Short Story Long

Me: “To be or not to be. That is the question.”

B&B: “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Me, shaking my head: “That’s wrong.”

B&B: “What?!”

Me: “It’s wrong. It’s grammatically incorrect. Therefore, it’s wrong.”

B&B: “Jean-Luc Picard would not have gotten it wrong.”

Me: “Well, he did. Your boy got it wrong.”

B&B: “How is it wrong?”

The Verb peeks around the counter at the two of us sitting at the dining room table.  “Can I have a yogurt?”

B&B: “Yes.”

Me, simultaneously: “No.”

B&B: “Did he have any yogurt this morning?”

Me: “Yes, he had 2 yogurts. He ate one of them behind the couch and left the trash there.”

B&B: “No, you may not have a yogurt.”

Me: “And stop hanging upside down from the counter. You’re going to fall on your head. Today is not a good day to go to the hospital.”

The Verb dismounts and heads downstairs to the family room.

B&B: “He’s not going to fall. That boy has skills. Look out, world, the Verb is comin’.”

Me: “What was I saying?”

B&B: “To be or not to be.”

Me: “Right. OK, to boldly go where no man has gone. It’s wrong.”

B&B: “Yes, but why?”

Me: “OK…what’s it called when you have the preposition “to” followed by a verb? A dangling participle? I forget. And don’t say gerund. It’s not a gerund.”

B&B: “How did you know I was going to say gerund?”

Me: “You always say gerund. Any obscure grammar question that arises, your answer is always “gerund”. It’s like when we play Jeopardy. Anytime the category contains the word “international”, your guess is Pakistan. And you pronounce it Pock-uh-ston.”

B&B: “I pronounce it correctly.”

Me: “Whatever. It’s not important. Just like the answer is almost never Pakistan, the answer to this grammar question is not gerund.”

“STOP IT!” The Kenyan’s voice cuts through our Sunday morning discussion.

Me: “Jesus Christ.”

B&B: “Let them figure it out.”

Me: “If we let them figure it out, the Verb will bitch slap the Interrogator repeatedly until we walk down there to separate them.”



B&B: “What the fuck is with these kids? Can we not have a simple fucking conversation without interruption?” Raising his voice,  “Kenyan, come up here please!”

As he crosses the threshold into the kitchen, the Kenyan is not crying. By the time he covers the 5 steps through the kitchen into the dining room, he’s at full tilt. Sobbing hysterically. With a wild look in his eyes. This child, like B&B, has two gears. He starts in park and hits 60 in 2 seconds flat.

Kenyan: “He KICKED me! In the EAR! And I didn’t do ANYTHING! I NEVER do ANYTHING, but someone is ALWAYS kicking me or hitting me, and IT’S NOT FAIR! And he KICKED me!”

We look at him. We say nothing.

Kenyan: “He DID!”

B&B: “Kenyan, we’re not calling your bluff. We’re waiting for you to calm down so that we can make sure you’re OK. And then we can get to the bottom of this.”

Kenyan: “I already TOLD you! He KICKED me! And I didn’t do ANYTHING!”

Waldorf walks into the kitchen. 10AM. Right on cue.

Me, smiling: “Good morning, honey.”

Waldorf: “Hello. Why’s he crying?”

Kenyan, to Waldorf: “DON’T LOOK AT ME!”

Waldorf: “Um, I didn’t look at you, I just asked why you’re crying.”

Kenyan: “I’m crying because EVERYONE is ALWAYS doing things to ME! Like YOU and like the VERB!”

Waldorf: “Don’t blame me. I just woke up. I didn’t do anything.”

Kenyan: “But you ALWAYS do SOMETHING! And it’s NOT FAIR!”

B&B: “OK, Kenyan, I know you’re upset, and you have every right to be. I would be too if someone kicked me in the ear.”

Waldorf: “Let me guess…the Verb kicked him in the ear?”


Me: “Enough, Kenyan. Waldorf, can I make you some breakfast?”

Waldorf: “I’ll have a yogurt please.”

Me: “The Verb ate the last yogurt.”

Waldorf: “Um. OK, a bagel please.”

Me, wrinkling my nose: “Daddy just ate the last bagel, buddy, sorry.”

Waldorf: “Are you going to go to the Acme today? We’re out of everything I like.”

B&B: “Can we just address this Kenyan situation please. Waldorf, we’ll figure out your breakfast in a minute. We want to get this issue resolved first. Now, Kenyan, are you ok?”

Kenyan: “NO.”

Me: “Come here, sweetheart.”

I give him a big hug, scratch his back, and feel him immediately relax.

