The Athletic Kid

Some kids are just natural born athletes. They are the ones that all of the kids pick at recess when the game of dodge ball comes up. You know the kind of kid I’m talking about. The one that will bounce that standard school rubbery red ball off the side of your head or hit you right in the gut when you are trying to move out of the way. They were also the kids that you didn’t want to go against when playing Red Rover because trying to run through their arms was like hitting a brick wall. They are never the kids that get picked last. Everyone wants them on their team because they know that they will win if that kid plays with them. You were just a glutton for punishment if you were on the other team.

Matthew seems to be one of those natural athletes, but mostly for the game of ice hockey. He started out playing t-ball at the age of 5 but he was too bored waiting for someone to hit the ball into the outfield. When you have a team made up of a bunch of 5 year olds, that does not happen very often. On the rare occasion that it does, the entire team runs out to the outfield, including the catcher so it was not really clear why Matthew was even there in the first place. I had so much fun watching him in the outfield. He would be sitting in the grass looking at bugs or kicking the dirt or just staring at an airplane going by. It was clear that baseball was definitely not going to be his sport.

He then decided to try karate. Now karate was something he liked because he was always moving around, kicking in the air and getting to yell “Hy YAA”. He thought it was cool that he could show me these amazing karate moves over and over and over.

 “You know what mom?”

“What?”

“If a bad man comes into the house I can protect you. I know karate.”

“Thanks sweetheart. I appreciate you looking out for me.”

 

I’m thinking, “If a bad man comes into the house, I have a gun….”

 Matthew started playing ice hockey when he was 6 years old. His dad always enjoyed skating so he would take Matthew with him during regular skate time. Matthew saw the hockey players one day and immediately decided that was what he wanted to do. Of course he only came up to the waist on some of these players as they walked by but he was determined that it was what he wanted to do. He stared up at them in awe. They were gigantic!

We signed him up for the “Mite” level hockey. The first time I saw him on the ice he looked so tiny but he skated quite well and even got the first goal for the team. That was my introduction into what is known as the loud obnoxious hockey mom scream. That was when I crossed over. I completely lost control and started screaming as loud as I could. How great was this? I even ECHOED in the ice rink. This was my calling. I was no longer the “team mom” for t-ball where I handed out snacks and juice boxes and clap when someone actually hits the ball. I was now a loud, screaming-in-your-face hockey mom and very proud of it.

Now when they were younger, the boys needed help putting on their equipment and skates. Moms were allowed in the locker rooms, but I must admit I didn’t like going in there. Trying to explain how bad a hockey locker room smells like is like trying to describe the odor coming from a garbage truck as it whizzes by you. It hits you and you immediately have the gag reflex. I would hold my breath or breathe with my face buried in my sleeve. The locker rooms were being used hourly by all ages of players and it usually smelled like dirty shoes and B.O. I always felt like the smell stuck to me and if I walked around the smell would follow me. Sort of like when you go to Waffle House for breakfast and you smell like bacon grease for the rest of the day.

I was actually happy when the year came around where the coaches said “No more moms in the locker rooms. The boys are growing up and they need their privacy.” Thank goodness.

 One season, Matthew was asked to skate out with the Atlanta Thrashers at Phillips Arena as the “Youth Hockey Player of the Night” for the singing of the National Anthem. He was especially excited because he had just lost his first tooth which made him look like “a real hockey player.” I waited with him on one side of the ice while they introduced the starting line up for the game that night for both teams.

He was so excited when he skated out. I looked up to see his face on the Jumbotron above the ice. He skated up to the Thrasher players and looked up at them like they were giants. They smiled and said a few words to him and the National Anthem began. After it was over he skated to the other side of the ice and went through the Thrasher’s locker room where his dad was waiting for him.

 Afterwards we all met up.

 So! How was it???”

 “Cool. Did you see them talking to me on the ice?”

 “Yep – what did they say?”

 “They just said that they liked my missing tooth. They noticed it!”

 ‘That’s great! What did you think of the locker room? That’s pretty neat that you got to see it.”

 “Mom it smelled SO bad. I just wanted to get out of there.”

Apparently hockey players have an aversion to deodorant or maybe it’s just what Matthew says about it. “You’ve gotta play extra hard to get a stink like that.”Image

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Boys Will Be Boys

(Originally written in January 2009)

I am the single mom of a now 15 year old son, Matthew. He has always been a good kid, with the exception of the “terrible two” phase. He didn’t begin to be terrible in his two’s…he started early and it didn’t end until he was in his three’s. He eventually outgrew it and truly became a wonderful little man. His innocent humor completely fascinated me, and for some reason, he was already fascinated by the fact that he was a boy and had working parts that ladies did not have.

