Karma may be a bitch, but she’s a funny one

CIMG7347The dude is working this summer as a counselor at a baseball camp. He’s coaching the five and six-year-old boys along with another high school friend.  His first day went well. On the ride home he was full of parenting wisdom.

“It’s all about the C’s, Mom. Calm, Consequences, Consistent, and Carry Through.”

“I see.” It’s not that he’s wrong, mind you. His theory is valid. I’m just amused that he thinks he invented it.

“You have to tell them what behavior you expect, and what will happen if a they don’t comply.”

“And then what?” I asked.

“You calmly give them a warning, and if they do it again, they sit out their turn at bat. They hate missing their turn at bat,” he says.

“I expect they do.” I’m not sure if the Dude remembers that I managed the dugout on his first tee ball team. I made them sit it batting order. If they got up, they lost their place. It was the only way to keep some semblance of order. At least at six they don’t eat sunflower seeds. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near the dugout otherwise. I think they like the spitting more than the seeds.

“And when I want them to listen, I do the quiet coyote.” He makes a shadow puppet of a dog with his hand, opening and closing his fingers. “You see, quiet coyote. Mouths shut.”

“Have you ever heard a coyote, Dude? They howl. They used to hang out in the forest preserve behind our apartment in California. It would have been more quiet to have a frat house back there. “

“It works, Mom.” He’s offended by my lack of faith.

“I’m glad to hear it. Maybe you’re some sort of child whisperer.”

“That sounds seriously creepy Mom.” He’s right, it does.

The next day when I pick him up, he looks a little haggard. He’s also a half hour late. I’m not mad, because I know exactly what has happened. The first day the parents are always on time. The second day, they drop them off a little earlier, and pick them up a little later. By the end of the week, I suspect I’ll be waiting in the parking lot for quite a while. It’s okay, I bring my Kindle.

“The last Mom was so late! I thought she’d never get here.” I don’t say anything, because once or twice, I’ve been that Mom. Not often, but I try to cut the unknown mother some slack.

“Her kid is SO obnoxious. He yells, and he’s always right, even if he’s wrong. He’s like ‘but he’s out’ and I’m like, ‘but you have to tag the runner, and he’s like ‘but I touched the base,” and I’m like ‘he doesn’t have to advance if there’s no runner behind him, so you have to tag him when he’s not on a safe square.” The Dude alternates a high pitched whine with his calm, C-master voice.

“Did you show him the quiet coyote, Obi-wan?” He gives me the look. “I’m just asking.”

I hate to tell him the minute the third kid showed up he and his friend were already outnumbered. I tell him that it will get better. I neglect to mention that next week it will be a whole new batch of kids and he’ll start at ground zero again. I’m proud of him for having a job in the first place. I’m counting on it. I need new material.

“It’s still the best job ever, but it’s only Tuesday. I reserve the right to vent.” I nod and smile at him. He smiles back. It’s silent for a moment as he contemplates the day.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Dude.”

“You’re going to write about this, aren’t you.”

“Consider it Karma.” He doesn’t say it, but I know he’s thinking that Karma’s a bitch, but he’s not sure if I’ll think it’s funny if he says it. I do, but I’m glad he doesn’t say it anyway. It means he still cares about my feelings. For the mother of a sixteen-year old, that’s a triumph on its own.

“Just don’t write about the really embarrassing stuff.”

You can count on me dude. I’m one quiet coyote.

Words and pictures by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Along the Fence” © 2012

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Welcome home. Now take out the garbage.

My darling teen is home from camp, and everything is back to normal again.

Check-out started at 9:00 a.m.  It’s a 3 hour drive from where we live. Do the math. I’m not a morning person. When my husband suggested that might be a little early, my son suggested that he leave me behind. “She’ll be grateful,” he said. “Think of all the work she could get done.” I have a feeling he wasn’t imagining me writing. “If you drive fast enough, we can be home before she even wakes up.”

I agreed to get up at 4:30 so we could beat the traffic. Such is a mother’s love. I even stayed awake in the car. I asked my son to please take a shower in the morning. Three hours in an enclosed space is a long time with a funky child. It would be a long enough trip. A recap of the four-week imprisonment was a given.

The traffic turned out to be “the traffic” and we got there at 8:00. I texted to warn my son that we would be on campus soon, but got no answer, as his phone was still in camp lockup. When we got there, even the counselors weren’t set up, so we ventured towards his dorm. The lobby was crowded with luggage and teenagers, mostly girls, hugging and crying and signing each other’s books. We made our way to his room. The boy’s hall, in stark comparison to the lobby, was empty and quiet.

When we got to his room, we knocked on the door, expecting he’d fling it open, ready to go. My son’s roommate opened the door, clearly half-asleep. I could see my son spread eagle on his bed, face down. No snoring, but my guess is drooling might have been involved. I can’t describe what the room smelled like after no air conditioning and two weeks of 100 degree temps and two boys.

So what was his joyful response upon seeing his parents for the first time in a month? “You said 9:00. It’s only 8:00.”

