1/18/2009

Do You Bite Your Thumb at Me, Sir ?

GFT never really understood young men, especially not the "group think" of many young men hanging around together. Growing up, GFT agonized over the young men she knew, and like any normal teen aged girl, spent most of her time contemplating those young men, what they thought, what they wanted, and worrying about what to wear to attract their attention. In my experience, when teenage girls hang out together, they mostly want to talk about the teenage boys they know : Does he like me ? Does he like you ? Why do you think he likes me ? What makes you think he might like me ? Does this purse look cute ? Do these jeans make my butt look fat ? Has he called ? When will he call ? What does it mean that he hasn't called ? What did it mean when he.....Oh, the agonies of dating......It all revolves around me, me, me, and of course, him.
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Now that I am a mother of sons, and am surrounded not only by my sons but many of their friends on a near continual basis, my perspective has changed so drastically. I grew up in a home with only one sister, so all of this is relatively new territory for me. Teenage girls spend so much time, energy, money and stomach lining worrying about the boys they know and what they think. The boys, I have learned, (at least up to the age my sons are - early teens) rarely think about the girls at all. For years now I have driven my sons home from school, around town, to birthday parties, out to eat, to pick up or drop off a friend who needed a ride. Many days, I am the "mom taxi " for the neighborhood - actually traded in my minivan for a little compact car just so I could cut down the number of kids I had to drive home each day, from 8 or 9 to only 3 or 4. ( I don't mind driving a kid home, in the abstract, but it was getting out of control - and using up a lot of gas and time.) Other moms do this, too, and on the days I have to stay late at work for a meeting, I am forever grateful that someone took my kid home. But most days, because I get out mid-afternoon, I am the one doing the chauffeuring.
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A curious thing happens when you are the mom-chauffeur to a gaggle of boys (or girls). Keep quiet, keep your hands on the steering wheel, stare straight ahead ( it is especially important not to make eye contact - they must totally forget you are there for this to work) , and listen. Eventually you will find that sooner or later, you disappear. They completely forget that the car is being driven by an adult - that you are there at all. The kids will start talking and if you listen, you will learn the most amazing things. All about their day at school (that no "How was your day ?" will ever illicit from them, consciously.) Which teacher did what, who farted in gym class, who likes whom, what the coach said or did, who got in trouble for drinking in the local park last Saturday, how "far" various friends have "gone" ( if you know what I mean), whose dad got laid off, whose parents are getting divorced, who cheated on the math test. It is truly amazing the stuff I have learned this way, over the years. One of the things I have learned, from listening to these kids, is that the thought of girls rarely entered the picture. Of course, all that is changing, and No # 1 Son is driving himself more and more these days, so I will soon be losing my "mom taxi connection" in terms of knowing what was going on in the neighborhood.
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When the hubster and I bought our home, we chose it because of its kid-friendly layout and pleasant, entertaining-friendly design. It is a large rambling house, famous locally for having a fire pole that connects the upstairs toy room (toys, video games, Foosball) to the downstairs game room (pool table, free weights, squat rack). The kid's bedrooms are huge, and currently have bunk beds and sleeper sofas in each that can easily sleep 4 friends per child before anyone has to sleep on the floor. Due to the hubster's tv addiction, we have a tv set in nearly every room and all are connected to cable and video gaming systems that run the spectrum. It is no surprise that not a weekend passes without several of my children's friends either spending the night or living with us on a semi-permanent basis. Sure, they are eating me out of house and home, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I grew up in a home that was completely unwelcoming to guests, whether child or adult. My parents never entertained - not even birthday parties. In only had two, in all those years - 4th grade and 10th grade. That was it. My mom always said it was "too much trouble" to entertain, no matter how informally, and my sister and I almost never were allowed to have anyone over, not even one friend for a sleepover. Mom was always worried about the house being clean enough, or presentable enough - in reality, her issue was that she was just too introverted and didn't want the bother and noise. As a consequence, my sister and I each spent all our free time at our various friends' homes, and were never around. We grew up involved in other families, instead of our own. I vowed I would never be that kind of mom. While I may grumble when my son and his friends play their electric guitars and drum set at midnight, I'd much rather they do it at my house where I can keep an eye on them, than somewhere else where I have not idea what they are up to.
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As a consequence, I get to observe teen aged boys in all their pimply, greasy-haired, saggy jeans down to their mid-thigh, arm-pit farting glory. They say things like : I read that if you hold your breath long enough, you'll explode...The Count of Monte Cristo is the BEST BOOK EVER ... They argue which drummer, from whatever rock band is the band du jour, is the greatest...Did you know that in India people have to kill themselves if someone in their family dies ? (Many of their ideas are partially true, or based on something they once heard, but partially remembered, such as this notion of Hindu burial practices which is only about 3% correct.) ...I once heard that some guy, he ate a hamburger, and it contained a fetus all ground up in it... Which quarterback or team is the greatest of all time... I hit him because he said something stupid... Who liked syphilis first ?...I'm faster/greater/smarter than you are... What if you turned into a rain cloud ? ...What if an object was not made up of its components, but instead was made up of 1000's of tiny little versions of itself ? Listening to my children and their friends banter ridiculously with each other brought to mind the interactions in "Romeo and Juliet" between Romeo and his friends Tybalt, Mercutio, and the other guys just hanging around 15th century Verona. Not much has changed in all these years. Before I had kids of my own, I never understood those scenes, what the guys were doing or saying, the power plays that were happening between them. I never understood the insults that aren't insults at all, and the little phrases that on the surface, seem like they have no meaning, but to those involved, have deadly portent. It's a common thing for real life experiences to give added insight to situations in ways you hadn't thought of before. I just never thought my children would help me understand Shakespeare.

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