My mother was watching him one day while I was at work. ‘I have to go pee”, Matthew said. My mother promptly took him upstairs to the potty because if you waited you never knew what you were gonna get. Of course, his little legs were not tall enough for him to stand next to the commode so he had to stand on a little stool. Anyone who has a boy will know that when little boys are standing in front of the commode, they don’t just pull their pants down a little bit. They pull them ALL THE WAY TO THEIR ANKLES, which is probably a good idea because their sense of aim isn’t always the best. My mother stood in the doorway watching him. Matthew noticed her looking and said “You can’t pee-pee like this.” He already knew way too much.

To really understand my perspective on boys, you must first know about my father. He is a Judge, retired Colonel, & a disciplinarian that would make even the most brave Fear Factor contestant quiver. My dear father was living in a house full of estrogen when I was growing up. Here he was living with my mother (whom everyone calls Ninny), my older sister, Cathy and me while he was the only man in the house. I now have a new respect for him thinking of him going through the grocery store line buying tampons and Midol. How he ever lived through it (or how he allowed us to live through it) truly amazes me. He has always been the head of the house hold, my hero, but there was absolutely no arguing with him. I use the following example as an argument with my father.

Me: “Daddy, look how beautiful the sky is today. It’s so blue.”

Daddy: ‘Oh, it’s not blue today. It’s green.”

Me: “Daddy, look UP. It’s blue. The sky isn’t green!!!”

Daddy: “Damn it Dana, it’s green because I say it’s green.”

(10 minutes later)

Daddy: “Dana, look how blue the sky is!”

Arguing with my father will get you no where. Maybe it’s a male thing because arguing with Matthew never seemed to accomplish anything either.

When Matthew was born I saw a new side of my father. Matthew was due on my mother’s birthday which is December 25, but being the outgoing person that he is, he came two weeks early and made his presence known on my father’s birthday. Now that would not normally be much of a big deal, if you didn’t know that there were five kids in my father’s family…three of which were born on December 9th. Many years later, Matthew makes his arrival on the same day. March is apparently a VERY fertile month in my family. Matthew and my dad had an instant connection…he was able to get away with things that I would have never dreamed of attempting. My dad is Matthew’s hero too, but then again, he comes from the same deep end of the gene pool.

So how is it that boys know they are different? How do they know they are supposed to play with fire trucks and trains and make zooming noises while they are playing with Matchbox cars? I think it is something embedded in their brains long before they are able to hold up their own heads. How do little boys know that they have a body part that women do not (and I am not talking about brains here)? Why are they always touching it and moving it around? The answer was given to my 90 year old grandmother one summer day. She happened to notice that Matthew had his hand shoved down his shorts and was scratching himself down there. She told him that it wasn’t something little boys should be doing. Matthew looked at her and said, “My dad does it.” Like father like son. Enough said.

Attitude Smattatude

(Written in April 2009)

Nothing can get my blood pressure higher than hearing the word “whatever” during an argument. It was the basis for every conversation that Matthew had with me over the course of a two year period.

“Matthew you have got to clean this pig sty of a room. Homeless men sleeping under bridges are keeping their cardboard box shelters cleaner than this room.”

The rolling of the eyes begins.

“Roll your eyes at me again young man and I will slap your eyeballs right out of your head.”

No response.

“Matthew – I am serious. This room is a disaster. If you don’t straighten it I am going to take away your x-Box.”

“Whatever.”

“And your phone.”

“Whatever.”

I must admit that the first time I fussed at Matthew for rolling his eyes at me actually made me laugh. He was about 5 years old and we were having a heated discussion when his eyes rolled around in his head.

“DO NOT ROLL your eyes at me young man!!! Do NOT disrespect me!”

Obviously he had not been listening to a single word I had said because he said “Hey Mom. Can you see your own eyeballs?” I could not help but laugh, but then again at the time he was still my innocent little man and not my demon possessed pubescent son.

But, back to the teenage years. In one conversation with me doing the majority of the talking, he lost his x-box, his phone, his computer and he was also grounded. As I look back on it now, it seems like he was grounded quite a bit during his 12th -14th years of age. His voice mail message on his cell phone actually said “Hey, this is Matthew. I’m either skateboarding, playing hockey or I’m grounded so just leave a message.” He also loves to tell people how awful of a mother I was that I grounded him on his 12th birthday. He had given me more grief than I cared for so I snapped.

“That’s it. You’re grounded!”

“But it’s my birthday!!!”

“Whatever.”

Puberty – The New Purgatory?

(Written in March 2009)

The first clue to when Matthew began entering puberty was not the discovery of a hair. It first began with the incessant hormone changes. Things that he usually loved began to irritate him, me being great example. It seemed he went from wanting to be around me to avoiding me as if I had leprosy. I swear I thought I saw his head spin around a few times when he was really in a tirade.

