God on High, Once is Enough

Imagine a Mom. A Mom with a deep crease in her forehead and saggy boobs.

You know.

A Regular Mom.

Imagine that Regular Mom has a husband and four sons. The poor girl is substantially outnumbered. No wonder that crease is so deep. So many boys. So little meaningful conversation. That Regular Mom with the deep crease and the saggy boobs longs to get the lowdown from her boys after school every day. How was that brownie I put in your lunch? Who did you sit with? Were your friends kind to you? Did you laugh today? What made you laugh?

But pfffft. Those boys of hers aren’t wired for chit chat. They come home from school, dump their bags precariously in the entryway where Regular Mom will trip on them, load their pockets with cheeseballs and head straight for the trampoline to beat the piss out of one another. So Regular Mom…that saint of a woman…heads into the kitchen to prepare seventeen different dishes that will be consumed by five males in the span of three minutes. She turns on Howard Stern–at least he’ll talk to her–and hopes that tonight’s dinner conversation does not include any sound, smell, or mention of flatulence. Just this once.

Regular Mom has a tough pill to swallow every March. Her kids have THE LONGEST SPRING BREAK EVER. Eleven days off from school.

In a row.

And that includes the weekends because oh yes they do so fucking count.

Many months ago, she researched what it would cost to fly that sizable family out to Arizona to visit her sister for a portion of that eleven day nut punch. A quick Google search showed that it costs too many American dollars to put six winter-weary butts on a plane headed West in the month of March.

Regular Mom’s parents don’t like shoveling snow, so they spend the cold winter months in Florida. Regular Mom did a quick Google search on the price of flights to Florida, and it turns out it costs too many American dollars to fly six people there in March too.

“Son of a motherless goat,” she said, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I do another eleven day staycation with crowd.”

Her offspring wouldn’t know a dinner conversation that didn’t include the word “fart” if it came up and bit them on their gassy little asses, but Regular Mom still wanted to connect with each and every one of her sons.

So she Googled the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge.

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Here is what she learned.

It costs $500 to:

  • frolic about in an indoor water park in ankle deep water that is arguably 50% urine from the bladders of other people’s kids,

  • spend the night in a smaller bed than she’s used to in one room that will sleep her entire family,

  • wrestle on a bathing suit unexpectedly three months earlier than she usually dreads doing, and

  • leave exhausted with the high likelihood of plantar warts in her near future.

So she said to her husband, “WHAT KIND OF A RACKET IS THIS?”

But Regular Mom’s husband said, “Think of our third son. That boy loves being in the water more than anything. Picture the look of excitement on his face when we tell him we’re going. It’s well worth the price of admission merely to see the happiness in his eyes.”

And Regular Mom thought her husband made a good point. Boy #3 is a patient soul with an infectious smile and a pure heart. So she confirmed the overnight arrangements with the vision of her elated third born son’s face in her mind’s eye. And a twitch in her actual eye from the exorbitant price of admission.

Regular Mom bought several pairs of new goggles on the sly. She crept up the stairs into the frigid, dark attic–a space not fit for a full grown adult which forces her to navigate all the clothing bins on her knees–to locate and launder the bathing suits. She packed the overnight bags surreptitiously. So great was her anticipation of her third son’s excitement, that she smiled and chuckled aloud as she prepared for their surprise overnight trip.

And when the time came to share the news with their four sons of the trip to the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge, Regular Mom and her husband assembled the children at the table.

“Please guess where we are taking you.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s New Jersey beach house.”

“No.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s Florida beach house.”

“No.”

“Arizona.”

“No.”

“Why not Arizona? I want to go to Arizona. You said we would go to Arizona one day.”

“Stop complaining. Keep guessing.”

“The Oreland Swim Club.”

“No, but close.”

“I don’t have any more guesses.

…This is a stupid game.

…Can’t you just tell us already?

…Can I watch a show?”

“OK, boys, Dad and I are taking you to…”

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he reached out and squeezed her hand. They smiled because a moment like this–when you make an announcement that elicits pure joy in the people you love so fiercely and completely–this is what makes all of the sleepless nights and the backtalk and the bad pre-teen Disney shows and the vomiting on fresh sheets at 2AM worth it. This is the moment.

