There are times when I behold my children and wonder if they have been replaced by aliens who’ve never had a mother. Times when I find myself asking what it is they don’t understand about turning off a light or putting something in the hamper or not tormenting their sibling or waiting just a minute and not making my eardrums bleed while they do so. Those times, I wonder if I’m doing anything right, because clearly nothing is sinking in to their precious little half-formed brains.
And sometimes when these things happen, I say things to them like, “Can you hear me AT ALL?” or “Is anyone home in there?” or “DID YOU HIT YOUR HEAD?” You won’t find that in any parenting book, but I assure you that the alternatives which are close to falling out of my mouth are much worse, so we’ll pretend that’s not so bad.
Last night Monkey had a birthday party at a local bowling alley. The party was set to run a bit (read: lot) later than I normally have the kids out, but it was Friday night and a party so we were, of course, planning to let him go. As it turned out, yesterday was also pajama day at school (which, for whatever reason, made the entire day VERY EXCITING because PAJAMAS! AT SCHOOL!) and the kids went over to a friends’ house after school because I couldn’t be home in time for them.
[Digression: I went and spoke to a college class yesterday and I wanted to scoop all of those fresh dewy young things up and put them in my pocket and take them and their youthful enthusiasm home with me. So much fun. I’m beginning to understand why Otto teaches.]
So anyway, the point is that the entire day was VERY EXCITING what with the pajamas and the friends’ house and then staying up late to PARTY in the manner most befitting a pack of 8-year-old boys, which is to say doing POKEMON BOWLING! (Instead of putting their real names on the scoreboard, they all had Pokemon character names. That mother is BRILLIANT, as that made the bowling cooler by a factor of about a billion.)
I was, quite frankly, braced for the meltdown of the century from one or both children.
Instead, we got Monkey situated at the bowling alley, left and had dinner out with Chickadee—who was sweet and charming and hilarious for the entire meal—and then went back to the alley to watch the boys and do a bit of bowling, ourselves.
The boys were bowling with bumpers, naturally, but Otto and Chickadee and I opted to go for the real deal, which meant that for the first three frames or so, Chickadee didn’t knock down a single pin. I sensed imminent disaster.
And then that calm and encouraging husband of mine took my daughter up to the line and gave her some pointers and a pep talk, and on her next throw she knocked down a bunch of pins. And suddenly it was the greatest night of her life! We chatted up the whole “bowling like an adult” thing and she happily told Monkey at the end of the night that she’s learning how to bowl without gutter guards and that she LOVES bowling. When we finished our game she was invited to have a slice of cake in the party room, so her night was pretty much perfect.
Monkey kept coming over to our lane to check in or cheer us on, and reported that he was having THE BEST TIME EVER at this party. When it was time to go and goodie bags were being handed out, I somehow managed to pry him out of the clot of small boys comparing trading cards and encouraged him to say his thank yous and goodbye.
“Thank you for letting your son invite me to his party!” he solemnly told the birthday boy’s mom. “I really loved it!” She brought the birthday boy forward and he followed up with, “Happy birthday! Thanks for having me!”
We were ready to go, but the birthday boy threw his arms around Monkey. “You are the best boy here, Monkey!” he exclaimed.
Monkey smiled and returned the hug, then lowered his voice and suggested, “You probably shouldn’t say that in front of the other boys. We wouldn’t want anyone to feel bad.”
And then every adult in the vicinity melted into a puddle of goo, which made driving home a little messy.
For every night like that one, there’s countless others that are exasperating. But those nights do seem to outweigh the others, somehow.