Where was my sweet snuggly little boy? Suddenly he started glaring at me when I would ask a question and began providing minimalist answers.

“How was school today?”

“It was stupid.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing.”

“Do you have homework?”

“No.”

It was awful. It was as if my favorite person in the world became mute. Nothing I could say or do was right.  I was an idiot and he knew everything.

Sometimes I think that when we are born we know all of the answers to every question in the world and as we age we forget those things. When we are babies we can’t tell people what those secrets of the world are because we can not speak. As we get older, dementia starts to set in and we just forget everything.

Puberty is like purgatory. It’s that place in the middle of being a baby and being almost dead. It’s a stopping place for all teenagers. The only problem is that it is the stopping place between heaven and hell for their PARENTS. One day you look at your sweet angel and the next day he has horns and a tail. Puberty is truly the devil in disguise.

I remember going to Matthew’s school to join him for lunch when he was in 1st grade. It was sort of the cool thing when your mom showed up to have lunch with you. Occasionally I would bring him something extra special by bringing Chick-fil-a. The other kids would look jealously at him while he ate his chicken sandwich, waffle fries and a coke while they were stuck eating their sloppy joes and cole slaw and 2% milk.  I was the cool mom back then.

Parents even get extra credit with their kindergartners when they bring cupcakes to school for their child’s birthday. The parents try to out do each other by bringing the best cupcakes. The ones with the gummy worms coming out of a chocolate dirt cupcake were a favorite for boys while pink princess cupcakes were a hit for the girls. When they are young it’s a cool, cool thing to have your parents come to school. When they are older it’s the most embarrassing thing in the world.

Fast forward to when Matthew started going through “the change”. Suddenly I could not be seen around him and God forbid should I try to get a hug from him whether it be in public or not. It just was not going to happen. It was if he would rather trade me for the bank robber on TV because that parent would at least be a little cool. Me? I was just the schmuck that happened to give birth to him.

Matthew’s dad, is a substitute teacher for our school system. On occasion he has had the true pleasure of filling in at Matthew’s school. He said it was hilarious when he would see Matthew in the hallway and yell out “Hey son!” Matthew would just roll his eyes and look the other direction. Which of course would prompt his dad into saying it even louder…”HEY SON!” All of the kids would look at Matthew and say “Is that your DAD? Dude that SUCKS having your dad teaching here!!!” I personally can’t think of any better payback for a teenager’s retched behavior than being at his school and embarrassing him to death in front of his friends.

Can you imagine the scenario of showing up to join your teenager for lunch?

“Oh my God, it’s my MOM.”

“Hi honey, just wanted to come have lunch with you.”

“Go AWAY. You’re embarrassing me!”

“But I brought Chick-fil-a!!!”

The First Kiss

(Written in February 2009)

There’s always a lot of pressure about your first kiss. Kissing is everywhere. You see it on TV, in the movies, in restaurants…you even see your PARENTS do it. So why is it that your first kiss is such a milestone? I think it’s the suspense of the unknown on a personal level. How does one really figure out HOW to kiss someone? I don’t mean kissing your parents or your grandmother on the cheek but a true boy-girl kiss for the first time.

The kiss in the old movies was simple. You went in, you put your lips together and then you held it there. No tongue. No open mouth. The only things that moved were the arms that were passionately wrapped around the other person. By the time they separated they were so out of breath that they could hardly speak. After a kiss like that they usually got married.

No wonder we were all confused when it came to the first kiss. I was always too petrified to play “Spin the Bottle” or “7 minutes in Heaven” because I had no idea what to do. What if the bottle landed on me? What if everyone was watching me as I got my first kiss? What a nightmare. Plus my dad with his bad timing ESP would have come to pick me up at the party at THAT exact moment. What if the bottle landed on someone that I really didn’t want to kiss? What if my first kiss was with the one kid who picked on me constantly or farted in class or blew snot rockets out of his nose? Did I really want that to be my memory?

I always dreamed of my first kiss. I prayed it would be with David, the older brother of my best friend Ginny. Ginny’s brother was two years older than I was and he was like an Adonis to me. He looked like he had been sculpted by an Angel. He had beautiful olive skin, dark hair, chocolate brown eyes and a slightly crooked grin that made me melt. I turned into a blubbering idiot whenever he was around. I couldn’t speak clearly so he probably thought I was a foreign exchange student and English was my second language. Ginny and I might not have been such good friends had it not been for her hot brother. Every time she wanted to come up and play at my house, I always came up with a reason that we should play at her house instead.

It was so painfully obvious that I had a huge crush on him, but of course David looked at me as just the friend of his pesky little sister and therefore avoided me like the plague. It could have also been that I had braces, I wasn’t allowed to wear make up, I had made a bad attempt at a Farrah Fawcett hairdo, and a chest flatter than a 10 year old boy.

