Friday, January 21, 2011

Yes or no: a mom's dilemma

“Can I, Mom?” my son asked.

Was this a yes or no moment? I asked myself, searching his eyes for some kind of clue. Did he want me to say no and save him or yes and allow him. Those are the hardest decisions to make, especially for a mama of a boy. I may not be one, but I know being tough is important to them.

We were standing in the midst of 250 acres of woods. Teenage boys and a few grown men were dressed in camouflage, giddily suiting up in chest pads and face masks, loading the barrels of their guns with small balls of paint that looked a little like the bath beads I used to give my mom each year at Christmas. We had only intended to watch.

Yes or no? I thought. That is the question.

On a rainy day a few years back, we went to Andretti’s Indoor Karting and Games. Unbeknownst to me, my son seeing the go-carts zoom around the track at rapid speed told his daddy, “I don’t think Mom would want me to do that!”

As I exited the ladies’ room, he said, “Mom, can I ride the go-carts?”

“Sure!” I said.

“But I don’t want to!” he said.

The point of this story? From then on, I knew how important my decisions were and have been happy to be his scapegoat ever since.

But, in the woods, under the supervision of friends, I said yes to paintball and am so grateful I did. Not to mention, he’d already told me that there was a girl about his age out there doing it. Later, he would tell me, “And she was good, too!”

So, what’s a mama to say?

A friend put a paintball gun in his hand and gave him a quick lesson.

“This is the safety … Are you familiar with guns at all?”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

I rolled my eyes. He’s familiar with every version of Nerf gun there is and has watched WWII movies and asked dozens of questions, so I guess that qualifies as the truth.

He suited up, and the next thing I know my baby went off to battle. It wasn’t long before he came back excited and totally paint-free.

“He did great!” my friend said. “He hung back and watched since this was his first time, which was the right thing to do.”

My son beamed, and so did I. He wasn’t hurt!

About that time, his best friend arrived, and my son was suddenly an expert, giving him advice on where to hide, how to hold his gun and regaling him with the story of his first foray.

On his second battle, he declared he was not going to hang back any more. The teenagers looked at him and asked, “Are you ready?”

“Yep!” He declared and off he marched.

Later he said the teen told him to stay nearby, but, at the last moment, he took shelter behind a tree, leaving my son out in the open, and he was hit. The teen later apologized, but he didn’t need to. My son was proud of his new “wound.”

“It stung a little bit,” he said.

“Do you still want to come back in two weeks and play some more?” my friend asked.

“Yes, sir!” he said.

That’s my boy.

On the way home, he talked non-stop about their battle plan and how much fun he had, requesting that I count the Christmas money that I’ve been holding in my wallet to see if he had enough to buy his own equipment.

“Thank you for letting me play, Mom,” he said. Inside, I felt warm and fuzzy. Despite my initial fears, I said yes when I should have. “Can I wear my sweatshirt with the splattered paint on it to school, so everyone could see where I got shot?”

This one I didn’t have to think about.

My answer? A resounding no!

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