I have been struggling with this one for days. At times, I have felt too preachy, at others like I was rambling too much. I’ve decided to let the words fall where they lie and go with it.
This past Friday, my wife and I were working from home. The boys were at school and we were all in our daily grind. The television was off and I was patently ignoring the internet, so it was around lunchtime when I first heard about Newtown. K yelled down to me from the office upstairs and I was sure that I had to be hearing her wrong. She came down and we flipped on the “news” and watched the story unfold in mute horror.
I was faced with thoughts of mortality far too much last week. My parents are both aging, and both have suddenly decided to take on conditions that make them seem far older than they are in my mind. You always hear about how a parent should never have to bury their child, but they reverse is pretty terrible to contemplate in its own right. With thoughts of chronic conditions and diseases whirling around in my head, the news from Sandy Hook hit me like a truck. I was now contemplating mortality in both directions.
We decided to leave the house, go shopping for the boys and decidedly not listen to the radio. K tried to keep her mind off the topic by talking to me. Sadly (or luckily) my mind wasn’t forming whole thoughts and I wasn’t much of a conversationalist. We grabbed lunch, bought wrapping paper and finished our lists. It was a lovely day, really, but the dark thoughts prevailed.
We decided we needed to say something to the boys and started formulating a plan of how to inform, but not terrify them. Neither of us really had an experience with this. Our schools had had fire drills, K had been to schools that had hurricane or tsunami drills and I had spent a few years with earthquake drills, but never anything like this. I honestly wasn’t sure what a lock-down drill would entail.
We headed home, calling ahead to tell the nanny that we would be taking the boys out to dinner. We got home and gave the boys some very long hugs (much to their chagrin). The nanny mildly chided us for leaving the TV on CNN when we had left, but told us that he had quickly changed the channel and that as far as he knew, the boys hadn’t heard about the day’s events at all.
Off to dinner we went. We caught up on the day, played some cards and then gracefully broached the subject. K asked the boys if they knew what “lock-down” meant and when they confirmed that they did not know the term, she started approaching the idea gently. “Imagine a wild turkey was loose in the hallways at school…” she started. The boys thought this pretty funny. We talked about why you would stay in your classroom, do exactly what the teacher told you, etc. We asked for some other ideas on why you might have such a drill. M was, as always, quick to the extreme. “Maybe someone came into the school with guns and started shooting everyone?” Yup.
So, with that door now kicked wide open, we explained to them what had happened that day. Why people were so upset about it (besides the obvious), and did our best to assure them that their school was safe. M created a scenario of a gunman disguising himself as a child and sneaking in in the morning, but we did our best to ensure him that the principal was at least capable of determine child from adult. But, in my head, the thoughts spun wild again. Their school has essentially the same security set-up as Sandy Hook, and that had clearly not worked. We tried to steer the conversation to the safe and wind down any talk about the day’s actual events before details were demanded. They agreed that they would always listen to their teachers in any kind of drill, no matter how weird the instructions were. That if they were scared they would try and hold someone’s hand instead of crying, etc. All the things you should never have to tell your child.
Over the weekend we spent as much time as possible with them. We read advice from other parents and got some really great insight from the Boston Children’s Museum in an email they sent out to their members. We tried to avoid the news and the internet. We wondered when we would hear from their school, and K admitted that she was nervous about them going back today. I couldn’t disagree.
We started today like any other day, hoping the boys might not be thinking about our dinner conversation and they dressed and ran into school like any other day. When we hadn’t heard from the school, K sent an email asking whether or not the school would be talking to the kids, offering any insight to the parents, practicing lock-downs, etc. A few hours later we got an insipid email from the principal that essentially told us they would be avoiding the subject all together, but would be creating “quiet drills” to be practiced annually.
Now, for my preachy side. The next idiot who mentions that Newtown was “God’s will” is going to get a swift kick to the brain. It was not God’s will and the absence of the Ten Commandments or the Gospels in school had no effect on whether those kids died or not. It’s painfully ironic that the same people who chide the “left” for making this an issue about gun control have no issue when their talking heads make it an issue about religion.
