Oh to be thirteen…

I can’t  believe that I was once one of them:  a middle school boy.

Two weeks ago I chaperoned our church middle school mission trip.  The three adults sat with our youth on the front row of the church the Sunday that we departed.  Late in the service, we all stood up front so the minister could “commission” our group which includes a charge to spread Christ’s love throughout the world.

We were all wearing shorts that day, ready to depart at noon.

Mid point in the service, our youth director looked down as the 12-year-old beside her took full use of the ink pen on our weekly visitor register.  His ball point was steady on his buddy’s right leg.  And what might one guess this young man would draw?  A penis.  Yes, he used the pen from the Friendship pad to draw private parts on his friend’s leg.

I didn’t see it myself which is a good thing.  Because I fear I would have rolled under the pew with laughter.  Although grossly inappropriate, it is perhaps one of the moments I will most remember from my years in church, right after my baptism and being ordained as an elder.

What are these dudes thinking?  Or are they?

If there is a deck of cards in view, they pick it up and begin flipping the cards all over the room.  They flip cards at windows, heads, legs, girls, the floor, the ceiling, the wall – I bet I picked up 6,800 cards that week.  And I nagged so much just to ensure that they would occasionally sleep and not forget to change their clothes, I found it easier to clean up myself than to ask them to help.

There were actually two church groups spending the week together in Asheville.  Although we separated during the day, at night we had programs as a large group.

On Tuesday, we visited a Labyrinth.  Our goal was to quietly walk the maze-like path while praying and pondering.  The boys took this as an obstacle course; a challenge to see who could run through the quickest.

Afterward, we all stood in a large circle on a concrete pad.  I had a clear view of one young man who was directly across from me.  His finger was lodged into his nose so far up you could not see his knuckle.  The girl beside him was from the other church and was staring at him with a look of disgust and amazement.  I could see her thought bubble, Is he really digging into his nose right here beside me?  Could he possibly get it any further up?  Can he possibly be my same age?

As his finger disembarked and he relaxed his arm beside him, the group leader announced to all, “Now grab the hand of the person beside you, we are going to pray.”

I wanted to save her.  I could handle a boogered hand much better than she.  I considered diving in between them, grabbing his snot remnanted digit so she would not have to.  But it was too far.  I could not get there in time.

Bless her heart.  I wonder what she thought as we all bowed to God.

Girls at that age are advanced.  Michelle and her friends were having intelligent conversations with the chaperones, listening to music, and braiding each other’s hair.  Calm, cool, and collected.

The boys were were walking around like Beavis and Butthead.

That’s why I volunteer with middle schoolers.  They are incredibly interesting.  Incredibly funny.  Unpredictable.  Pushing the limits.  Full of life.

I had a late birthday for my grade.  I’m a September baby.  My mother has repeatedly told me she should have held me back.  Although I’m fifty, my maturity level is the same as a 26-year-old woman.  Some things never change.

 

 

A son at last

Many years ago I was on a staff retreat in the mountains. The topic of the retreat had to do with developing your personal mission statement. For one of the activities, we were required to find a place and sit, in total silence, alone for an hour. All we could do was think.

For an extrovert and someone who is a bit hyperactive, that was quite a challenge.

I went out on the front porch of this old inn where we were staying and plopped myself in a most comfortable rocking chair. I do like to rock – sort of puts me in a trance. As I looked out toward the enormous purple mountain in front of me, thoughts seemed to easily swim in and out of my head.

At one point, I had a fairly vivid vision – it was that I would have a son.

My vision must have been a bit too many brussel sprouts ’cause it did not come true……until last week.

When we returned to the car after our first fitting for costumes in A Christmas Carol, Stephanie was snickering and Michelle was pouting.

“I didn’t get a long cape this year nor did I get a top hat. Quite disappointing.  I’m the bobby.”

“Yeah dad, but you get to carry the night stick! That’s pretty cool.”

“You’re right about that, plus I have a badge on my helmet! Did you guys like your costumes?”

Stephanie quickly chirped in, “I looove mine! Michelle, tell dad about your costume…”

“You just love it don’t you?” Michelle replied. “I’m a boy. A stinkin’ boy. All they do is burp and fart.” Her voice was getting louder, like Ralph Kramden in the Honeymooners, “What do I know about being a boy?”

DSC_1573

Me with my daughters and son.

“Just embrace it Michelle. The mark of a true actor is being able to play any part, especially one of the opposite sex.”

My argument wasn’t helping.

Two days later I made a huge mistake.

Michelle came down to breakfast about to jump out of her skin.

“Why are you so excited?”

“Today is the day we find out who gets to play Mary in the Christmas pageant at school! I mean, I don’t really care if I get it or not, I just want to know.”

“Ahh, I’m a little worried honey.”

“About what dad?”

“Well, I’m afraid Mr. Farmer may have found out about the part you’re playing in A Christmas Carol. I think he might cast you as Joseph.”

As Stephanie nearly choked on her cereal in laughter, Michelle reared her fist back and smacked me in the stomach.

“How’s that for a boy?”

The punch was delivered in jest – well, sort of – it had some gass. But I guess I deserved it.

Michelle has actually accepted her new role. One of her good friends is also a boy so they’ve created a secret boy handshake, and they hit each other in the shoulder and stuff.

I will say when the photographer took her picture for the play poster, he found me after the shooting. “You may want to toughen that boy up a bit! He sits just like a girl!”

I think I have my work cut out for me.

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