“We are taking you to…

…GREAT! WOLF! LODGE!!!!”

Regular Mom craned her neck around her youngest son and looked expectantly at her third son, the sweetheart of the bunch, the boy whose smile warms her all the way to her toes.

“What?” he stammered, “WHAT?!”

“Yes!” Regular Mom nodded and clapped. “Great Wolf Lodge! The indoor water park! What do you think?!”

And her third son yelled, “I’M NOT GOING IN THE WATER! AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” And then he covered his crestfallen face with his hands, laid his head on the table, and proceeded to cry. Hysterically.

Not the happy tears.

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he looked back at her. And there was no need to speak. Because they were both thinking the same thing.

This, unfortunately, is what parenting is about.

Parenting is thinking you’ve got it so perfectly right…only to discover you couldn’t have been more wrong.

Parenting is the illusion of a whole lotta YES…and the reality of OH, HELL NO.

Not just one NO.

A series of NO’s.

NO’s that get progressively louder and borderline violent.

Welcome to parenthood! Jump in, the water’s great! We’re swimming in somebody else’s pee, but honestly. It couldn’t be better. Embrace the unpredictability!

They dried the tears of their third born son, hurried the children into the car just as the snow began falling, and drove North towards their destination. What should have been a ninety minute drive became ninety minute drive + sixty additional tense minutes. Because four kids.

They checked into the hotel. Donned their bathing suits. Scarfed down Uncrustables. Distributed goggles. And down to the water park the six of them schlepped.

When they were finally together as a family in the pool–before the lifeguard whistled at the oldest son for pulling the second born under water, and before the other lifeguard whistled at the youngest for taking a running leap into the pool and cannon-balling his tiny muscular frame onto the heads and necks of unsuspecting strangers, and before Regular Mom threatened her husband that if he dared to take one more picture she would rip that expensive lens off his camera and send it down the party slide in an oversized raft–Regular Mom and her husband shared a smile. They were surrounded by their children…no one crying, no one in trouble, no one demanding a snack, no one having to poop…and life was good.

Regular Mom stood contentedly in four feet of disturbingly warm water, waiting for her youngest son to launch himself into her arms, when she felt a tap on her leg underwater. She turned to find her third son breaking the surface of the pool.

“Hi, Mom,” he smiled.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she smiled back. Her smile grew bigger as she noticed his goggles weren’t properly suctioned. His eyes were swimming in little pools of water behind those goggles.

“Sorry I was in a bad mood about coming to Great Wolf Lodge, Mom,” he said quietly.

“That’s OK, buddy.”

“I thought we were going to the Lego Store, Mom. I really just wanted to go to the Lego Store. But this is fun.”

“I’m glad you’re having a good time,” What a precious boy.

“Mom, can I ask you a question?”

“Absolutely, buddy.”

He looked over both his shoulders, swam up almost on top of her and asked, “Mom, would you sacrifice yourself for me?”

What’s that now?

Regular Mom chewed on the inside of her mouth to avoid smiling, “Without hesitation.”

“Does that mean yes or no?”

“That means yes. And twice on Sunday’s,” she nodded, as she kissed his wet forehead.

“Twice on Sunday’s? What is that, Mom?”

“It means yes. I would sacrifice myself for you,” it took all her effort to keep a straight face. Especially with the chlorine rolling directly into her eyes.

He nodded his head. Looked over his shoulders once again. Emptied his goggles, dove under water, and swam off without so much as a glance back at Regular Mom.

Sacrifice myself? She wondered what he could possibly be talking about when her reverie was broken by her youngest son’s wet, flying body. Which struck her square on the side of the head.

“You were supposed to catch me!” he spat the words at her. Along with some pool water for good measure.

Once she regained her faculties and was no longer seeing two, three, and four of her children…oh, wait, that’s how many kids she actually has…she swam over to her husband.

“I don’t know what #3 has planned, but he just swam up to me like the Loch Ness fucking Monster and asked me if I would sacrifice myself for him.”

Her husband raised his eyebrows and nodded his head, “Really?” he asked. “That’s interesting. Because he asked me earlier if I know anyone who had fallen into a ravine and survived.”