What Newtown is, what it should be, is exactly another reason to talk about gun control in America. The argument that more restrictive gun laws won’t have any effect is ridiculous, almost to the point of lunacy. More restrictive gun laws are exactly what we need to prevent nut-jobs from collecting arsenals. More intelligent gun laws are exactly what we need to ensure that a criminal record is not the only thing that prevents your dumb ass from getting your hands on a gun. And what’s wrong with talking about it? Why can’t we have a conversation that might possibly end with fewer people having guns? Are the 31 school shootings since Columbine not enough to make you see that something is wrong? What is it you’re so afraid of that you can’t even discuss the issue?
The idea that came to me this morning is this. If you are going to rest on the Second Amendment to own all your guns, you need to know what is says. If you think it starts with “the right of the people to keep and bear arms…” you are not entitled to your gun, turn it in. It starts with “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” So, my suggestion is this, since we no longer have a militia, and the Amendment is, in fact, moot, let’s use a little cy pres and put the amendment to good work nowadays. You want to own a gun? You want to contribute the security of the free-state? Good, join the Reserves. Join the National Guard. Once you’re signed up, your firearms license is free. Otherwise, pack it in.
Another angry, and sad, parent, signing off.
As you may recall, we have a skeptic in our midst. But, for some reason, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are sacrosanct. This has been relatively enforced by our older brother. Recently, M has been losing his teeth. The second tooth quickly followed the first and we have a third wiggly one now.
We had a brief bout of doubt with her divine Fairyness, however. We have always left the boys some kind of gift from the Fairy, rather than money, usually some toy or something similar. On the second tooth, however, the Fair left us a Transformer. My call, it was purchased late at night at CVS when I received a text on my way home that the second tooth had made its exit. It was a disaster. Even I couldn't figure out the instructions and it just seemed to be made wrong. M hated it and his faith in the Tooth Fairy was shaken.
C sprang into action. Below is his diagram of what the Tooth Fairy really looks like, and what she carries with her. I love the creativity and M was greatly impressed with his brother's knowledge.
We have entered into a new realm here tonight. M is now officially losing his baby teeth. Seen above is the last picture he'll have for a few years with all his teeth in place.
He is ecstatic. He has had "wiggly teeth" for a few weeks now and has been asking several times a day if they were ready to come out. Until tonight, it was safe to say no, but the wiggles became dangles and out it had to come. I got to do the "honors" of pulling it all the way out. He then did a dance, called both sets of grandparents to share his news and promptly ran upstairs to get into his pajamas. All this two hours before bed time.
So, it is our fervent hope that the tooth fairy will come tonight. Our tooth is safely wrapped in a bag and tucked deep inside our pillow case so it can't get lost. Therein lies the problem.
We have two distinct sleeping styles in our bunks upstairs. There's C who slips into mild comas and can barely be raised by bodily moving him out of bed. And then there's M, the boy who wakes up if a good breeze blows past him. (This is, of course, a selective ability and does not work on school days or when we have fallen asleep on the couch.)
So, our mission for tonight is to recover his tooth and replace it with a gift from the tooth fairy. I am not sure how this is going to be accomplished. M generally does not sleep on, or anywhere near, his pillow (unless his feet are resting on it). But, tonight he has his pillow firmly in his grasp and I imagine something along the lines of a mission impossible repelling ensemble being needed. Sadly, I cannot get the image of Dwayne Johnson, dangling in IM Force gear above my sons' bed, out of my head.
Now we begin the stage that C is currently in, when your adult teeth take up twice as much space as the teeth you lost...
It is hard to believe that six years have gone by, but it was that long ago that your mother and I were sitting in a hospital room wondering when you'd decide to arrive.
We had been there two days earlier, you see. You announced your imminent arrival in the form of contractions 1-2 minutes apart, which promptly vanished when we made it through triage and up to the maternity ward. Your mother was... displeased.
