Half of my 16 year-old son’s hockey team slept over last week. With one eye on Iron Man 2 and the other checking their Instagram feed, they laid throughout the family room, with potato chips and soda bottles strewn everywhere. Unlike when my daughters’ have girlfriends sleep over, I was still in my “day clothes” until 1am. When the boys were 9, I refilled Pepsi in my jammies and slippers, hugging each one goodnight before I crept up the stairs. A few days later, they would tell my son how “nice” that was.
At 16 yrs. old, there are no good night hugs, and jammies seem inappropriate (not that I lounge in Fredericks of Hollywood or anything). Why? At this age, these boys notice e v e r y t h i n g. Yes, even Moms get “ranked” alongside the teenage girls they see in the hallways at school.
Don’t get the wrong idea: ranked doesn’t necessarily have to equal “hot”. While they surely notice which Moms give attention to their physical appearance, ranking also includes the quality of snacks, the next morning’s breakfast, how nice, fun, or not-the parents are, etc.
For nearly four hours, the boys blasted music in the basement, played noisy rounds of ping pong, NHL13 on the XBox, and cheered loudly through mini stick tournaments. To give me extra cleaning, they ran outside in the snow – then through the mudroom and kitchen leaving sleet and slush everywhere. While their laughter was literally contagious, making my husband and I laugh out loud when they disappeared again into the basement, I was exhausted.
By the time they parked themselves in front of movies, I longed for my P.J.’s, and realized that I had officially been awake for 18 hours. There is a not-so-funny joke in my house that “Mom gets cranky after 9pm”. When other kids sleep over, I keep smiling and appear energetic, despite my inner Eeyore.
Making sure the level of snacks was still above-average, I once again offered soda, extra pillows, more blankets… whatever would sincerely make them most comfortable in our home. Walking back into the kitchen, I tried not to stop at the hallway mirror, but I gave in anyway. My son had recently shared that the boys thought I was a “good looking Mom”. I did not take this as a compliment. I may have actually grunted out loud when he proudly announced, “I’m glad you and Dad look young for your age.”
Wickedly unfair, my husband, like most men, grows more handsome with each birthday. After a 10-minute shower, wearing jeans and a tee shirt, the lines on his face only make him look better. Preparing myself for any sort of out-of-the-house viewing requires considerable more time and effort.
The “good looking Mom” curse added pressure to my already type-A personality. The yummy appetizers would be insufficient for the text message reviews that would surely ensue post-sleepover. The teenagers “ranking” might possibly include my physical appearance! This made me extra cranky, but I continued with an Oscar-winning jovial performance as the clock struck midnight.
There is another hockey Mom who is known as “hot”. Yet another has been discussed as “beautiful”. I felt relieved that my ranking only reached “good looking”. I focused on being the most cheerful and having the best variety of drinks, hoping to earn the “nicest” award, releasing me of any visual expectation.
With the burden to maintain the image, I sucked in my muffin top, carefully adjusting my jeans to conceal any lumps or bumps whenever I entered the teen boy territory. My stomach expanded a good four inches upon departing the testosterone zone, and I breathed much easier as I finally climbed into bed.
At 8am the next day, my daughter walked into the bathroom asking, “Why are you doing your hair on a Saturday morning?” Understand that “doing my hair” means she observed me pulling it up into a well-groomed ponytail. “Your brother’s friends will want breakfast soon. I don’t want the poor boys to drop dead of cardiac arrest.” She laughed, and then lectured me as I do her: “Mom, what about the inner beauty you insist I develop more than my outward beauty?” Don’t you hate when they use your own words against you?
I’ve reached that 40-something age where I don’t feel compelled to look radiant every minute of the day as I did in my 20’s. My ridiculous decision to get up a little earlier to brush my hair and apply light makeup was exclusively for my son. Crazy love for my kids compels me to occasionally engage in relatively inconsequential activity for the mere purpose of giving them momentary comfort. Obviously tidying my appearance does not make me a great Mom. But our kids are living in brutal days, regularly subjected to mind-boggling criticism, particularly via social media. Honestly, my early morning condition would provide the hockey team with enough ammo to taunt my son the entire season. Shallow or not, I’ll put forth the effort.
Exactly 27 chocolate chip pancakes and three quarts of strawberries later, parents arrived for pick up and the mass departure began. “Bye! Thanks for the breakfast! Thanks for having us!” While the last of the gratitude rang through the house, I was making a beeline for my bedroom. Sweatpants and my husband’s old shirt were waiting for me.