Boys will be boys

The cherry red Power-Wheel Jeep ripped around the yard, sending grass and rocks up into the air.

A blond-headed two-year-old gripped the steering wheel with his twin-separated-by-18-months brother on the passenger seat next to him.

The bigger boy leaned over and yelled, “Let’s go fast!”   

“Otay,” Baby Brother said. 

They raced around to the front of the house, away from the watchful eyes of their parents.

“Stop!” the bigger boy yelled.

Baby Brother said, “Otay.”  

The jeep skidded to a halt. The bigger boy threw one leg over the side, pulled himself out of the kid-sized jeep, and raced over to the garden where his prizes awaited.  

Tulips of every color, red, orange, orangey-red, reddish-orange (really just two colors) grew on green stems and bobbed in the wind, beckoning the plucking fingers of naughty little boys.

Big Brother snapped the flowers, one after another. They broke with a popping sound and the boys smiled.

“Let’s take them to Mommy,” Big Brother said.

“Otay,” Little Brother agreed.

And they set to work, liberating the rest of the tulips from their stems.

Soon they had a handful of flowers and a flower behind each ear like hula girls, but these were country boys.

Rough and tough.

And perfectly adorned with flowers.

From the Mouths of Babes

We finished with a hike and were sitting outside enjoying cold treats. Baby Brother had a push-up pop, Little Legs had an ice-cream cookie sandwich, and I had a sensible fruit popsicle.

“Let me have a bite,” Little Legs said.

“Let me have a bite,” Baby Brother said.

“No way,” I teased already knowing that I was about to lose at least half of my popsicle.

“Give me a bite of yours and you can have a bite of mine,” I offered.

The deals were accepted. I got a nibble of a cookie and a slurp of the push-up pop and they both took giant bites of the quickly disappearing strawberry popsicle.

“Hey,” I said.

They laughed and returned to work on their own treats.

Baby Brother was wiping away his orange sherbet goatee and his brother started to whirl around, powered by sugar, when an old blue car rolled past us.

The back windows were filled with boxes, blankets, clothes, hats and old food containers. A beast dog with an enormous mouth and sagging jowls sat in the passenger seat while a scruffy looking guy steered the car to the edge of the lot.

I watched the man step out of the car and his dog haphazardly followed, sniffing and peeing every few steps. The man lit a cigarette and held it between his fingers.

“C’mon,” he said over his shoulder, not paying attention to Beast-dog, that was romping through the curated garden of early Spring flowers.  

I grabbed my still-spinning son and pulled him closer. Baby Brother was still at the table, pushing the push-up pop with all his might. If you ask him to show you his muscles, he will point to his elbow, which is obviously where strong boys keep their strength hidden away. Elbow power for the win.

I was preparing for a few different scenarios. The first thing that came to my mind was that Beast-dog got away from his unconcerned owner and attacked one of the boys. The next thing was that the dog’s owner did some lewd act or asked for something. The absolute last possibility was what actually happened.

Baby Brother locked eyes with the man.

“Hi,” Baby Brother said with a wave.

“Hey, small dude,” the man replied.

“You want some?” Baby Brother asked, offering his push-up pop and all the genuine kindness of a two-year-old.   

The man stopped and considered the offer with all the seriousness of an adult man who was just offered a mostly eaten push-up pop.  

“Nah, you eat it,” he said.

“We don’t talk to strangers,” Little Legs whispered.  

“I know, buddy, it’s confusing, Baby Brother is still learning.”

And I really have no clear way to explain it. We don’t talk to strangers, but sometimes we do. And we shouldn’t judge others by how they dress or present themselves, but sometimes we do. There are so many exceptions to these rules of how to stay safe and be a good person.

I don’t want to crush that sweet spirit of sharing and caring, but more than that, I don’t want my son sharing ice-cream with a homeless guy at the park. So, I guess that’s the starting point for our conversation.      

Swim Instructor

The young woman sat on the couch and laughed. She must have gone home to change after school because I am sure she didn’t wear a baggy black sweat suit all day. She tested her long nails against her other nails which met with a click, click, click.  

Baby Brother rolled onto his back and began to play the harmonica on each inhale and exhale, he was ready for show-biz.  

“I haven’t updated you on my job history, have I?” the babysitter said.

I knew this was about to be juicy and checked in on Little Legs before she started.  He was inside of a pillow nest of his own creation. It was cartoon time and he was in the zone. We were fine to talk for a few minutes.  

“No, I guess you haven’t,” I said.

“Well, I had a job at a boutique for about three weeks.”

I silently calculated the time frame for this. It was a perfect match for the past month of missed dates, previously credited to the flu, a schedule mix-up and just needing a little time away.  

“And now, I am a swim instructor at the YMCA.”  

This time, I was laughing.

“What?” she asked.

“You told me you couldn’t swim,” I said.

“So, its just with little kids and the water is not that deep,” she shrugged.  

I shook my head and smiled, hoping that the two actions cancelled one another out.

I worked with a man once who was known for his one-liners like, “You do you.”

And this instance reminded me of another one that he always said, “It ain’t that deep,” usually in reference to an overthought situation or scenario.

It was comforting when he said it, coming from a place of wisdom and experience, and incredibly discomforting hearing similar words from our 17-year-old babysitter/swim instructor/future adult of the world who didn’t see how not being able to swim as a swim instructor might be an issue.  

Am I worried about the future, knowing that our babysitter is one of many with the same type of lackadaisical beliefs?

Yes, but maybe it is all for nothing and at the end of the day, just maybe, it’s not that deep.