The other morning Hootie-Hoo came downstairs with a handle bar mustache and a goatee drawn in magic marker on his face. “I don’t know how I do that in my sleep Mama,” he innocently stated and I looked over at Brevitt who was giving me his huge mischievous smile. Somehow he had convinced his little brother that he had actually drawn on his own face in his sleep. It was to be our little secret.
Thumper is pushing his boundaries and I am doing all that I can to hang in there and teach him how to listen to authority and to not get himself into trouble. I find that nighttime is our best time to communicate. “Anybody want to take a walk with me and Muki?” I yelled out before stepping off into the dark for a beautiful summer evening walk around the neighborhood. Silence ensued and so I left without my little male companions. Ten minutes later I heard, “Mommmmmmyyy,” and I called out my signature bird cry so that Thumper could run toward my voice. He ran up beside me and quickly grabbed my hand, both afraid of and exhilarated by the evening sky and the shadows lurking in the dark.
Soon after we heard screaming and crying, another one of my children disturbing the hood. “Poor neighbors,” Thumpers squealed with delight. It was Axel who had finished the project that he had been completely engrossed in and had gone into a panic after discovering that he had been left all alone in the house, only he wasn’t alone. Baddy was reading upstairs to Hootie-Hoo before bed and either was ignoring Axel’s screams or somehow did not hear him carrying on. Husbands are talented in that respect, screening out noise disturbances.
Shouting back to Axel from across the neighborhood we directed him to meet us at the fence at the end of the field that we always walk through. Thumper’s anxiety began to set in as he worried about Axel alone in the dark and so we raced faster and faster until we found him, traumatized that he had been abandoned and racing at top speed on his bike pedaling barefoot in his oversized Homer Simpson pajamas. Thumper put his arm around Axel and let him know that all was okay.
In an interview between Consumer Health Interactive correspondent, Blyth Woolston, and Clinical Psychologist Dr. William Pollack, author of Real Boys (1998), Dr. Pollack asserts, “Research shows that if a boy has one adult he can open up to in a shame-free way, one adult who cares about him, that boy is going to be healthier, happier, less likely to be depressed, less likely to be violent, more likely to succeed in school, more likely to be open and caring, to have friendships, to succeed in life. The most important thing is for the boy to know that one adult mentor understands him and will listen — someone who will keep an eye out for him and will provide the time. It seems like such a simple task…”
“Lay down with me Mommy, you need to spend time with me,” Thumper requested the day before he went off to Water Ramp Camp, a program offered through our local Aspen Valley Ski Club.
He was working me. There is such a fine line between sticking to the bedtime routine and taking that precious alone time to connect with your child for as soon as I am in that prostate position exhaustion rapidly sets in and all pent up creativity gets released in my dreams.
“Tickle my back,” he said and as I did a flood of emotions and harbored thoughts flowed from him, “Today you said that I was not growing up to yours and daddy’s expectations and that made me really sad.”
“Thumper, I so did not say that today. I said that in the past year you have been doing your best to defy the requests made to you by your parents and your teachers and that it is important for you to learn how to respect authority.”
How interesting it was that he had processed the information so negatively and differently than I had intended and I was glad that I had a chance to further expound on his need to not push his luck.
We fell asleep with my hand tickling his back and the next day as he climbed into the big, black, ominous van with eleven other boys to head off to camp I was so glad that we had connected the night before. When I climbed in to say goodbye to my tough little boy I said, “I won’t embarrass you in front of your friends and tell you that I love you.” I thought I was so funny but my sweet little boy who holds my hand in the dark did not think so and all I got was a wave and a final glimpse of Thumper with flushed cheeks.
As I drove away I hoped that our previous conversation had some lasting impact. Children need boundaries, especially boys, the question is when to let them stretch them and when to draw the line…and not on Hootie-Hoo’s face.