By Lori Clinch
I love our four sons with all of my heart. I love spending time with them, listening to them banter and intensely debating things I don’t understand, like algorithmic design and whether or not the Raiders’ defense is enough to take them deep into the post-season.
What I don’t love about the whole family dynamic is this: those boys pick on me as if I was the little sister they never had.
I experienced more than my fair share this Thanksgiving weekend. There were highlights to be sure. Vernon smoked the best turkey we have ever gobbled. The mashed potatoes were to die for and when it came time for cleaning up, the whole clan pitched in.
You can’t beat that.
What I did not enjoy were the wet willies (yes, they still do that), the hugs that include picking me up off my feet, and the ever-loving joy of having one of them point out the age spots that adorn my hands these days.
But I’m nothing if not tough. After all, I’ve been doing this for a spell. When they were little, it was quite a task to take them out and about. It always seemed as though our mere presence created a disturbing scene. Our outings were an adventure and a series of unfortunate events.
I have taken those kids to restaurants that did not want us, grocery stores that certainly anticipated our departure with baited breath, and, as our favorite priest advised, “keep the bail money handy!” when we took them to church.
Yet, it’s not all for naught. They are all in college or working and even though they like to knock my elbow out as I kneel to pray at the pew, they do have faith.
Our little boys spent the better part of public experiences drawing unwanted attention. If they were not into this they were knocking down that and picking up speed as they headed for the breakables.
People would stare, some would scowl, and others would shake their heads in disgust. Sometimes as humiliation overcame me, a kind soul would appear out of nowhere. He or she would place a hand on my shoulder and say ever so gently, “Enjoy them while they’re still little.”
I was never in a mood to hear that. “Enjoy them while they’re little,” I would mock as I placed the little dears in their car seats. I would repeat it again as I prepared a sippy cup for one, handed a toy to another and pulled the older two apart and buckled them in their respective corners.
“Enjoy them while they’re little,” I said in a tone that was reminiscent of a teenager imitating her parents. “Next time someone says that to me, I’m gonna kick them in the shins and tell them to enjoy that while they can still feel pain.”
Restaurants were a nightmare. As my food grew cold, I spent my meal time pulling children down off of chairs and out from under the table, and I tried to control my brood with a hushed voice and a forced grin. I spent the better part of the meal wondering why I had come. Inevitably a hand would fall on my shoulder as a kind soul whispered in my ear, “Believe it or not, these are the best years of your life.”
Who says that kind of thing to a woman who hadn’t slept since the baby was born?! “The best years of our life?” I sobbed to my husband as we climbed into the minivan. “Do you mean that it doesn’t get any better than potty training, vaporizer tents and teething?”
It got better all right. They started tending to their own needs, packing their own bags and although they can still embarrass me in public, our sons bring me great joy. There is sadness as I reflect on the days when they were young, but I don’t think I would go back.
Over Thanksgiving weekend a newcomer joined the party. “Did you really raise four sons?” she asked with wide eyes. “How did you do it?”
“Oh, it’s simple,” I replied. “I always let them wrestle me down to the couch and told myself to enjoy that while I could still feel the pain.”
Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.