Hang on, what?

“Let’s keep our eye on that kid,” Regular Mom said.

“And let’s not make plans to visit the Grand Canyon anytime soon.”

“Good call,” Regular Mom agreed.

Regular Mom, her husband, and sons enjoyed hours at the indoor water park. They stayed until well after their two younger sons’ bedtimes. They stayed until Regular Mom could feel the sting of chlorine on her eyeballs when she wasn’t even in the pool. She worried maybe the fine people of Great Wolf Lodge were vaporizing the chlorine and pumping it into the air supply to compensate for all of the peeing in the pools, and that’s when she gave her family the high sign. They trudged up the four flights of stairs to their room, and decided on sleeping arrangements.

The younger two, who were exhausted, would share the pullout sofa bed since it sat on the opposite side of a partitioned wall and offered a modicum of privacy and quiet.

The oldest boy announced, “I’m not sleeping with my other brother,” and both Regular Mom and her husband groaned.

Because that meant one of them had to share a bed with that action.

Non-stop kicking. Sideways sleeping. Talking in his sleep. Walking in his sleep. Night terrors. Hogging of covers. That’s what it’s like to share a bed with their second born son. He is a beacon of light during the day. And the angel of death in slumber.

“Fine. I’ll sleep with him,” Regular Mom’s husband grumbled. The light went out in his eyes as the gravity of the night ahead of him sunk in.

It had been a long time since Regular Mom had slept in the same bed with her oldest son. When he flopped on the bed as far away from her as possible without rolling onto the floor, she was reminded of how much he’d grown and how twelve year old boys pretty much altogether suck.

She smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoon with you.”

He rolled his eyes, and replied, “As usual I don’t know what you’re talking about, but don’t touch me, old lady,” and then he flipped his head so she wouldn’t breathe on his face.

Regular Mom doesn’t pray very often. But, lying in an overpriced room with her family, sharing an undersized bed with her oldest son got her thinking. These are the people I love most in the world. They are my reason. Every day.

And Regular Mom was overcome with emotion.

Mostly that emotion was dread.

She lay next to her firstborn son–whose voice is deeper, whose shoulders are broader, whose feet are as big as his grandfather’s, whose upper lip is covered in peach fuzz, whose hormones are raging–and Regular Mom prayed.

“God on high, Hear my prayer. In my need, you have always been there. He is young. He’s afraid. Let him rest. Heaven blessed.”

It was just like Jean Val jean singing over Marius in Les Miserables.

Except it was nothing like that.

Because, it was night two of her period.

The night her uterus bleeds with the vengeance of five uteruses.

Uteri?

So her prayer went more like this:

Dear Patron Saint of Heavy Periods,

Please hear and answer my prayer. My son is 12 years old. It’s an uncomfortable age. That was a particularly awkward year for me. I remember flashes of sequins and a favorite pair of fluorescent striped corduroys.  Please, PLEASE do not let me bleed all over these white sheets.  I have nowhere to hide. If I leak, if my oldest child wakes in a pool of his mother’s uterine lining, he will be scarred for life. More scarred than I was by that awful haircut I had at 12 years old. And I’m still carrying that around.

So, um, Amen?  

Regular Mom only slept about 45 minutes total that night, so scared was she that she would bleed all over the shared bed and damage her son irrevocably.

So she lay awake all night long.

And early the next morning, when she shimmied her way out of bed, she smiled. It had been a perfect, leak-free, sleepless night. Her 12 year old son’s delicate psyche would remain intact. At least until the next family vacation.

Regular Mom’s husband had already left the reservation to take pictures get her a Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why's my coffee so cold?

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why’s my coffee so cold?

She made mental notes about the day ahead. There was packing to do and breakfast to make and hours more fun to be had. But for now, she would let her boys sleep.

Regular Mom crept over to peek around the partition at her two younger sons, who were just stirring.

“Mom, can you lay with us?” whispered the third son.

They made space for her between them, and she slipped under the sheets and wrapped her arms around her third and fourth babies.

“Mom, what o’clock is it?” asked the youngest.