I dreamed he would one day look at me like I was Cheryl Tieges and would immediately fall head over heels in love with me. He would take me in his arms and give me the kiss of a lifetime. I practiced writing “Mrs. David Sparkman” on my notebook paper over and over. I wanted to be the Juliet to his Romeo. Yeah, it didn’t happen.

My first kiss ended up being with a guy named Walter, which Matthew thinks is hysterical. He had asked me to the 1984 football banquet and drove up to my house in his bitchin’ black Camaro. My dad gave him “the eye” when they shook hands and told him to have me home by 10:30. The banquet was pretty dull so the highlight of the whole night was when he kissed me at the door when he took me home. It was one of those kisses where you stand there awkwardly shifting your weight from left foot to right foot and then repeating.

“So, I guess I will see you on Monday at school?”

“Yeah. Thanks for asking me to the banquet.”

“No problem. Sorry it was kind of boring.”

There is a long pause of silence with the exception of the noise coming from the foot shifting. Then the conversation repeats.

“Well, okay. Guess I will see you Monday at school. “

“Yeah, thanks again for asking me to the banquet.”

He leaned over and gave me a quick peck. No passionate arms around the neck kind of kiss. Just a simple kiss on the lips, which was a good thing because my parents were probably upstairs watching out the window. There is not a chance that they missed that Camaro pulling into the driveway. The vroom, vroom of the engine was so loud that it more than likely rated on the sizometer measuring earthquakes. In the end, my first kiss was nothing too spectacular but at least it was over.

Which leads me to Matthew’s first kiss. We have always been able to talk about everything so when he came home from the 7th grade dance with a huge grin on his face, I knew it.

“How was the dance?”

“Pretty good.”

“Who did you see? Did you dance with anyone?”

(Pause and grin)

“I danced with Erin.”

(Another pause and grin.)

“So what happened?”

“Well, I kissed her.”

This time I paused with a deer in the headlights look. I started praying for one of those 1940’s kisses.

“Oh. So what did you think?”

“Well. We were dancing and she had her arms around me and I had my arms around her. I leaned in and got her chin.”

I couldn’t help but be elated inside. He had no idea what he was doing.

“So did you try again?”

“Yeah. It worked this time but I don’t see what the big deal is. I’m going upstairs to play x-box with the guys.  I can’t wait to tell them.”

I have come to the conclusion that every girl wants a Romeo & Juliet moment for their first kiss. Every boy just wants a kiss so they can brag to their friends.

Who’s Calling Now?

(Written in February 2009)

When he was in 5th grade, Matthew desperately wanted a cell phone. I was torn between giving in and the principal of giving a phone to someone still in elementary school. I liked the idea of being able to call him and find out exactly where he was and what he was doing, but then again everyone else would be able to do that too. 

When I was a child, we had one phone line and we were never to mistake that it was my DAD’s phone. If we were on the phone chatting with our girl friends about who liked whom and who wore what to school, when he needed the phone he would pick up, clear his throat and hang up. That was our signal to get off the phone pronto. It was never a question. Dad needed the phone and that was it. I begged for my own phone line but in the 1980’s who had 2 phone lines in their house? What a waste of money.

So, for his 9th birthday I gave in and bought Matthew a cell phone. That morning I placed the phone next to his bed and called it so that it would wake him up. He was so excited about it. Freedom. It was like getting a drivers license! Little did I know what that would lead to.

My first phone bill came in. I went over it like a CSI agent. Although he stayed within range of his allotted cell phone minutes, I noticed that he had five numbers that were constantly calling.

“Ummm, Matthew, who are these different numbers for?”

“My girlfriends. They call all the time.”

My 9 year old son, the pimp. I was horrified! Who were these hussy’s and why were they calling my son? I was NEVER allowed to call a boy. Only cheap women would actually call a boy. Nice girls waited for them to call you. With my luck I would have been in the middle of a conversation and my dad would pick up…

“So….wasn’t Health class stupid today?”

“Yeah – but at least we got to learn about boobs.”

I’d hear THE throat clear and I know I’m in deep crap. My dad would most definitely pick up when the word boobs came out. Why not? It was like he had bad timing ESP.

And so now here my son is with five girls calling him. What did they talk about? Are they talking about boobs and God only knows what else? My mind raced like SeaBiscuit. He’s only NINE YEARS OLD!!! Finally I got up the nerve and I asked him.

“Soooooooooo, what are you and these ladies talking about? Homework? What’s on TV???” (Please God..)

“Well usually there’s just a lot of silence. They don’t really talk and I don’t know what to say. Usually we just watch Spongebob together on the phone. It’s kind of boring.”

Thank you God. My son is still a good boy.