B&B: “Kenyan, what happened? The entire story please. From start to finish. And please tell us the truth, because we’ll eventually hear it anyway. It’s best if it comes from you.”

Kenyan, tensing again: “I was sitting on the ottoman, and I put my head on the leather chair, and the Verb KICKED me!”

Me: “OK, you’re saying he kicked you unprovoked?”

Kenyan: “YES!”

B&B: “Are you sure nothing happened that led up to his kicking you? Were you laying your head on his legs?”

Kenyan: “NO!”

B&B, raises his voice: “Verb! Please come up here!”

The Interrogator walks into the room. He edges the Kenyan out of the way. And sets up camp on my lap. He’s a mass of knobby knees and bony elbows, growing taller and thinner by the hour.

Me: “Hi, buddy.”

Interrogator: “Hi, Mom. Mom, when you die and turn into a skeleton, will you be chained to a wall?”

Me: “Um, I doubt it, honey.”

Interrogator, worried: “Are you sure?”

Me: “I can’t be certain because I’ll be dead then, so I won’t know what’s happening. But I’d say I’m almost positive that someone won’t chain my dead skeleton to a wall.”

Interrogator, relieved: “Good.”

Alrighty then.

B&B: “Verb, did you kick the Kenyan in the head?”

The Verb wears a guilty expression: “Mm hmm.”

B&B: “Why?”

Verb: “Because he did this to me…” He grabs his own nipple. And pinches.

I gasp. “KENYAN! You gave him a purple nurple?!”

B&B: “Settle down, Mommy.”

Kenyan: “I did NOT!”

Verb: “He did. He pinched me.”

Kenyan: “I pinched his leg! Not his nipple!”

Verb: “He pinched me.”

Kenyan: “I pinched you AFTER you KICKED me! FOR NO REASON!”

Verb, screaming, “DON’T SCREAM AT ME!”

Kenyan, matching his brother’s panic level: “DON’T SCREAM AT ME!


Kenyan: “DON’T LOOK AT ME!”

B&B looks at me. “You realize these even numbered children are just like you? They never back down.”

Waldorf walks into the room again. “Where is the cat?”

Me: “We let him outside.”

Waldorf: “I thought we weren’t letting him outside anymore.”

Me: “We weren’t. We aren’t. He just ran out there when I opened the door.  He’ll be back.”

B&B: “Can we please address this situation, Bethany?”

Me: “Yes.”

I direct my attention to my 9 year old. “Kenyan, I told you yesterday that pinching is unacceptable. You are 9 years old. He is 4. He looks to you as an example of how to behave. When he sees you pinch, he thinks it’s OK for him to pinch. I understand your frustration at being kicked. But, please think before you retaliate. Get us involved. That’s why we’re here. Do. Not. Pinch. Your. Brother. Or anyone. Is that clear?”

I turn to my 4 year old. “Verb, your legs are for walking, running, and kicking soccer balls. They are not for kicking your brothers. Or anyone. Do. Not. Kick. Your. Brother. Or anyone. Is that clear? Now…”


B&B: “Hold on, Mommy, I’d like to say something…Kenyan, this pinching has been going on all summer. That’s ¼ of a year. And I don’t like it. The Verb has been around 4 years. So that’s a large percentage of his life that you’ve been pinching him.”

Me: “Yes, it’s 25%!”

They all look at me.

Waldorf is still in the kitchen, “Um, no it’s not.”

Kenyan: “It’s totally not.”

B&B, frowning: “It’s not 25%, Bethany. It’s 1/16th.”

*Now is the ideal time to mention that B&B scored 800 (out of 800) on the math section of his SAT’s.

Me: “Oh, right. One summer is ¼ of a year. And he’s been around 4 years. 1/16th. Right.”

Waldorf: “We got our math skills from Dad, right?”


B&B, nodding: “As I was saying, it’s a large percentage of his life that you’ve been showing him a bad choice. Now, do you think maybe there’s a chance he won’t realize it’s a bad choice? Maybe he’ll think that, because you do it, it’s an OK choice?”

The Kenyan slowly turns away in an effort to hide is face.

Continuing: “Kenyan, turn around and look at me. Kenyan, it’s disrespectful to me when you turn your back on me.”

While the Kenyan’s back is turned, I lean over and whisper, “No, he won’t look you in the face. When he feels guilty or embarrassed or ashamed, he won’t make eye contact. You have to be side-by- side with him. Otherwise, he shuts down.”

B&B, in a loud whisper: “WHAT?!”

Me, eyes wide, hands gesturing: “Side by side! Like on the sofa.”

B&B, frowning: “I’m not on the sofa. I’m at the fucking table. And he is standing there, turning his back on me, disrespecting me!”