“It’s still dark outside,” she whispered. “That means it’s the perfect o’clock for you to lay with Mommy.”

“Mom, are we gonna come here again? To Great Wolf Lodge?” asked her third son.

Regular Mom replied, “Well, we’re going to have fun at the waterpark again today. But I don’t know if we’ll come back after that. For our family, I think visiting Great Wolf Lodge once is probably enough.”

The two boys snuggled up against her, she kissed the tops of their heads and whispered, “This is the best part of my day.”

Her third son reached his arms around her neck and gave her an unexpected hug. He gazed up at her with that face that melts her heart and said,  “Mom, does that mean we can go to the Lego Store tomorrow? Because I really only wanted to go to the Lego Store this spring break.”

***

And that, my friends, is what spring break looks like in the life of a Regular Mom.

Just add nine more days.

Word.

 

The Jedi Mind Tricks my Kids Play

I don’t know a thing about raising girls. I do have some experience with raising boys.

Whether I’m doing anything right is an entirely different animal.

It has been my experience with boys that they need to move their bodies around. Frequently.  So, we hang at the playground after I pick them up from school every day. Before you go kidding yourself that I’m a great Mom, allow me confess…it’s a selfish move on my part. This playground situation is ideal for me. Because the second that my kids enter my car to drive home from school, the commotion reaches an immediate peak. And it remains there, at that ungodly high level, until they are all finally in bed. That’s 6 solid hours of commotion.

Um, no thanks.

The playground sets me up for a mere 5 solid hours of commotion.

It’s less than ideal, but I’ll take it.

One day last month, we’re at the playground. There are a few regulars, who are there every day, like we are. The groupies. I love these other broads. Some are Moms. Some are nannies. We are different ages, different ethnicities, different backgrounds. So, while my kids shake their sillies out, I enjoy the camaraderie of these women who share their unique stories with me.

Maggie is a groupie. Maggie has one son, Eddie.  Eddie is a good buddy of Waldorf’s. Maggie stays home with her son. And his other Mom, Jaclyn, works full time. We adore this family.

Maggie: Half smiling, “So, Jaclyn and I were talking to Eddie about what were to happen if we both die.”

Me: Eyebrows raised, “Oh, yeah? Serious chat to have with your 10 year old.”

Maggie: Nodding, “Yeah, but you know it’s just the three of us.  So, guess what he said?”

Me: “What?”

Maggie: Big smile, “He says, ‘If you both die, I want to live with Waldorf.’”

Me: Incredulous, “Shut up! He did not!”

Maggie: Nodding, “Yes, he did. He said he wants to live with you guys.”

Me: “Jesus, Maggie, seriously?  It would be a tight squeeze, but we’d be happy to have him.”

I am smiling. Glowing. I stay home with the kids, right? But I am somebody who thrives on setting goals, working toward them, and achieving them. That means I have to derive a great deal of pleasure from cleaning a sink full of dirty dishes.  Because I don’t know whether my raising of these kids will be successful for another 20-30 years. Waldorf’s friend wants to live with us if his parents die? That’s an enormous compliment to me. Positive reinforcement at its finest. And I’m a sucker for positive reinforcement.

We love this boy, and we’d be honored to welcome him into our family if, God forbid, he ever loses these wonderful women.

Why us, I wonder?

I wonder if it’s because he sees how I interact with my own kids.

Fun Mom.

Maybe it’s my brownies. Oh, and the chocolate chip cookie bars! Yes, he loves my baking.

Mom who cooks.

You know what? Eddie’s an only child. I bet he’d love to be a part of our crazy dynamic.

Mom who gives her children siblings.

Oh, wait…how could I overlook this one? It’s B&B! He’d love to have B&B as a father figure!

Mom who is married to virile man.

Maybe it’s the entire package!

I smile, look at Maggie, and she smiles back at me.

Well, how about that…maybe we are doing something right.

Me: Excited, “Did he say anything more? Did he tell you why he’d want to live with us?”

Maggie: Nodding, “Oh, yeah, yeah. We asked him ‘is it because you see how good Waldorf’s Mom is with him and his brothers?’”

I raise my eyebrows expectantly….

This is the greatest day of my life. I am savoring this moment. This one right here. Moment of happiness.

