Define Normal

From the age of two, Elder has had the habit of sitting on his heels, crouched in the position of a baseball catcher waiting for a pitch. When playing video games, he perched on the carpet, sitting crouched on his heels. When eating at the kitchen island, he balanced on the high chairs, sitting crouched on his heels. When reading a book, he settled on the floor, sitting crouched on his heels.

As he has grown older and, more importantly, taller, the habit faded.

I thought, anyway.

The other day, after work and before joining his friends, Elder disappeared into his bathroom to shave his beard. A few minutes later, needing to run the Roomba and not wanting the little robot to jump the divider between the open area around the stairs into the bathroom, I reached to shut the door he had left open.

Only to pause in mid-stretch when I found Elder perched precariously on the counter over the bowl of the sink, sitting crouched on his heels.

“What?” he queried, meeting my eyes in the mirror, pausing with the electric razor hovering over one cheek.

“Nothing,” I blinked, shutting the door slowly. “Nothing. Just clean your mess.”

“Sure, Mom,” he agreed, easily.

Recently, apparently, (I discovered after discussing my experience) Younger wandered into the bathroom in the wee hours of the morning, startled to discover his older brother brushing his teeth, balanced on the sink counter, sitting crouched on his heels. And, also apparently, this imitation of a catcher is a more alarming sight when it greets a person suddenly and unexpectedly with the flick of a light at two o’clock in the morning.

And, again apparently, Younger has learned to control certain urges until dawn has broken the horizon.

“A gargoyle, Mom” Younger whispered. “I thought he was a gargoyle.”

I’m not sure what normal is, exactly.

But I’m pretty sure we aren’t the definition of it.





Mom Knows Best

Today, Elder had a job interview.

Before leaving, he walked into my bedroom dressed in his new shirt and slacks. “Look okay?” he asked.

“You need to tuck in your shirt,” I told him.

“I think it looks better out.”

“But you need to tuck it in. They will expect you to tuck in your shirt. It looks better.”

“I think it looks better out.”

“You need to tuck it in. I’ve been in the store. All the employees wear their shirts tucked in.”

“I think it looks better out. How often do you go into the store?”

“All the time. And when you walk in there, you will see the employees in their red shirts, with the store name on their chest, and their shirts tucked in.”

“I think it looks better out.”

“Elder, they made you tuck in your baseball jersey. Why did anyone care that someone might see your pockets? It was for presentation. You need to tuck in your shirt.”

“I didn’t mind in baseball.”

I miss the days when he just agreed with me because I was Mom, because Mom was a pretty smart lady.

I lost those days about eighteen years ago.

When he was two.

He did tuck in his shirt.

“Right before I go in the store,” he compromised.

So, that’s a win.


And I count every single win.

I’m up to one, now.

Kids These Days

Elder was home last weekend.

When his phone alarm started bleeping at 6:00 in the morning on Saturday, I just smiled with eyes still closed, enjoyed that one moment when everything was right in my world, and stuck my head a little further under my pillow.

Late Sunday afternoon, Younger and I were sitting in the living room, flipping between the Cardinal’s baseball game, the Royal’s baseball game, and the Ram’s football game — the Chiefs had already disappointed us for the day — when Elder wandered into the room, scatting random noises in his own indeterminate rhythm . Completely ignoring us, he grabbed a movie then wandered back out.

Our eyes tracking him throughout the process, Younger and I exchanged a glance of shared amusement once Elder disappeared from sight.

“You know,” I said, my voice soft with nostalgia, “the place just hasn’t been the same without him squeaking or squawking or whistling or trilling his way through a room.”

Younger lifted an eyebrow. “I can do that if you want, Mom.”

I sighed. “It just wouldn’t be the same.”

When Elder eventually decided to leave for Mizzou, I tempted him to stay longer with apple pie and chocolate milk while my husband checked oil and tires. But after his third hug, Elder hefted his bags and abandoned us once again.

Kids these days…

It’s like they think they have their own lives to live.


I Used to Know Everything

Here is an old story from 2006. Elder would have been nine years old, Younger six…

After a tug of war with Younger over my husband’s baseball glove, which Elder has stolen as his own and Younger thought he could borrow for a few minutes to retrieve a small tube of chap stick from the car’s back floorboard, Elder, the victor, settled happily back in his seat, clutching the filched glove.  “Hey, Mom,” he said.


“Oh, never mind.  You wouldn’t know.”

Immediately appalled and offended, I, in a squeaky voice, repeated, “I wouldn’t know?”

“Well, all right,” Elder said, doubtfully.  “What size is my glove?”

After a long, long hesitation, during which I considered lying, I finally muttered, “I don’t know.”

“See?  I knew you wouldn’t.”

I think the hardest part about your kids believing you don’t know everything is…they’re right.

Firsts…and Lasts


Elder graduates.

He played his last baseball game on Saturday.

We attended the last award ceremony this morning.

And tonight…he graduates.

So, today, I thought I would share a story from the night before his first day of kindergarten in 2002…

So, my baby started kindergarten last Thursday. I’m not exactly sure who told him he could. I’m not exactly sure why I allowed it. I’ve tried and tried to squish him back into a baby. But he squirms and asks, “You’re just joking, right, Mommy?” And I answer, “Right,” and squeeze a little harder. And still he grows.

Last Wednesday night, I sent him to bed a little early, wanting him to be well-rested for the next morning. Half an hour later, I stepped into the room, finding his eyes watching me as I tripped towards the bed.

“Too excited to sleep?” I asked, knowing the first day of school had always kept me awake the night before and promised to do so again.

He nodded enthusiastically. “I just can’t stop thinking about that Donkey Kong.”

I have a feeling school will be a lot harder for me than him…

Just Too Good

Elder can run. He steals second base. Then he steals third. The other day, he even stole home. The other parents ask where he got his speed. My husband and I just shrug. Because we didn’t even know he had speed until he was at least in the third grade.

But Elder knew. He even tried to tell me way back in 2001 when he was five years old…

As we drove to church Sunday, Elder asked, “Mom, can you run faster than Big Friend?”

“Probably,” I answered, picturing the six- or seven-year-old son of Elder’s babysitter.

“I can run faster than Big Friend can,” Elder announced, with a happy satisfaction. “Sometimes, I’m just too good, aren’t I, Mom?”

Apparently modesty is just something Elder may never master…

I Don’t Remember

The other day, Younger and I sat in the cab of the truck, waiting for one baseball game or the other to near starting time. Unable to entertain himself as I was by staring mindlessly into the middle distance, Younger decided to watch a video on his phone.

“Just put the square block in the square hole,” he muttered at the small screen. “I’ve never understood why that is so hard. Put the block in the hole with the same shape.”

I leaned over to view a baby attempting to stuff blocks into a cube with different shaped cutouts. “Our brains take a bit to develop that skill, Younger. You weren’t stuffing square blocks into square holes when you were six months old.”

“Ah, yes,” he said, in the far off tone of reminiscence. “I believe I was. I remember that time vividly.”

“Do you?” I shot him a grin. “You were still breastfeeding.”

He tilted his head. “Ah, yes, I remember that time vaguely.”

That’s what I thought.

And fervently hope.

Because that’s just better for all of us.