The Bad Guy Dilemma

Read up on Tornado S, and you learn that he loves bad guys. Like that’s his thing. Star Wars bad guys. Darth Vader, The Emperor, any Sith. And as he gets older, I get more worried.

Though he does seem to like Rey a lot…..

Any ways. It’s a problem. I mean, probably not a real problem. The kid isn’t torturing small animals. Just his little brother. The kid cries during nature documentaries when the herbivore is attacked and eaten by the carnivores. So, yeah, he’s a big, mean Sith Lord.

This last fall, there were cracks in the glass. My dad and I were watching a lot of World War II documentaries. The boys would run through the room, slow down, and then sit for a while. Tornado S was drawn the most.

Tornado S has already been forbidden from real bad guys. He also has the best grasp on symbolism. His analysis on Kubo and the Two Strings was brilliant. Where Lucas hinted at Nazis in the Star Wars series, Abrams made it obvious in The Force Awakens.

Tornado S: So the Nazis were the bad guys?

Me: Yes. Real bad guys. They killed a lot of people. They tried to take of the world.

Tornado S: Like the galaxy?

Me: (Thinking) Yes. If they could, they would’ve.

Tornado S: Did they have an emperor?

Me: No. A Chancellor. But he had ultimate power.

Tornado S: Like the Emperor?

Me: Yes, like the Emperor.

Tornado S: So Hitler was like the Emperor.

Me: In a lot of ways.

Tornado S: Hitler killed a lot of people. He wanted to kill all the Jews.

Me: Yes.

Tornado S: (pause and contemplation)

In this moral dilemma, I struck. I showed the boys Batman: The Animated Series cartoons. Every single one. Because seriously, who isn’t as cool as Batman? He’s the Dark Knight. Cool gadgets, cool one-liners, dark and brooding good guys. Everything to bring a young Sith Lord to the light.

And it’s working. But Tornado S does have a fondness for Joker. As in oh-for-Christ’s-sake-that-psycho!

We also started watching the Marvel movies, moving slowly through them on weekends that I desperately need a few hours to grade. Tonight we started watching the X-Men cartoons. I’m hoping Tornado S will gravitate towards Iron Man (though according to Tornado S, Batman would beat Iron Man) and Wolverine.

Then last night. As we were leaving Cub Scouts.

Tornado S: You know, Mama. I really like Red Skull.

Kid, I think you’re doing this to mess with me.

This weekend we’re either watching Captain America: Winter Soldier or World War II documentaries.

An Explorer

While camping, we took the boys on a short kid-friendly hike. If you don’t know, Cub Scouts is very parent hands-on. So all parents were there, and some of the fathers decided to keep going and find other trails. Since we were desert camping (God, I hate desert camping so much), it was easy to track all the kids, those who were hiking with their adventurous dads and those who were climbing on their own.

I watched my ungraceful, uncoordinated middle child, scale a rock, one that I would’ve assumed he was too nervous to try.

Tornado E: (from behind me, yards away) Mama! Mama! Tornado A’s scaring me.

As the years go by, Tornado E has become extremely cautious and averse to risk of any kind. I blame it on the divorce. I’m sure that Tornado A was testing Tornado E’s limits, not his own.

Another mom: (from just behind me) Um, that’s your son, right?

I turned to see Tornado A balancing precariously on a rock outcrop. Damn.

Me: (Sigh) Yup. He belongs to me.

I walk over to where Tornado E was pleading for his brother to sit down. I put my hand on his shoulder, making him turn and look at me. I smiled.

Me: Thank you, Tornado E. But I’ll take over from here. It’s my job to protect and watch over you. Go explore.

Tornado E: (Looked over at his brother and then back at me) Ok. Mama.

He ran off.

Me: Ok, little man. Time to get down. You’re making everyone nervous.

He rocked and caught his balance. On my side, it would be a bit of a fall. On the other side, the side he rocked to, it would be a very bad fall.

Tornado A: No, Mama. I’m an explorer. I take risks.

