Antonio was up front with me, and five boys of varying personalities sat, sprawled, and perched behind us. Before leaving Richfield for Minneapolis, I looked to make sure all the Cub Scouts were buckled in. For some children, escaping the safety rules undetected can be a badge of honor. And, Cub Scouts is all about badges.
Within five minutes, we were headed north on 35W to tour the foundry where I work as a Human Resource Manager. The tour would complete the Geologist pin for the Scouts.
Within ten minutes, I was chewing my fingernails.
I had no clue that I was entering unfamiliar territory when the boys tumbled into my vehicle. Very soon after I started driving, I realized that I had never experienced a van full of ten year old boys. Sure, I had ferried two or three of them from place to place, but never a van full. A group of boys alters chemistry.Immediately, I became invisible to them as a mom, a female, and an adult. Their conversation bounced from subject to subject like two very bad Ping-Pong players that just wouldn’t quit. It seemed like the fourth graders were jockeying for what would be acceptable conversation. One boy mentioned boobies; another boy said that was inappropriate. I looked at Antonio and raised my eyebrows. He looked back at me with wide eyes.
Since I didn’t know all of the boys well, I couldn’t discern who was speaking. I really liked the kid who said, “That’s inappropriate.” But then again, like all kids, he might have been trying to be sarcastic.
Keeping my eyes on the road, I listened closely to the conversation and questioned whether or not I should speak up. After chewing my third fingernail, I decided that as long as there wasn’t any berating talk or more body part talk, I wouldn’t say anything and let the conversation jump from topic to topic.
The boys covered the gamut from Pokémon to Twin Towers, from the World Trade Center to Why are we talking about history—let’s talk about manly stuff, to a manly discussion of farts, to don’t distract the driver to singing a ditty about farts, to my dad’s friend made this Internet game, to that building is where my dad works, and so on.
After the foundry tour and the appropriate oohs, ahs, and that’s awesome, we were back in the van, and I was thrust back into foreign country. The bookends of an Indian chief the boys were given, made with molten iron at the foundry, were soon kissing in the back seat. I’m sure that the foundry man who made those bookends didn’t expect that.
This experience has confirmed that Jody and I have been right to make sure Antonio is surrounded by boys so he will know how to navigate male culture. What makes me raise my eyebrows and bite my nails, he can handle –it’s a wild ride but he knows how to stay afloat.