of profanity echoed through the night air of the backyard like tender kisses being blown through the breeze by wood nymphs. With the chaperoning adults inside the house, my fifth grade peers felt a refreshing wave of freedom and power.”
Tag Archives: little boys
6YO: What are you most afraid of?
Me: People asking me too many questions.
6YO: And, what else?
As challenging a life as I sometimes think I have, it’s nothing compared to the torturous turmoil and ceaseless suffering endured by my six-year-old-son.
Each morning, upon rising from ten or possibly even only nine hours of sleep, he is chronically faced with the devastating psychological trauma of an iPad that was not charged the night before and therefore only possesses four percent of its battery life. Hardly enough energy to power through a game of solitaire, never mind a round of Avengers’ Contest of Champions or even Flappy Goat. Even more humiliating, he is usually blamed for the oversight of not plugging in the iPad and must defend his honor. Loudly.
My son must survive throughout the week on an exponentially smaller wardrobe than the rest of the family due to a debilitating ailment that prevents him from putting away his clothes. This condition causes a category of blindness that only affects his ability to see articles of clothing on the floor, although visualization of other objects, such as legos or video game controllers, is not affected. Tragically, there’s no cure or treatment currently available.
Each day, my son must deal with the tremendous stress of being forced to ‘eat healthfully’, precisely defined in our house as three meals that don’t all include chocolate milk. The agony of being obliged to consume raw carrots is written across his furrowed brow in unspoken sorrow….unless it’s being spoken at full volume and with a slight nasally whine.
Constant physical issues plague my son. Nearly every day, and sometimes hourly, my son must tolerate random aches and pains that seem to materialize without rhyme or reason. Whether it’s a sudden twinge in his pinkie toe or an agonizing but somewhat vaguely described popping feeling in his ear, my son’s only recourse is to provide a detailed and regularly updated report on his latest series of discomforts, punctuated intermittently with vocal validation of his pain, such as ‘Ow! Ow!’ Thankfully, most of these problems seem to respond immediately to chocolate ice cream.
Occasionally, my son will experience violent fits, which tend to occur immediately after being asked to set the table or sort socks. He’ll temporarily lose the ability to communicate except in loud shrieks and exclamations of negativity. Sometimes his state will devolve even further to include writhing and flailing on the floor. This corporeal trauma only seems to abate after desperate pleas and negotiations concerning television privileges. By that time, my son is so physically exhausted, he must drag himself up the stairs while moaning and complaining noisily, poor fellow.
My son is cursed with a vivid imagination and curious nature. He is compelled to inquire about a host of random and trivial subjects which may or may not include a discussion on the potential martial arts skills of adolescent reptiles, a post-mortem on all the flavors of soda he has ever tasted, or a demand for the number of minutes he has been alive. Ironically, requests for information about HIM are typically answered with ‘I don’t want to tell you.’
My son’s remarkable resilience despite the brutal torments he must tolerate day in and day out is truly inspiring to me and everyone else in the household. Despite all his hardships, he typically ends each grueling day with a brave smile. As long as that day ends with chocolate ice cream….For medicinal purposes, of course.
6YO: You can’t hit girls.
Me: That’s right.
6YO:…..but you can trip them!
6YO: Mom, I have an emergency.
6YO: One of my arms is longer than the other.
“As I felt increasing pressure about what I needed to look or act like, I longed to wake up one morning as a boy, throw on whatever T-shirt smelled the freshest, run a comb through my hair (or not) and feel ready to walk out of the house as Ferris Bueller or Marty McFly, convinced I’d be judged on how cool I was, not how pretty I looked. If I could not get to live that fantasy, I’d live it vicariously through my sons.”
As the mother of two young boys, I have resigned myself to certain standard operating procedures regarding their appearance, which, per their preferences, typically include a lot of Minecraft t-shirts, Skylander tighty-whiteys and socks with skulls on them. Although, once upon a time, I had dressed my first-born in collared shirts and plaid short pants, relishing the look of a daintily-dressed prepster, I have accepted the fact that as he has grown, his taste in clothing has became more contingent on a myriad of marginally humorous cartoon characters and video games rated ‘E’ for everyone, eventually passing along those predilections to his worshipful younger brother. Subsequently, I relinquished my position as fashion director. Or, maybe I just got lazy, as my days of roaming through the Babies R’ Us newborn section, marveling at the level of adorableness that one can find in a pair of teeny, tiny overalls have given way to rushed Target runs that allow me to pick up milk with a side of pajamas.
The one facet of my sons’ facades that I have remained steadfast in my partiality is their style of haircuts. From the day my oldest son was willing to sit still long enough to be draped with a nylon cape snapped tightly around his neck, I have enjoyed the ritual of taking them both to the barbershop. I love the barber chairs. I love the buzz of the clippers. I love the old, weathered picture on the wall of each standard haircut, as easy to select as a fast-food menu item: “I’ll have a #4 across the top with a #2 on the side”. I love watching the line of boys and young men sitting patiently as their hair is clipped, creating a scene that could easily be a snapshot from a long-ago decade.