But, there we were, sitting and waiting. Mommy wanted to watch some TV, so we turned on a show. Mommy got bored and started calling her friends. At 8:28 that night I heard mommy say, "I feel something funny. Got to go." She hung up her phone and 20 minutes later you joined the world. From the moment you were born you were your brother's opposite. He came into the world asleep, you screamed so that your grandparents could hear you in Virginia. You were also a peanut. Okay, you were a normal size and weight, but tiny compared to your brother.
Within an hour of being born, you cute little hand had shot up out of your blanket and knocked the glasses off my face. I should have known then that that was a sign.
You have struggled with being the baby for as long as I can remember. You were up and walking at 10 months because you were sick of chasing after your brother in a crawl. You announced you were going to stop wearing diapers because you were a "big boy," long before your mother and I had even considered starting potty training. You've tried to do everything your brother does at the same time, often forgetting that you're 21 months younger than he is. But, that fact has rarely stopped you.
You are, without a doubt, your mother's son. You have mommy's attitude and temper (although you tend to take the latter to the extreme), but mommy can always soothe you, no matter what the problem is. Daddy is fun to play with, but mommy makes everything better. But, when your mind is made up, god help us if we disagree.
Band-aids may take second place before daddy, actually. You remain firmly convinced that a band-aid will cure any ailment or problem. We go through a lot of band-aids.
Like your brother, you are fearless, and willing to try anything at least once (except soccer). You are, however, more calculating than your brother. We joke that you're the ringleader whenever there's trouble, but more often than not, I don't think it's a joke. You have a brilliant little mind and its fascinating to watch you think something through. It can also be unnerving to see certain looks cross your face.
You are generous, almost to a fault (we are really trying to teach you the value of money now, before you give all you have away...). You are protective of others, even when they don't deserve it. In kindergarten, you were nicknamed the "defense attorney" for always coming to someone's aid with a quick "well, here's what actually happened," whenever someone was in trouble. Your friends adore you and you would do anything for them in return.
School has been a challenge for you. Rules and structure rub against your nature. Hierarchy is merely a suggestion for you, and you are often in trouble for correcting your teachers (although they do admit, you are often right...). You also have a voracious appetite for learning, and so have often sat in rapt attention while your brother teaches you something above your level. Thus, you are often bored in school. You went to preschool knowing your alphabet and how to count. We try and keep you interested, but you're always ready for more. We're not sure your school is ready for you to enter first grade next year.
Your desire to not be the baby is rendering itself in your growth. You have the same growing pains that I did and sprout up at least once a month. You have gone from wearing your brother's clothes from last year, to wearing them from last season, to wearing the same clothes some days. You took Disney's height requirements as a challenge and surpassed them. Now, you have your eyes on the height minimums for Harry Potter at Universal. I'm afraid your mother and the NBA will be your next challenges.
Six years. It doesn't seem possible. With the exception of the blanket your brother gave you when you came home from the hospital, nothing is the same. (The banket is still around, but it has seen better days...). You are a big boy and nobody is going to tell you otherwise (unless it means doing chores, etc. in which case you explain that you're still a baby). You're covered in scrapes and bruises, but unafraid to face your next challenge. I can't wait to see what it is each day.
So, tonight, we will feast on your choice of hot dogs and grilled cheese and your cake, which is a model of the Stargate (because Dora never explored far enough for you).
I love you, Bubba. Happy Birthday.
We had our first taste of bullying this week and it had left me frustrated and angry.
I came home from work on Thursday and asked the boys how school was. C gave his standard answer of "good." M gave his standard of "okay." Thursday is M's library day, though, so I asked about that and whether he had brought home a new book.
"No," he said, "but we had reading buddies." M has a great reading buddy named Malcolm. He's in sixth grade and M generally idolizes him. He loves his time with Malcolm, so I thought he should be happier about this announcement. Prying a little more revealed that it wasn't Malcolm, but somebody new, a 4th grader. The usual reading buddy is Friday, so this must have been something special.
