“Words are words. Look at the behavior.”
My friend knows about all about drinkers and players. By players, I mean little players, the ones that kick dodgeballs and go to school. I’ve been getting all bent out of shape by some of their comments lately. Grown-ups will ask, “How was your summer?” My children will shoot back a tidy “Great,” but if pressed, will revise to “Pretty good, but mostly boring.”
Before my eyes, memories flash of them cackling in wig-races. Doing cannonballs in the pool. Unsheathing frosty popsicles from their molds. These kids don’t know from boring. Boring is unrolling a blinding sheet of Reynolds Wrap and holding it under your chin for six hours while you “lay out” on your friend’s scorching back deck.
I take a long drag off my air cigarette. Relax. The children had a good vacation. They’re just stressed because school’s about to start. Smack talk about a suckin’ summer is a coping mechanism. It’s their version of pick-up basketball, an hour lost on Facebook, or a glass of wine. Don’t defend. Detach.
And while I’m at it, can I detach from myself? For feeling relieved that other grown-ups will soon help guide my children? My friends joke that they’ve surrendered to sugar and screens at this mid-August date, that they just don’t have any fight left in them. What? You want some ice cream? Have the whole pint.
What my kids want are their friends. How many times in the last eighty days have I texted/called/emailed parents, trolling for a playdate? Everyone’s stretched. Hours later, a ding! ding! announces, “In DC for work,” or “On road from in-laws,” or “Linda Blair stomach flu.” I set down the phone and look into the children’s long faces. Their knuckles drag on the floor. No marketing pitch remains for another afternoon ahead with their mother. We trudge over to the stack of blown-out board games in the living room. Sorry is the obvious choice, but we opt for Clue, instead. The procedural “I don’t want to plays” and groans wash over me like a wave. I listen for the smack talk to turn to candlesticks and billiard rooms, to Colonel Mustards and Confidentials. We can’t change the crime, but if we hold out long enough, we just might solve it.