Perhaps one reason I enjoy the ceremony of such an establishment is it represents a recent exposure to a world that has historically existed outside of my own. As the eldest of four girls who endured home-snipped bowl cuts sitting on a wooden stool in my kitchen, I never had cause to frequent barbershops and each time I passed by the door of one, would peer through the glass and ponder. Barbershops were for boys. Boys who didn’t have to worry about what they looked like. Boys who could get their hair cut short without being judged. Boys, who wore what was comfortable, said what was straightforward and did what was easy.
For me, there was always a perceived freedom in being a boy, which grew more profound as I got slightly older and suffered through typical estrogen-related tribulations: my first period, a training bra, home-perms and blue eye shadow. As I felt increasing pressure about what I needed to look like or act like, I longed to wake up one morning as a boy, throw on whatever t-shirt smelled the freshest, run a comb through my hair (or not) and feel ready to walk out of the house as Ferris Bueller or Marty McFly, convinced I’d be judged on how cool I was, not how pretty I looked. If I could not get to inhabit that fantasy, I’d live it vicariously through my sons.
While it occurred to me they may eventually demand more of a say in the length of their coifs, for the moment, I felt certain the young ages of my boys and associated disinterest in what was probably required to style their own hair on a regular basis gave me a few more years of having my way. This confidence was foremost in my mind as I brought my five-year-old son to the barbershop last week. His hair seemed to have grown in much more quickly than usual, which I attributed to the time of year (summer) and a gradual evolution in the standard haircut that I requested. In recent months, his tolerance for haircuts (along with everything else) had dropped dramatically and required an increasing level of bribery. Since the summer was only half over, I thought it wise to insist on a slightly shorter cut – less upkeep, cooler for the weather, etc, which I did fairly casually.
“Sure,” said the woman barber, draping a cape around my pouty son, “I’ll use a #1 on the sides instead of a #2. That will keep him until school starts.”
Ten minutes later, she brushed the fallen hairs from his shoulders and spun the chair around to face the mirror…which gave me a clear view of my son’s grief-stricken face.
“Too short!” he shrieked, crossing his arms over the top of his head. The barber frowned even as I smiled apologetically and assured her it was exactly what I asked for. Granted, it WAS short, but not quite boot camp short, and certainly not the shortest haircut he’d ever had. Still, the transition from a grown-out longer cut to this may have been a bit visually shocking.
“You look great!” I assured him, “Very handsome!”
He glowered and kept his hands over his head as we walked out toward the car. “Too short, too short, too short….” he started to chant as he climbed into the back. “I look bald.”
I rolled my eyes as I looked back at him through the rearview mirror. “Dude, get over it,” I grumbled, “It’s a haircut.”
Over the next several hours, I attempted to soothe my son’s anguish over the new length of his hair in various ways, each less successful than the last.
“You look older,” I said, “You look like, almost seven.”
“I look old and bald,” he countered.
“Lots of little boys get their hair cut this short for the summer,” I said.
“No one I know,” he said firmly.
“You know Daddy has really short hair,” I tried, “You look just like Daddy.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Look, I’m sorry I had the lady cut it this short,” I finally offered, “I didn’t realize you wouldn’t like it. I won’t have it cut this short again, ok? But, let’s move on, because it will grow back and in two weeks it will look like it did before.”
“I want to wear a hat to camp,” he demanded.
As much as I wanted to point out to my five-year-old son that he was not being reasonable and rational about this situation…..well, I don’t think I have to finish that sentence.
His major concern seemed to be that everyone at camp (both adults and children alike) would make fun of him for being ‘bald’ and I could not talk him down from this imaginative ledge perched precariously above an out-dated and clichéd nightmare. And although I knew his age would not allow him to intellectualize the absurdity of this vague fear, I had difficulty contemplating how a common boy’s haircut had created such a sense of anxiety and dread.
48 hours later, he continued to refuse to leave the house without a baseball cap pulled down tightly over the tops of his ears and I marveled at his tenacity.
“Did he wear his hat in the pool?” I sighed to the camp counselor as I signed him out the next day.
“No,” she smiled, “But he kept his arms over his head most of the time.”
As dramatic as my son’s reaction to his haircut seemed to be, I realized I could relate. How many first days of school loomed heavily in my mind as I worried about whether my new polos and corduroys would be shunned? How many times did I try to express my individuality (in seventh grade for several months, I wore a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap after reading ‘The Catcher in the Rye’) only to feel a burn in my cheeks relative to the number of snickers I heard behind my back. As much as I wanted to stand out, I couldn’t stand the attention that came with it. My son, who routinely expresses his passionate and creative personality within the confines of our home, but worries about fitting in once beyond the front porch, is obviously cut from the same cloth.
Eventually, it dawned on me that my pre-conceived notions about the carefree nature of little boys were naïve and sexist and my attempts to dismiss my son’s feelings about his appearance were unfair. As five-year-olds go, he’s proven he has more than a casual interest in how he chooses to present himself and within certain parameters, I am willing to support that…..Which is a polite way of saying no pony-tails or mullets.
Five year old: I am the smartest kid in my class.
Me: Really? How do you know?
Five year old: Because no one ever understands what I’m talking about.