Uh-huh. I pulled out my phone.

Me: Ok, Explorer. Why don’t I take your picture and then you get down?

Tornado A: Ok!

He moved out further on the ledge and rocked. I snapped a few quick shots. I slid my phone in my pocket. I walked down the hill next to the outcrop. I took his hand.

Me: Time to come down.

I planned just to walk him back.

Tornado A: Ok, Mama.

He jumped into my arms. I caught him.

Me: You know. Explorers take calculated risks. They measure the risk to survival and reward and do only the risks where they have minimal consequences like less chances of getting hurt.

Tornado A: I’m an explorer! I take risks!

Me: Well, from now on, Explorer, you’ll take calculated risks.

Tornado A: I take risks!

Right.

I’m going to have to watch over you more.

A Tent

The boys are in Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. And camping is a thing. A required thing. And the boys hate it. And I. I dislike building the tent.

It’s not like it’s hard. It’s just. Well, the stress and the monologue that goes with it.

Me: Ok. Tornado S, build that pole. Tornado E. Build that one. No, no, not like that. Like this. No. Don’t. Tornado A, no. Now thread it… no, not like that. Don’t do that! Drop the pole. Drop the pole. Like this. Ok. Like this. Good job, Tornado E. Tornado A, that’s not helping. Tornado S, get back here! Next one. No, don’t do that. Don’t do that. Drop it. Ok. Good. Good. Oh Christ. No. Now everyone take a pole. Tornado S. Tornado S! Tornado S! Over! There! No. No. Just like this! Lift. Not like that! Not like that! Tornado E! Stop! Like this, Tornado S. Oh for the love of God! Like this!….

The last several camp outs, somewhere in the monologue, a father took pity on me and helped me out. As the leader of the Tigers, I’m embarrassed that my boys don’t help and listen more.

Then my dad decided to get a new tent.

Technology is amazing!

Two minutes! Easier than an Easy-Up. It was amazing. The hardest part was keeping it staked down in the sand with large gusts of wind. But we managed.

Once we were done, I sent my boys to help the other Tiger families. Once they were done, I sent my boys and Tigers off to help other families. With the other Tiger dads and I following our boys and helping were we could.

I think my boys are coming around to camping.

The Birds and the Bees Part 2

So the other day, we were having dinner when Tornado S popped up with some news.

Tornado S: I learned the sign language sign for penis!

Me: Oh? And what is it?

Tornado S made the gesture. It was not the sign for penis. In fact, it was a sign for a sexual act. One so taboo that most people don’t do it often.

Me: That’s not the sign for penis, sweetheart. Where did you learn that?

Right away Tornado S sensed something was wrong and clammed up.

Me: I would like to know where you learned that.

He shook his head.

Me: No dessert then.

Tornado S: Fine.

Me: No video games either.

Tornado S: NO!

Me: Then just tell me where you learned it. No one will get in trouble.

But it was no use.

After a day went by, I realized I had to try a different strategy. But I also needed to move up The Talk by a month because I couldn’t have Tornado S repeating the gesture.

Me: Tornado S, do you know what that sign means?

Tornado S: No. Tell me.

Me: Tell me who showed you.

Tornado S: No.

Me: (sigh) Fine. But I’ll have to contact your teacher, your den leader, and your sensei.

Tornado S: No! Why?!

Me: Because the gesture you used is a grown up gesture that is so taboo that most people don’t use it. Nana has never seen it. Papi has seen it a couple of times. (Though I thought that was weird from a cop.) The adults around you need to know that other children may be using the sign without knowing what it means, and their parents need to know to help teach their kids what it means.

Tornado S: (whispering) I learned it at school.

Me: When?

Tornado S: During the Valentine’s Party.

So it was a while ago.

Me: From who?

He was silent.

Me: Fine. Do you want to know what it means?

Tornado S: Yes.

Me: Well, first we have to talk about puberty and sexual intercourse.

