The best part of the day
“The batting cages,” he replied, without hesitation. He was the one who had reminded me that we needed to squeeze the batting cages in one more time before school started, even though we’re now entering week four of the football season. We went to a local place with many other premium attractions vying for our dollars. At the end of the day, when I tallied up all I had spent, I realized that I probably could have paid for half of a pitching machine instead. And so began the debate in my head about buying “things” versus “experiences,” which is why I was asking the question to begin with.
I knew the batting cages were the worst part of the day for my youngest. He had brought his own bat this time, but couldn’t find a small enough batting helmet that didn’t have a face mask on it among the rental helmets (he does not have his own; he hasn’t even played a season of t-ball yet…as if anyone needs batting helmet in t-ball, anyway). He refused the face-mask helmets because he knew they were for softball, which is a “girl sport,” even though we always set his pitching machine on “slow pitch,” which means it spews out softballs. We finally convinced him to wear one of his older brothers’ helmets, but when he stepped into the batters box, it was too sunny, and he refused to swing the bat after his first strike. I yanked him out in a hurry and shoved one of his brothers in to finish his turn. We’d bought enough tokens for nearly 200 pitches and while his brothers alternated turns in the cage, I tried to console my youngest. It got old after about 50 pitches when every time I told one of The Bigs, “Wow, nice hit!” or “Waddaya know – another home run!” his piped up with something along the lines of “I stink” or “I’m a loser.”
Finally, I got fed up with the wah-wah and I told him, “Look. You are not going to be able to change the world to suit your needs, so I strongly suggest you change your attitude to get along in the world. Maybe next time you’ll think about bringing sunglasses along.”
“I don’t have any.”
“Of course you do. You have so many you can’t keep track of them.” I could think of at least three pairs offhand: Spider man, Power Rangers, and Cars – one of which was on the floor in my room.
When it was my oldest’s turn in the shower, I asked him from behind the closed door after I heard the water stop (he likes his privacy but still wants me nearby), what was his favorite part of the day.
“You are, mom,” he said.
“Awwww, you’re such a nice boy.”
“Really, mom, I love spending time with you,” he said as he came out of the bathroom dripping wet with one hand clutching his towel around his waist and the other holding his bundle of dirty clothes.
“Thanks, honey. I’m glad I took the day off,” I said, kissing his wet head.
But then I felt a twinge of guilt, because I did look at my work some in the morning and while doing so had been annoyed with my kids. They were just doing normal things kids do, like trying on all their costumes and running around the house shrieking; shooting Nerf guns at each other; eating chips and soda in their room while they finished a movie we had rented from the kiosk in the supermarket the night before, which resulted in crumbs and spillage. Alliances changed a few times, which resulted in some name calling, tattling, my middle son cutting out the gum that he stuck on my youngest’s hair (so much for the professional back-to-school-haircut); my numerous thwarted attempts to divide and conquer; and at last, my giving up trying to work (which, when I put in for the day off, I knew would be impossible, since camp was over and school hadn’t started yet, so by what reasoning I should attempt to accomplish anything this day, I do not know) when my youngest somehow got a bloody head wound, for which his brother was truly remorseful. After cleaning him up and doling out a Diego bandage, I told the boys we’d leave as soon as they got the place in order and oh-by-the-way, if they left any Nerf gun darts lying around, they were going in the trash (ultimately I threw out nearly a dozen).
“Can you take your clothes downstairs and throw them in the machine and start the wash, please?”
A little while later when I heard the washing machine buzz, I went downstairs to move everything into the dryer. As I passed through the man cave, I asked my youngest what was his favorite part of the day.
“Oh. When we were golfing. And we got to hit the ball through water.”
“Oh, yeah…what was that, the 14th hole?”
“No, mom, that was at the end when the balls get returned,” my oldest chimed in.
“Oh, no, I think he means that hole where you’re supposed to hit the ball into the water and it gets carried to the right place on the green…if you’re lucky…you know, your brother’s favorite hole…”
“Huh?” his brother took his eyes off the TV.
“It was the last hole you played,” my oldest informed him. Mini golf was probably the least favorite part of my middle son’s day. He spent a good portion of the time complaining about how crowded it was (and truthfully, I am surprised it wasn’t regulated with staggered start times the way California highway on ramps are with signal lights to moderate the flow of traffic) or how thirsty he was. He couldn’t stay focused and had begun splashing in the waterways that surrounded the course. He lost his ball, and after returning from getting a new one, began complaining in earnest with great dramatic flourish about how dry his throat was. I thrust some money at him and told him to go get something to drink when he insisted that it was because they didn’t have water fountains in the office that he came back thirsty. He held out to play his “favorite hole” with the built-in waterway, but then never returned, which was actually fine by the rest of us. We found him later watching the bumper boats.
In case anyone is wondering, my favorite part of the day was going to the playground in the early evening not long after we got home. My oldest convinced my middle son that they could indeed ride to the playground on their own: he had just two days prior taken his first solo trip to meet a friend “halfway” on the rail trail and had brought his own spending money for a foray to the Dunkin’ Donuts downtown, which is just a block off the trail. He’d had a taste of freedom. The Bigs rode ahead while my youngest and I trailed behind, not necessarily together, as he is also testing his “wings.” Eventually we all wound up in the same place, and on the same page – no one whined, fought, or complained for more than an hour – family peace and harmony is my favorite part of any given day.