Me, whispering: “He’s not going to look at you. He’s here. He’s listening, but don’t make him look at you.”

B&B, still whispering: “Oh, he’s going to look at me.”

B&B: “Kenyan, Kenyan! Turn around and look at me in 3…2…..thank you.”

He launches into a story about the knights of the round table and how they faced one another out of respect. So the ultimate form of disrespect is turning one’s back on someone.

I stopped listening 5 minutes ago.

B&B: “You and the Verb will both sit in time out. Verb for kicking. And Kenyan for pinching. And please, Kenyan, do not disrespect me by turning away from me when I’m talking to you.”

Our even numbered boys swallow their punishments as they exit the room.

Me, quietly: “Can I say something? And please don’t go ballistic?”

B&B: “Yes.”

Me: “The knights of the round table? Unnecessary.”

B&B: “Unnecessary?”

Me: “Unnecessary. I think it’s piling on.”

B&B: “Piling on? Your math is TERRIBLE!”

Me, laughing, “Awful. I know. It’s embarrassing.”

B&B: “25%?! What the hell was that?!”

Me, laughing harder: “Please. I’m ashamed. I like grammar. Math’s not my thing.”

B&B: “Obviously. Jesus Christ, what were we saying?”

Me: “To be or not to be…”

B&B: “To boldly go where no one has gone…”

Some day, B&B and I will sit at our dining room table on a Sunday morning. Uninterrupted. No one will need a hug. No one will climb onto my lap. No one will ask me to make his breakfast. No one will need a lesson in good choices vs. bad choices. Sometimes I look forward to that day. But not today. Today I feel lucky for the abundance of noise in my house. I feel lucky for the children responsible for making all of that noise. I feel lucky for the love I feel…so fierce it’s almost tangible…for these boys and their Dad. I feel lucky for the possibilities and opportunities that await them…every one of them…as they grow up and away from us and into their own men. Today…eleven years to the day that the Twin Towers fell, and so many innocent lives were lost…today, I feel lucky.

But, damn, it’d be nice to finish a conversation in under an hour every once in a while…

P.S. It’s not a gerund. It’s a split infinitive.

Sorry, Captain Picard.

12 thoughts on “Short Story Long

  1. OK, I can’t tell you how excited I was to see a post from you this morning! You never disappoint! The Knights of the Round Table is TOTALLY where my Hub would have gone! Oh and when we play Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy, if the Hub does not know the answer, he always responds “Nipsy Russell.”

    Love this one! Great as usual!

    • Nipsy Russell? LOL!! B&B likes those teaching moments. I don’t know yet whether the kids listen. Hoping to write more with the kids in school!! Thanks for reading!

  2. I cannot stop laughing at this. I found you through YKIHAYHT’s blog hop and clicked on you first because I have four boys, too. You have perfectly captured the insane chaos and ADHDness of our house. A million conversations happening at once and not one between Hubby and me. I loved the “stop looking at me” “stop looking at me!” Ahh, life with boys…I will be back, my friend!

  3. This was so great–the skeleton chained to the wall cracked me up. Is it wrong that I still sorta feel sorry for the Kenyan? 😛 Great fun. It pulled me back to when my girls were young. (Wipes tears of laughter from eyes.) Good times. Oh– and thanks for the english lesson. I have *never* heard of a split infinitive.

    • Dee, I am a grammar nerd. Admittedly. If my sweet Kenyan didn’t hit the panic button every time someone brushed up against him, I may be more sympathetic towards him. I heaved with laughter while writing about the Interrogator with the skeleton. He came up to me later and showed me a picture from Lillian Vernon catalog…of a skeleton chained to a wall.

  4. I find something that I can relate to in every one of your posts. Every one. Thank you for helping me confirm that I am not totally batsh*t crazy. You must come visit Little Sister so I can meet you in person.

    • Monica, thank you so much!! I’m so glad you can relate! Little Sister is hoping we come for a visit this school year. I will have to sedate the Verb for that plane ride.

  5. Quite a bit to take in on a Sunday morning! Loved it! And, I was also so happy to read a new post! I, too, find something I can relate to in your posts! Even thought I only have one child, I have not had a complete conversation with my husband since she started talking!

    • Thanks, Maryanne! I would imagine it might be more difficult to finish a conversation with your spouse when you have one child. At least with more than one, you can suggest he talk to a sibling while he waits for your undivided attention. Hope back-to-school is going well…for all of you!

  6. Loved this post!! Even though we only have two boys (50% of your number, if my Math is not too terrible!! :P), I feel the conversations in our house are pretty much the same!! 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *