“Am I going to have hair on my butt when I grow up?”
This is a question I recently fielded from Dylan sandwiched between “Can I have popcorn?” and “Why do I have to take a bath?”
On one hand, it was a silly question from a silly kid. On the other hand, it was an inquiry about one of several ways his body is going to (gulp) change as gets older.
This is what I refer to as the deep end of parenting. It’s where we sink or swim (or scream for help). New mothers should receive sashes with instructions on how to earn patches for accomplishments like getting a diaper bag packed and a newborn baby out of the house in less than an hour, cleaning a poop-up-the-back explosion in the back of a car, surviving pacifier weaning, attending a Fresh Beat Band concert, keeping a four-year-old distracted while changing a tampon in a public bathroom stall at the airport (not that that happened to me or anything), convincing a stubborn kid to poop in the toilet, making school lunches with the flu, and answering questions like “Where is your penis, Mommy?” or “Why do we eat eggs if there are baby chicks inside?”
Admitting to my son that he might have hair on his butt when he grows up felt like confessing that his heart will eventually be broken, there is evil in the world, and not everyone becomes a dot-com billionaire by playing Minecraft. I didn’t want to disappoint him any more than I wanted to imagine him all grown up and hairy.
“Well,” I stumbled, “Everyone grows hair in different places on their bodies when they grow up.” Ugh. “Eventually, you’ll have hair under your arms, on your face, on your chest, on your…”
“I don’t want to have hair on my butt!” he interrupted. “I don’t want to grow up!”
I don’t want you to grow up either! Can you please stay eight years old forever? For Pete’s sake! Why must mothers suffer the injustice of imagining their young sons with hair all over their bodies?!
Although he started the conversation, he didn’t want to finish it any more than I did. “Listen, “I said, “You’re still a kid. Don’t worry about it. Let’s finish your homework so you can play, okay?”
As if the prospect of butt hair weren’t painful enough for everyone involved, Riley is having actual growing pains. Not Kirk Cameron “Growing Pains,” but genuine throbbing aches in his legs.
One morning, after a bout of middle-of-the-night pain and sobs that I regrettably slept through, Riley let me have it. “Mommy,” he said pouting with wet eyes, “why didn’t you come when I called out for you?”
(Note to self: Save that guilt for a later date when you have time to truly savor and soak it in, like in 2027 when you’re a depressed, menopausal empty nester.)
Since anything these days can send Riley down a rabbit hole of “I’m not going to school because…you ran out of pancakes or it’s Wednesday or I already know everything (my personal favorite) or because my legs hurt and you didn’t come when I called for you,” it’s important to be supportive and sympathetic, but also to redirect his angst (a difficult patch to earn).
Enter Daddy. He scooped Riley off the floor, and said, “Oh, Riley, you’re having growing pains! You’re growing up!” Apparently, growing pains are to be celebrated like soccer goals and good report cards. And then, “Let me look in your mouth. Are your front teeth coming in? Is that a tooth I see? Oh wow!”
I took a peek in his mouth. No teeth. Not yet, anyway. Riley had his front teeth pulled when he was four as a result of an unfortunate face plant. I mourned the premature loss of his baby teeth when the extraction happened, but funny enough, the empty space in his mouth has come to represent his everlasting role as my squishy little boy. He turns six in a month, but as long as he has that gap, he’ll never grow up. (No sir! Not him! So there!)
On the precarious drive to school that morning, I initiated a game where whatever the boys said, I repeated in song. If Riley said, “banana idiot butt,” I sang, “banana idiot butt!” in my best worst operatic voice. If he said, “whale shark poopy train,” I sang, “whale shark poopy train!”
This foolish sing-song game went on and on as we waited in the turn lane for traffic to pass so we could make a left into the school parking lot. While we sat, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw both of my boys in a fit of giggles. Dylan, at age eight and on the cusp of rolling his eyes at such ridiculousness from his mother (even with the normally forbidden potty talk), couldn’t help but laugh despite his fear of things, including but not limited to, butt hair. Riley, at age five, laughed so hard that he gave himself the hiccups. Looking at his huge, toothless grin made me want to sit in that turn lane and sing “banana idiot butt” forever because, in that moment, there were no growing pains to be found.
But I didn’t. I turned left when the traffic cleared, entered the carpool line, and let my boys climb out of the car and disappear into school (another patch for my sash).