Maggie: “He said, ‘nope.’”

Eyebrows fall…

Oh.

Maggie: “We asked him, ‘is it because Waldorf’s Mom is always bringing those delicious snacks to the playground? Because she always has the good food for Waldorf and his brothers?’”

Eyebrows back up…

The way to a boy’s heart is through his stomach, yes?

Maggie: “He said, ‘nope.’”

Dammit.

Maggie: “We asked him, ‘is it because of B&B? You know, cuz you don’t have a Dad, you just have us women?’”

I raise my eyebrows again…

Sometimes the sheer Leave It to Beaver-ness of our family makes me nauseous, but maybe it’s appealing to a kid whose family is less traditional. And B&B is a stud of a Daddy.

Maggie: “He said, ‘nope.’”

That settles it. Must be all the Gremlins under our roof.

Maggie: “We asked him, ‘is it because they’re such a big family? All those kids to play with? All that fun to be had?’”

My head hurts from all of this eyebrow raising…

Has to be. Doesn’t it?

Me: “And?”

Maggie: Smiling, “He said, ‘it’s not that Waldorf has so many brothers. It’s that he orders them around. And they listen to him. I watch them. They do it here, on the playground. Waldorf tells the younger ones what to do…and they do it. Every time. I want to live with them so I can give the orders and watch the younger boys carry them out.”

Come again?

Me: “Well, Maggie, this has indeed been both an enlightening and a humbling conversation.”

Maggie: Laughing in agreement, “That’s what he says. He wants to live with you so he can order the younger guys around.”

Pfffffffffft. That’s the sound of my bubble bursting.

I pick up what remains of the homemade brownies, along with the pieces of my shattered ego, corral the kids, and head to the car for my 5 consecutive hours of commotion.

The Pecking Order of siblings. It exists indeed. And it is alive and well in our home.

The Interrogator recently celebrated a birthday. I was slightly nervous about his reaction to his presents after our Valentine’s Day debacle. But, he was thrilled with everything…hard to go wrong with all things Ninjago.

The behavior of his brothers, older and younger, during his opening of the presents was especially interesting to watch.

Typically, I am awake and downstairs by 6AM, finishing the packing of the lunches and the snacks for the kids to take to school. I am vigilant about where I place my feet when I walk down the steps. I know which floorboards creak the loudest and avoid them at all costs. A quiet exit from my bedroom and stealthy descent down the stairs will ensure I’m able to listen, even for only a few minutes, to Howard Stern. Or to the beautiful silence of no one asking me for a goddamn thing.

This happens once every 3-4 weeks.

On birthday mornings, everybody gets up extra early, so any plans for solitude are shot.

But, that’s OK, because I am as excited for the kids’ birthday as they are.  

Every morning, the Verb jumps out of bed with the gusto only a 3 year old can possess.

BOOM!

Verb: “MOM! I’M ALL DONE SLEEPING! I HAVE TO GO PEE!”

The loud boom of the Verb’s feet hitting the ground usually wakes the Interrogator, who sleeps in the bunk above his younger brother. If not, the follow up announcement about relieving himself typically does the trick.

The morning of the Interrogator’s birthday, my little Verb is up before 6. The birthday boy awakes then as well. Within 2 minutes, the Kenyan and Waldorf appear in the hallway.

Me: “What’s the special occasion, guys? Everybody’s excited to get to school early?”

Waldorf: Straight faced, “Ha ha.”

Kenyan: Laughing, “Oh, yeah, Mom, let’s go right away!”

Verb: “Huh? Mommy, it’s the Interrogator’s birthday!!”

Interrogator: Smiling shyly and rubbing his tired eyes,“It’s my birthday, Mom. My 6 birthday. Now I’m 6, Mom.”

Love. Complete and unconditional.

I hug and kiss my birthday boy, the baby who, upon his exit, left me feeling as though my uterus was carrying around a bucket of marbles for a solid 6 months post-partum. Heavy marbles. That moved nonstop.

Me: “Happy birthday, sweet boy.”

The kids race down the steps in anticipation of the Interrogator’s opening his presents. The Interrogator, smiling, reaches for the first present. The biggest present. On the bottom of the present pile.