"Well that sounds nice," I said, still wondering about his hesitation to talk about it. "Well, it was," he said, "until they tried to make me kiss Isabella."
Several iterations of the story had to be told until we understood fully (he was more forthcoming with Mommy than with me), but it went something like this. M and his buddy Declan shared a buddy, "Bobby" we think his name was. Isabella had another buddy, no name, but she wore gummi-bear earrings. At some point in the class, Isabella was in one of the cubicles in the library with her buddy and M and his buddy joined them. A conversation started about the gummi-bear earrings (I believe it centered on whether they were real gummi-bears or not) and M was promised a gummi-bear if Isabella would "tell him something."
I'm a little unclear on this point. Maybe she was supposed to tell him a secret? At any rate, it quickly turned into both buddies trying to get M to kiss Isabella. When he refused, his buddy started physically pushing him towards her, she got scared, Declan tried pulling "Bobby" off of M, while all this time, the teacher was back in the classroom and the Librarian was nowhere to be found.
M was upset about it. He seemed to think that Isabella was really scared and we were furious.
We brought the boys to school the next morning and let the principal know we needed to speak to her. We laid out what we knew and our shock that this was allowed to happen in school. As K pointed out, parent are forced to undergo a full CORI investigation to even volunteer in the lunchroom, but then our kids are left alone with older kids? The school makes such a big deal of fighting bullying, but then sets up scenarios to allow it to happen? I don't believe every older kid is waiting to bully a younger or that these two even realized that what they were doing was as bad as it was. But, the damage is done.
The principal promised a full investigation and that she would deal with those involved (assuming that she can figure out who "Bobby" and the gummi-bear girl were). We will (unfortunately) not be told of anything she finds, who is responsible, nor would we know if anything is ever done about it. I understand the need for secrecy (this is a Catholic school after all...) but, we're left with a 5 year old who is now somewhat scared of his reading buddies and has a stigma about kissing a girl.
I am sure that both will pass, and can only hope that we can leverage this experience, and how it felt, as a lesson against our boys ever thinking to do the same to someone else.
Ah, school vacation week. Never a dull moment when you have to work, but the kids have to stay home. We survived, though. A trip down to VA to see the new nephew, a day working from home, a day with the babysitter who is also off from school and lastly a day at work with dad. I cannot sing the praises of Bright Horizons enough. Best benefit any of my firms have offered.
The boys had a blast at the Center that day. They built rocket ships, they made popcorn (three flavors! taco, cheese and cinnamon-sugar) and generally had a great time. I took them out to lunch, which is always a treat (at least for me). I get to spend extra time with them on a workday and have a reason to not eat lunch at my desk.
A treat for them (besides the fact that they usually find pizza in the cafeteria) is coming back to my office. Dad has a white board to draw on (never mind the stuff he already has written there), dad has a speaker phone to call mom and, of course, dad has office supplies. Post-its are the favorite on most trips. This time another 3M product stole the show. The Post-It tape flag.
Did you know that you could make a mustache out of these things? I had never thought of it, but as the picture shows, you can make a fine two-tone 'stache out of these things. C proceeded to wear his for the next 20 minutes as we walked around my office and back to the Children's Center. The looks I got from my colleagues were withering, but C was not to be bothered.
But, the best part of the day was the conversation in the elevator back downstairs. We got in the elevator with a few other people, none of whom failed to note the flags on C's face. I tried to break the ice with a joke about 'Just for Men' to get the flag colors to match, but the boys took the conversation over the goal line.
M: C, are you going to wear those all day?
C: Yeah, I like it.
M: (moves in close to C's face) You know you have some real hair there?
C: Yup. (he begins to stroke his tape flags)
M: No, really, you have some hair above your lip.
Me: That's called peach fuzz.
C: (Deadpan) No, dad, that's called a quality 'stache.
He then walked off the elevator as the man next to me tried to not choke on his drink...
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