Same Old, Same Old

1150 1150_ () 1150 1150 It’s Friday night and we’re having pizza for dinner.

We’re seated around the table and I look over at Charlie. He is wearing a pair of glow-in-the-dark fangs. He lifts his cup of milk to his super-sized grin.

Next to him, Elliott grabs a cheese stick.

“Look Ethan,” he says, “this is a spinal cord.” He dives into the rectangle of bread, pretending it is a freshly-caught fish.

“Are you eating the exo-skeleton,” asks Augie. They watched Man Vs. Wild last night. I’m banking on that show being the source of this behavior.

“Ahh-haa,” Ethan says in a french accent, “she likes the soup.”

What’s so unusual about all this? What’s so special about tonight?

We’re having pizza. That’s all. 1150″> ?

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A Moment of Clarity

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A few years ago, I decided to sign up my three oldest boys up for some refresher swim lessons several weeks before summer. A local community pool offered a class that fit the day and time of our schedule needs.

It turned out that time worked for a lot of people. When I arrived at the pool on the first day of lessons, the place was jam-packed full of short little humans needing refresher swim lessons. We had to bob and weave just to get through the crowd around the pool. It was the Times Square of swimming pools, and my only consolation was that at least the water would be less populated.

Not so. By the time all the students got in the water, they spanned the entire side of the pool.

When it was time for the lesson to begin, the two instructors (only two?!) told the parents we needed to leave the pool area. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this. The smallest of my three boys, it turned out, could not touch the bottom of the pool. He was standing on an underwater crate to keep his head above water, which would have been okay except he kept slipping off.

I decided to stay put and make sure he was safe.

I soon realized that my son was just competent enough to find his way back to the side of the pool once he fell. Three times I saw him slip and go under water, and then resurface when his tiny hand could find the side of the pool.

In spite of this, I was still undecided about the situation. Maybe, I mused, things will settle down after the first few minutes of class. And it was at just about that moment that I saw one of the instructors, clearly overwhelmed with the large number of novice swimmers, turn her head to the side and utter The curse word. I didn’t hear her say it, but I could read her lips. Very well.

Suddenly, Sweet Clarity revealed herself to me and I strode with confidence to the front desk. I asked for a refund voucher and explained that the class was too large for my comfort; I didn’t think it was too merciful on the instructors either. That night, I called a swim coach who agreed to teach the three boys, together, for the same fee.

That experience was one of those moments in my thus-far parenting career when I clearly knew what I needed to do for my children. After I took the boys out of the class, I felt a sense of relief for days. I clearly recognized the situation as potentially dangerous for my small swimmer, and I knew exactly what I needed to do to protect him.

Unfortunately, parenting isn’t always filled with such clarity. For every one instance where the choice is obvious, there seem to be five where things could go either way. Decisions are not always a matter of right or wrong, but often of good or better (and even best). And as the boys get older, I’m realizing this only gets more complicated.

The positive side about these tough moments is that they are wonderful opportunities for a husband and wife to dialogue, to discuss their plan for their family. Spouses support and talk with each other and sometimes seek advice or wisdom from someone with more experience.

While every decision is not life and death, there are a million small choices that will point us either away or towards the direction we want to go as a family. Some decisions may center on our resources of money and time, and some may be even more important – concerning the safety and welfare of our children. 1149″

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Good Report

1148 1148_ () 1148 1148 Tonight my mom agreed to watch the boys so Paul and I could go together to Report Card Pickup at school. Tonight was our first report card night with all four big boys in the elementary. That was a nice feeling because although I started to worry we’d be in the elementary wing of our school until the end of time, I also realized that since we had such high representation, there would most likely be a teacher free in at least one classroom at any given time.

Throughout our evening, as we quickly moved in and out of each classroom, I was reminded again of how much I love my husband. Having all these boys has indeed given me a greater appreciation for him, in large part these days because I am quick to refer my children to their father on any number of issues. He knows where they are coming from. I, often times, do not.

As we spoke with each teacher about how each boy is doing, I was encouraged and proud. I’m proud of how well my sons are doing in school, how hard they work. They are not perfect, not to worry. But they are so very good. The one boy who was literally climbing the walls in the bathroom one recent day? He’s no longer doing that sort of thing! Progress!

I’m proud, too, of my husband. It’s clear, on an evening like tonight, the important role he plays in the formation of our boys. I know I’m crucial in all this of course. But there are so many times when an encouraging word from dad, or a strong exhortation, is all it takes to turn the tide of behavior. And I love that I’m married to a man who recognizes the importance of his relationship with his boys, and who takes it seriously.

But just as important is that he helps me not take it all too seriously. One of the greatest challenges of having boys, as a woman, is to avoid freaking out on a regular basis. Paul helps me chill out. And that, I think, is among his most important contributions to this family. 1148″>

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Should I laugh or cry?

1147 1147_ () 1147 1147 Henry is about to cut his first tooth. I see it lurking under the surface of his gums.

I’m going to blink and he’ll be starting kindergarten.

I feel sick. But in a good way? 1147″

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