Waldorf: “Wait, hold on! Don’t you want to open THIS present first?”

He hands the Interrogator a different present.

Waldorf always has an agenda. Always.

Interrogator: “Oh, yeah, yeah, this one, right. OK, I do want to open this one!”

He tears open the wrapping paper and immediately smiles.

Interrogator: Grinning, “Oh, a Ninjago skeleton. I just love Ninjago skeletons. This is perfect.”

He struggles to open the packaging. The Kenyan thrusts a different present under his nose.

Kenyan: Excited, “Interrogator, Mommy will open that for you. HERE! Open THIS present!”

Let him open it if he wants to open it. Good God, these kids are pushy.

Interrogator: Easily convinced, “Oh, yeah, here you go, Mom. Can you open it please? I want to open this present.”

He digs into the wrapping paper, uncovering another…different…Ninjago skeleton.

Interrogator: Smiling, “Wow! 2 Ninjago skeletons! For me? This is the best birthday. I love being 6.”

Again, he attempts to extract the skeleton from the packaging. Impatiently, Waldorf shoves a present between the Interrogator and the unopened skeleton.

Waldorf: Curtly, “Here. Open it.”

I catch B&B’s eye. We exchange angry faces at our older kids’ attempt to control the Interrogator’s birthday present opening sequence.

For the love of God, let the kid open the presents in the order he wants.

Me: “Ahem.”

Both Waldorf and the Kenyan look at me.  I silently take my hand and wave it back and forth across my throat. International sign for “cut it out”, right?

Kenyan: “Someone’s dead? Who’s dead?”

Waldorf: “You’re going to chop someone’s head off?”

This is what it’s like to be surrounded by penises. I mean idiots.

Me: “Waldorf and Kenyan, maybe we’ll let the Interrogator choose which presents he’d like to open next. You’ve both done a nice job helping him. Thank you for that. But let’s let him decide. Go ahead, Interrogator, which present do you want to open next?”

The Interrogator looks at me, then at his remaining pile of wrapped presents, then at his two older brothers.

Interrogator: “Um, I don’t know. Which one do you think I should open, Kenyan?”

The Kenyan grabs a present from the pile. Before he has the chance to hand it to the birthday boy, Waldorf puts his hand on the Kenyan’s arm to stop him.

Waldorf: “No. You want to give him THAT one.”

He points to a different present. The Kenyan immediately obeys. Puts down his first choice, picks up Waldorf’s recommendation, and hands it to the Interrogator.

What the hell kind of Jedi mind trick was that?!

The Interrogator rips the wrapping paper off, unveiling the coveted Ninjago blade cycle. A collective gasp is heard.

Interrogator: Nearly screaming in excitement, “Oh! Oh! It’s just what I always wanted! It’s just right! And I knew Santa would bring it for my 6 birthday because I’m a good boy, Mom, right? Right Mom? Santa bringed this blade cycle for me because I’m such a good boy?”

Me: Struggling not to laugh, “You know what, buddy? You are SUCH a good boy. That’s from Mom and Dad and all of your brothers. Santa’s taking a vacation, and we’re celebrating your birthday.”

Waldorf: One eyebrow cocked, “Um, Interrogator, I need to see that box. For JUST a minute. Please.”

The Interrogator has a death grip on the present he desired most for his birthday. He hugs the box to his chest, takes a deep breath, then hands it over to his oldest brother.

Waldorf’s eyes light up. He smiles. He looks at the picture. He whispers to the Kenyan. The Kenyan’s eyes light up. The Kenyan smiles.

What are they up to?

Waldorf: “OK. Interrogator, we’d like to make a deal.”

Look out. The chief negotiator is on the case.

We listen to Waldorf sell a used car to his younger brother. The Kenyan occasionally chimes in for good measure.

The Interrogator is unsure whether he should accept the offer. He is a hoarder. Not in the way Waldorf hoards items, like aluminum foil hotdog wrappers from school, but a hoarder no less. The Interrogator is famous for taking 8 different Lego characters, all wielding weapons, with him to the bathroom. To pee. It takes him longer to set the Legos up on the windowsill than it does to relieve himself and wash his hands. He has a phobia of his brothers stealing his Legos. We have rescued many a Lego from the toilet as a result. And soaked several in bleach before returning them to his little grabby hands.

