Another Saturday night spent with nephews K. & D., another case of “best laid plans” going awry. This post is supposed to be the one where I get the boys to explain Christmas to me for the enjoyment of you fine readers, however, that was not to be the case…more on that later.
The planning began earlier this week when my sister called to ask me if we (The Husband and I) were free to watch the boys on Saturday night while she and her husband went Christmas shopping. At the second conversation she mentioned they would like to go to dinner, too, which I thought appropriate, but by the third conversation “a movie” snuck into evening’s itinerary. These people clearly need more date nights.
We accept the mission for whatever they can fit in before a time that gets us home by 10:00pm. When we arrive they are literally rolling around on the floor with excitement (the boys, not my sister and brother-in-law, though I can see how you might wonder). As the evening wears on, I make a mental note that our last two nights of babysitting occurred during the warmer months when the outdoors is a readily available sedative; floor-rolling and screeching before dinner means not enough exhaustive activity during the day.
Mommy and Daddy make their getaway and we head to the basement playroom for pre-dinner “basketball.” The Husband and I do not get to play, mind you; our role is to sit on the bottom steps and cheer, or lament. The players (K. & D.) are ruthless taskmasters – I am on D.’s side, which means I cheer and “High-Five” when he makes a basket, but also – and this is a crucial detail – I am to hiss “Yesss” when K., his opponent, shoots and misses. Keep up, people, this is all part of the game.
I feel a little like Dian Fossey observing gorillas, trying to understand something so foreign. In my case, it is the world of Men and Sports. The hoop is fixed to the top of the laundry room door and a certain spot on the carpet is where ten points is earned by successfully making a basket from a kneeling position. K. is older, bigger and generally better at sports so it is not surprising that he is trouncing D.
However, and this is a big one, K. is inching closer to the basket so the fact that he has nearly fifty points more than his brother is even less surprising. I call him out on this and he actually seems aware of his slight cheating. The next several minutes of play is a confusing barrage of rule changes that involve standing, kneeling again, and the points earned increasing to 15 with each successful shot.
And then I get it; K. changes the rules just when D. begins to catch up. The Husband, also an older brother, says, “Well, yeah…” when I blurt out my discovery. Boys and their games.
I try to comfort a wailing D. by whispering that someday he will be better at something than his big brother, but right now all he wants is to be at least as good as K. at whatever K. is doing. Poor kid. Reason, I realize, is a distant land. So instead I ply him with tacos.
Queso dip, I have never needed you so badly. We lay out the table with browned taco-seasoned beef, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, tomatoes, corn, sour cream and taco sauce. With a meal that requires assembly, I soon become the Mom from Christmas Story who never gets a hot meal. It’s just tacos, so who cares really, but I have to say that servitude to boys aged 4 and 6 is no small affair. The taco ingredients must be added to the tortilla in a certain order and of the three dozen plastic cups on the counter, chocolate milk tastes best in a certain cup. Transformers, Cars, Spiderman… ugh, they all look the same to me.
Outside of a competitive playing field, K. is actually a compassionate brother. When D. picks up his taco with a seemingly-willful disregard for physics, K. patiently takes it from him and rolls the soft tortilla in a way that that D. cannot spill the contents, and gently hands it back to his brother. It’s a Hallmark moment.
Then, D. announces he has “tooted” at the table, curses “Barnacles!” when some food falls on the floor, and both boys marvel at the Uncle’s capacity for tacos. Cocoa the chocolate lab is delighted by the windfall, and I am reminded that my dining companions are all male.
The rest of the evening is a blur of a Nerf football flying dangerously close to Mommy’s ceramic winter village, Lego engineering, random screaming and coloring. No matter how many times I ask them if they can explain Christmas to me, I get no takers. How is it those two little boys just two weeks away from Christmas would treat this subject as taboo? The Uncle tries to instigate the conversation:
“Do you get presents on Christmas?”
“Do you deserve it?
[slight pause] “Yes…”
“Are you being as good as you can possibly be?”
[longer pause and sideways glances] “….Uh, yes…?”
Careful questioning reveals that they have not yet made lists for Santa because, apparently, Daddy won’t let them. Maybe if I call Daddy and I ask him if they can make lists…but I don’t take the bait. Something stinks, and it ain’t the fruit roll-ups that look like sushi wrappers made of Windex…
Mommy and Daddy roll in with a packed minivan. The boys are nowhere near wound-down for the night (sorry, we tried to tire them out, but they won), and I ask a side question about Christmas lists. Turns out that Daddy isn’t a Grinch at all – both boys managed to achieve unanimous nomination to the Naughty List that day and, when the topic came up, projected their obvious guilt and shame. Yet again, I am awed by the boys’ ability to seamlessly lie without any apparent collaboration.
We take home a stack of Christmas-themed coloring book pages and vow to come next time armed with exhaustive activities. For them, not us, in case you’re wondering.