I’m sitting at the counter eating my impossibly small piece of gluten free toast.

In front of me is my journal bulging with papers that have nothing to do with writing, and my planner, filled with orthodontist appointments and PTSA meetings. I am not particularly upbeat. I take a nibble of toast, a sip of water filled with vitamin C (I will NOT get Steve’s cold), and a gulp of tea. I am trying to make things come out evenly like Frances did in my favorite children’s book Bread and Jam for Frances. The tiny toast is a challenge. I don’t know how to make it keep up with my barrel of tea.

Leo walks into the room clad in his too small red fleece robe. His eyes are starry. “Mama!” “Did you know that they publish the lunch schedule ahead of time? So I can pack a lunch on days when I don’t like the meal and know to eat hot lunch when it is good!” Why yes. I did know that. Last week was tragic. He brought in a dry turkey sandwich, oversized seaweed sheets, and a third favorite yogurt on pizza day and was somehow empty handed on orange chicken stir fry day. That sort of thing can just tank a boy.

I thought of the lunch calendar, which I carefully printed out in pre-school when Leo was a pre-reader and has never graced our fridge since. How many homes across America help kids select a delicious lunch? So good in fact that they might actually eat lunch and not arrive home a shaking shell. Lots probably. Poor Leo. He has been left to forage in the fridge forest without proper information. He might as well be a lord, with some flies.

Oliver has already left for school, crunching through the unusual snow in his sneakers. He has no boots at all. Steve ordered some, proud for stepping up and solving a problem in real time, but he ordered size 5. Oliver is a size 7. “Impossible.” Steve told me. “Possible” I told him. “Fact” Oliver told us.  It didn’t matter though because when the bog boots came they were a size five children’s. The miniature size sevens wouldn’t have fit anyway. Oliver doesn’t mind. He rushes out in his single pair of shoes. They will do.

It has been a tough stretch for no nag parenting. The contributions that we have hammered so deep into their brains that they exist in their brain stems have continued. They wake on their own. Gather their things. Tuck their homework (which may or may not be completed, who knows?) into folders. They eat breakfast that they cook for themselves, unload the dishwasher, feed the cat. Those things work. For the most part. But the rest seems to have slipped away.

Just last week I was doing my biannual wipe down of the dining room table and I found this:

Seven years ago. This was clearly “-not Leo”

I have no idea how long it has been there. Writing on paper instead of furniture and walls is something I stopped training them on roughly 7 years ago. Seems we might need to revisit that.

It is not just Leo that needs that lesson. Oliver too seems to be confused about the word permanent in permanent marker. He drew this for us to celebrate our trip to Florida. In October. We remember it fondly. Probably forever.

We have no basement for the boys to trash so instead we have given over our guest room. (Sorry friends). When we made the transition there was a cubby or drawer or slot for each device. Since then, however, there has been saving and spending. At least two more important video game devices have been added to the arsenal. I imagined they would be less messy than legos. I’m not sure. Here is what the desk area that we built from an IKEA expedit (rest in peace) and a piece of maple plywood looks like this morning.

Mixed in with the nerf and the controllers we have apple cores and desiccated pizza.Don’t tell me they aren’t ready for college. Here. Look a little more closely. Or don’t.

Leo is handling the laundry this week. Finally finally we no more have moldy loads taking up residence in the washer. That is a triumph if there ever was one. But the dryer? It is not given the attention it deserves. And if your brother’s clothes hit the floor for the dog to pee on when you are pulling out your own outfit? Bonus.

Leo watches me take my tour. He gathers 15 cheese stick wrappers in his fist and shuts the door to the Video game hole quickly. It’s like his little kid version of hide and seek. If I can’t see it it isn’t there.

Beneath the counter stool he gathers the band aid bits and presses them into the trash. It is full.

Walking past the dining table back to the kitchen his finger traces the sharpie on its apron. “It wasn’t me.” “It says right here: not Leo.”

He gathers the laundry and shoves it into the dryer.

“I’ll fold after school, I promise.”

His face changes like from contrite to disgusted.

“I have to make my lunch. It’s enchilada day.”


 

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.