But his need for his brothers’ approval surpasses his desire even for his most coveted birthday gift.

Interrogator: “OK, Waldorf. I’ll trade my two new guys for your old guy you’ve been hiding in your closet.”

Waldorf and the Kenyan high five. Waldorf runs past us, averting his evil eyes from our disapproving parental glares.

We’ve just witnessed the perfect illustration of why Eddie wants to live with us. The sway the older brothers posses to manipulate their younger brothers. The pecking order at its best.

Or, from a parents’ perspective, the pecking order at its worst.

B&B and I step out of the room to discuss what’s just transpired.

B&B: Angrily whispering, “This is horse shit. I am going to beat those two morons. I am going to hold them down and beat them. And I’m going to enjoy it. The way they took advantage of that sweet, innocent Interrogator. They deserve a beating.”

Me: Agreeing, “They do indeed. But there’s nothing we can do about it.”

B&B: Feeling challenged, “The hell there isn’t. Watch me. Watch me while I beat them.”

*As an aside, B&B never lays a hand on the kids.  I hand out the beatings.

Kidding.

Me: Shaking my head, “It’s the pecking order. You can’t mess with it. Circle of life and all that shit.”

B&B: “It’s bullshit.”

Me: “Yep. But it’s a rite of passage. Nothing you can do about it. You’re the youngest, you should know. Didn’t your sisters dress you up as a girl and put makeup on you?”

B&B: “Maybe. Probably. I know I watched a lot of daytime soap operas. God, I loved Guiding Light.”

This is life with B&B. One minute, he’s preparing to hold the children down and enjoy beating them. The next, he’s fondly reminiscing about daytime soap operas. He is one of a kind, indeed.  

I remember the pecking order in my nuclear family growing up.  My brother is the oldest, therefore he rode shotgun and dictated the music choices in the car. He also capitalized on his status as oldest sibling in order to bamboozle us out of our very favorite candy during our post-trick-or-treat trading fest at the kitchen table.

Big Brother: Straight faced, “Little Sister, I’ll trade you one of my Charleston Chews for 2 of your Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”

Oh, that’s junk. Nobody wants a Charleston Chew.

peckpeck

Little Sister: Eager to please Big Brother: “YES! YES! It’s a great trade! Actually, take all 5 of my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”

Me: Looking cross-eyed at Little Sister,”Have you lost your mind? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are your favorites. And Charleston Chews are junk. That’s the worst trade of the night.”

Little Sister: Beaming, “No, it’s fine. I want him to have them. All of them.”

I look at Big Brother, who’s smiling like the cat who swallowed the canary. He throws a Maryjane at her for good measure. Then he laughs.

That’s just plain evil. But it’s the pecking order.

I was guilty of abusing it as well…

Me: “I notice you didn’t make your bed this morning, Little Sister.”

Little Sister: Tossing her curls over her tiny shoulder, “What? Oh, yeah. I wanted to play with my dolls. Don’t tell Mom I didn’t make my bed.”

Me: Taking advantage of my poor, innocent younger sibling, “Give me a reason not to tell her, and I won’t.”

Little Sister: Pleading, “I’ll buy you a pack of gum if you don’t tell her. Grape Hubba Bubba. I know that’s your favorite. Please don’t tell?”

I consider her offer. Before I have the chance to accept it, she sweetens the pot…

Little Sister: “And a cherry flavored Laffy Taffy! I know you love those too! I’ll buy you both if you don’t tell Mom I didn’t make my bed.”

Me: “Deal.”

The Pecking Order. The Rite of Passage of Siblings. The Survival of the Fittest.

Eddie wants a taste of it? Heck, what’s another boy in this house. Welcome to the jungle, Eddie.

I sure hope you’re not allergic to dust, my boy.

 

*Special thanks to Maggie, Jaclyn, and Eddie, a family of rock stars, for allowing me to include them in this story. Our school, our community, and our families are richer for the friendship, love, and laughter you’ve brought to them. XOXOXO