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Three Days With Two Boys: The Cape Of Pride

Well, I babysat my grandsons for three days last weekend while my daughter and her husband went to a wedding, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that I had my kids in my 20s.

By Sunday, my husband and I were sprawled out on the couch like we’d just run a marathon. We heard water running somewhere and we argued over who was going to watch the boys splashing in the shallow blow-up pool out back they’d decided to play in without asking first.

“I cleaned up the lasagna that was tracked from the front door to the back,” he said. “And before that I set up the telescope and folded a load of towels.”

“Well, I drove to hockey practice at 6 this morning and sat in sub-zero temperatures without a coat for 90 minutes,” I countered. “And yesterday I ironed their school uniforms and got them to their classrooms early.”

“You win,” he said, “but I should get points for buying them those ‘Save The Whales’ bracelets for 20 bucks a pop.”

“The lasagna ingredients were $30,” I told him.

“If I go supervise the pool I get an early out for their bedtime,” he said.

“That’s a deal,” I told him.

It’s not that we didn’t love almost every minute with them, it’s just that we don’t have the stamina anymore for the nonstop physical and intellectual and emotional drive it takes to spend fourteen hours a day keeping up with two boys under the age of eight.

Listen, I’m still tired from raising my own kids and they’ve been out of the house for at least five years. You forget the old days quickly — the fact that you can’t let your guard down for a minute — not even a minute when you’re with kids. And you forget that a tidy and organized moment truly only lasts for a moment. It will be destroyed in short order, and you spend the next hour trying to get back to that place. Five times a day I’d look around and see oceans of chaos: rolling water bottles on tile, spilled boxes of toy cars, clothes all over the floor, the crust of a ham sandwich under a table, a yard full of toys scattered every ten feet.

And I’ll tell you, I forgot why I used to clean it all up myself. It’s just easier. I used to skip teaching the valuable lesson of self-responsibility to avoid the drill-sergeant-with-a-whistle-routine.

“No, that doesn’t go there. Put it where it belongs.”

My daughter knows people my age who have little ones and all I can say is God bless them. Maybe little boys keep you young when you’re in middle age, but it’s too late for me. I’m used to lingering in my clean kitchen with a cup of tea every morning. I threw my body into shock last week when the first ten minutes of every day involved lunch boxes, dog food, dryer sheets and Band-Aids.

“Things are going great,” I’d tell the kids’ parents when they called. “Joey had three apples for breakfast and Nico is out building a trapeze with the clothesline. Call back tomorrow when he’s ready for the circus. We’re very excited for him.”

It doesn’t take long, folks. Your kids leave home and it takes, oh, about one week for your muscles to atrophy and for your brain to stop bracing for a call from the police late at night. And you clean up the kitchen after dinner, and alas, you are not back in the kitchen before you go to bed washing a whole new era of dishes, mostly consisting of ice cream bowls and milk glasses and the plates you found under a bed.

And that kind of bliss is earned. That kind of bliss comes from years of nonstop love and action raising your kids. Sometime in your 50s, you get a break. You get tea at a tidy kitchen table. It’s a gift from the universe.

I’m confused why super heroes are not in the likeness of parents and grandparents. I know for a fact that Superman could not withstand three days with two boys. You show me a Superman who can whip up a pan of lasagna while holding an 80-pound dog at bay while watching two boys obliterate a giant cockroach in the yard with their automatic squirt guns, all the while keeping an eye on the daily itinerary that’s as long as the Cliff’s Notes for “War And Peace.”

No, sir. I did not realize while I was raising my kids that I was entitled to wear a skin-tight costume with an “S” on it and have an aversion to Kryptonite.

It is a tough business raising kids. And we all should give ourselves a lot more credit than we do.

We’re entitled to wear the cape of pride.

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