The (Love) Doctor is in

Categorized as 02/23/09 Goshen News column

When you’re a parent, you find that life is divided into two eras – Before Kids (BK) and After Kids (AK). In our case, it’s Before Boys and After Boys.

If you’re like me, it’s almost hard to remember what you did BK. I vaguely recall staying up late to play Nintendo games with each other and sleeping in every Saturday. Twenty bucks a week covered the groceries. We could leave the house at the drop of a hat and stay out as long as we wanted without fear that the house would be burned to cinders in our absence. Either that was actual utopia or it was a real nice dream.

In the current era in which we find ourselves, we’re too tired to stay up late playing games every night. And sleeping in? What’s that? It’s impossible is what. You know it’s over when you hear small feet coming down the stairs, and then they all file in. They line up to peer at you, whispering to each other and poking you to see if you’re dead before they tiptoe out to the kitchen to strip the pantry bare.

Gone, too, are the days of the twenty-dollar grocery bills. If we’re lucky, that covers milk and cereal for six with a dozen eggs thrown in. Going anywhere quickly is nigh to impossible as well with four sets of jeans in tow. As Mr. Schrock has noted dryly, “It takes us five minutes just to get out of the van.”

Yes, the BB era was lots quieter, way cheaper, and far less complicated. When the little doobers started arriving, we suddenly went from being “spouse” and “employee” to wearing any number of hats. Nurse, dietician, baby scrubber, book reader, homework Nazi, ethics advisor, riot queller, cheerleader, paramedic, corrections officer, zoo keeper, circus manager, owie kisser, theologian, scientist, and guidance counselor are a few I can think of just off the top of my head.

It’s not like you can only be one of these at a time, either. Oh, no. You are expected to be at least three or more at a moment’s notice. For instance, with two teenagers now, I find that I am wearing that guidance counselor suit into threads even as I scrub the baby and supervise homework. Girls, you see, are an unknown quantity here. They speak a foreign language. They giggle a lot. When they’re not doing that, they’re probably crying. Sometimes, they do both in the space of 10 minutes.

The boys are naturally stymied in the face of this emotional roller coaster, not to mention the feminine wiles and machinations they have begun to encounter. In fact, it finally led to one of them exclaiming the other day, “I hate girls!” And so he brought his frustration to me, hoping to gain some insight into the female mind.

Our oldest son’s love life began at the tender age of four or five. At the time, he kept a running list of girls he liked, which included, among others, a girl from church and one from story hour “because I like her face.”

One day while driving along in our tiny Corolla, he overheard me telling his father that one of the little girls at church was planning to marry him.

“I’m not marrying her!” he huffed indignantly from his seat in the back.

“Why not?” we asked, surprised.

“Because. She’s not on my list!”

When the boys were small, I distinctly remember telling their father, “When the piranhas in pigtails start calling the house, the barbed wire is going up, and it’s going up high!” Well, the piranhas have been calling alright, and texting, too. I’m late getting that fence up, though, and so I do the only things I know to do, which are answering their questions, educating them from my own pink perspective, talking some more, and then praying like mad.

We could tell the very second son number two hit puberty because suddenly I was being interrogated relentlessly about what girls like in a guy and how to win one over. One day he said, “Mom, I figure that most of the other guys aren’t gonna ask their moms, so if I ask you, it’ll give me an advantage.”

I don’t know why I’m not writing an advice column, actually. I could call it, “Ask the Love Doctor.” Perhaps my mail would go something like this: “Dear Love Doctor, I have a crush on a boy in my class, but I’m not sure he likes me back. How can I let him know? Signed, Lovelorn in Loma Linda.”

“Dear Lovelorn, Bring food. Brownies are good. Slip these to him at lunch. Then push him down at recess and punch him a few times. This is how boys show their love, so I’m sure he will know you care. Signed, The Love Doctor.”

Now, while I wait for mail to start rolling in, I need to go stage a couple of crying jags and emotional meltdowns for the boys’ training and preparation. After all, it’s a jungle out there.

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