So we had The Talk. When it was time to generically explain the sex act, Tornado E was walking by, so I pulled him to the room and explained what a sex act was and that the gesture was a sex act on a woman. I showed them a diagram of a woman’s sexual organs. Tornado E nodded and left the room.

Tornado S hid under my ultra soft through for twenty minutes refusing to get out or talk.

I took pictures.

 

The Birds and the Bees Part 1

I had my first Talk when I was in fourth grade. I brought home a letter for my parents, stating that in a couple of weeks we would be starting a unit on puberty and reproduction and parents could opt out.

My mother didn’t. Instead she marched me to the library and mortified me by asking me about where books on puberty and sex were kept. She checked out a few, read them, and then gave me The Talk, using the books for aids. God, how embarrassing.

Then it got worse because then we had the unit. In fourth grade. In fifth grade. In sixth grade. In seventh grade. And in eighth grade. Each year the lessons added more detail. Each year my mother would give me The Talk. In eighth grade, they pulled us out of our classes for two days to tell us, “sure, here are other birth controls, but do you know which one works the best? Abstinence!” The percentages of effectiveness were all wrong, but I don’t think another Catholic kid was armed as much as our class was.

Then Tornado E was in fourth grade, and I realized we needed to have The Talk. Over at his dad’s house, he was hanging out with slightly older boys who loved Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. I knew I had to beat the bad influences to the punch.

So one spring Saturday morning, I gave Tornado E The Talk. Without books, because our library didn’t have any. I found it much harder than when I would talk about human sexuality to other people. Hell, I gave The Talk at 18 to another 18 year old, whose parents never gave him The Talk. I stood in front of a class of 35 college students discussing the mating rituals of humans. But this. God, this was hard.

After The Talk, I asked Tornado E if he had any questions. He shook his head. Then he sat there thinking.

Tornado E: That was the most boring and interesting 5 minutes of my life.

Pause. Thinking.

Tornado E: Now I know what all those jokes are about in The Big Bang Theory.

Huh.

Early Bloomer

Tornado E: Mama? Remember in third grade when the kids didn’t get my jokes?

Yes. Like when your teacher came up to me to tell me how bright you were and how advanced your humor was, that your classmates didn’t understand your jokes or sarcasm. Like when I started sending school notes with corny kid jokes to expand your humor to something closer to your peers. Like when you wanted to give your best friend a My Little Pony Pinkie Pie for her birthday because she had a nightmare about it and that would be hilarious.

You’re right. It would’ve been. If you were older. Like teenagers. In college. Adults. Not third grade.

Third grade when I had to explain it was ok to tease someone but when that person is hurt or offended, you apologize and never make that joke again. It’s ok to make a mistake and cross a boundary you didn’t know was there. But it was never ok to keep hurting a person like that. Sometimes people won’t be able to tell you they are hurt, so you have to watch for physical cues, and then you back off when you hurt someone. Always.

Me: Yes.

Tornado E: They get my jokes now. They think I’m funny. They try to copy my jokes. They like insulting each other now. They’re trying to be sarcastic. It’s kind of funny.

So it only took them three years to start catching up to Tornado E. I’d pitch him against any of my freshmen any day of the week.

Mama

I went from Mommy to Mama. As Tornado E gets closer to 12, I’m waiting for the day I’ll no longer be Mama but Mom. Or worse yet, Mother. Whether it’s the simpering formality of mother or the way I say it like a cuss word at my own mother, but I do not like Mother. I will truly miss Mama.

So the other night at dinner, I was relating a story of what happened in class.

Me: And then I said Tornado E said “Mama.” Before I could get any further in the story, one of the boys said “Mama?” Another kid asked if I was Mama. Another girl asked if my kids called me Mama. And another girl thought it was cute. And then-

Tornado E: Why? Why were they confused? They have mamas.

Me: They do, but they don’t see me as a mama but as Miss. They probably call all their moms Mom. When you get older, you’ll probably call me Mom. (I swear I didn’t sigh or put any guilt in that.)

Tornado E: No, Mama. I’ll always call you Mama because you’re Mama.

Me: Thanks, kid.