I got up at 4:30 for this? I’m a hopeful sort, but not an idiot, so I knew better than expect a hug. He’s 15 after all. I got a fist bump. That works for me. When he offered the same fist to his Dad, that is when I noticed the lack of height difference between them. He’d grown at least two inches since he left.

“You grew.”

“Yeah.” He smiled a little. “I need new shoes. I also need to shave.”

He has a little bit of fuzz over his lip. Not much, and he’s so blond you can barely see it. Nevertheless, he’s proud. “Dad can show you, unless you want silky smooth legs.”

“Mom!” I’m not sure which is worse–the mental picture of a mother with shaved legs, or hairy ones. I decided not to have him elaborate.

We make our way out of the boys hall, saying adios to this camp that made him so miserable, this place he begged us to rescue him from every time we spoke. This circle of hell designed to torture teens for putting off looking at options for summer activities, making their parents do it for them.

The minute we reached the lobby, it began. SQUEEEEEE!” A pretty girl with long dark hair shouted out his name. “Noooooo! You’re leaving?”  He shuffled his feet and mumbled something unintelligible. “Text me!”  The girl hugged him and he halfheartedly responded.

This happened three times. He was so busted.

I wasn’t totally surprised. The camp blog had pictures showing Jonah playing basketball with a pack of dudes, just like at home, but there was a gaggle of girls in observance. Yup, he was suffering.  It wasn’t just girls. He lied. He had friends.

“See you bro.”

“Have a great life.”

We loaded up the car and he got in the back seat.

“Sure you want to leave?” He rolled his eyes. “It’s a shame that you didn’t make any friends.”

He leaned forward and draped his arms over my seat. “I’m glad you came.”  He gave me a squeeze. I want it noted for the record that he initiated contact. We drove off, and he barely looked back.

“I got up at 4:30. I want credit for that.”

“Whatever. Please don’t stop for anything.” I think of all of those trips when he was a toddler and we had to stop every 45 minutes for some reason or another. “And make that spinach-potato-egg thing when we get home.”

“Anything else?”

He was too busy texting to answer.

“So Dude. Who’s the girl?”

He smiles. “I haven’t listened to music in a month. I’ll just put in these headphones so it won’t bother you.”

I hear the tinny beat of rap through his headphones. He’s still smiling. I’m hoping he’ll tell me about it later. Ha ha. hahahahaha. It’s good to have things back to normal.

Behind every good mother is a child, pushing her buttons. Visit Momaiku!

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Snugg LePup

I told you so – Every child’s nightmare

I committed one of the cardinal sins of parenthood. I said, “I told you so.”

My son was texting me from camp–his thrice-weekly gripe fest about how much he hates everything about where he is. The food is inedible, the kids are dweebs, the activities are lame and he has no time to shower. These, don’t faze me. I can rise above it. Teens complain. It’s their purpose. Camp merely provides a focal point for their ever-present dissatisfaction with the universe. What set me off was his complaint that he wasn’t trained for cross-country tryouts and it was all the camp’s fault.

If he’s not ready, it’s his own fault. My dearest son, there is this season called Spring. Three months of moderate temperature and snow-free roads.

I’m worried cuz they make it really hard to run

You have a week before training starts, you’ll catch up

And then I slip up. He didn’t even provoke me. It’s been a long, slow argument that has been brewing since March.

I will not say I told you to train in the spring.

This is me not saying that.

Only 5 runs total

That’s five more runs than you took this spring.

But I’m not saying that either.

We’re done with this topic

Went too far with that last one, I guess. He’s texting with his Dad, who is sitting next to me, about pre-ordering Call of Duty or Black Ops, or some such thing. Hubby is giving him a hard time about having to wait until Christmas. I can’t believe the child is still pining for home.

Saying “I told you so” was less rewarding than I would have thought.  Giving into this particular temptation is far less satisfying than other transgressions, say eating cake. Mostly because my son doesn’t get it.  “I told you so” is a deep and shaded construct, much more than an admonition. It’s more about the parent than the child.

“I told you so” is shorthand. It doesn’t mean “you’re wrong,” as much as my son may feel it does. It means “could you just listen to me next time? I could save us both a lot of grief.” “I told you so” is a plea to be heard and respected. “See, I’m not an idiot, so don’t talk to me like one.” It’s a desire not to see our own mistakes played out all over again. “Don’t make this mistake, make some novel one of your own creation.” But he’ll never see that because teen stubbornness is a Darwinian advantage.  If they make mistakes, they learn. If they make our mistakes, we can be patient, recognizing we are merely our children with love handles and gray hair. We lived through our mistakes, and they will too.

So I texted him some platitude about how if he wanted it, he could do it with work and perseverance, and that I had faith in him. And I promised him cheesesteaks. Hopefully he understood that getting there would still require him to actually run. If he doesn’t make the team, I promise I won’t say “I told you so.” At least not out loud. I’ll save it for here.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Robyn Kalda