Family · Life · Parenting


My friend Tim grew up with a houseful of brothers. He likes to tell me stories about the shenanigans they thought up when they were young. I find his stories amusing, and also terrifying. There are probably things a mom doesn’t need to know until her children are safely into their 30s and can no longer be injured or disciplined.

One of the stories I’ve heard a few times is about that time long ago when Tim and his brothers decided to throw dirt clods at the garage door. Probably they were trying to show off to each other in some fashion, but he can’t remember why they started. They kept after it, though. It was fun. Soon, the white garage door was well speckled with brown dirt, and the boys’ arms were worn out. They wandered off in search of some other kind of trouble. Hours later, their mother discovered what they’d been up to. Tim and his brothers were very sad for some time after that.

Tim admitted that he probably knew it was a terrible idea. That happened all the time, he said. They’d think of something, know they were going to pay dearly for it, and do it anyway. “I know,” he said, “that you want to ask the boys why all the time.” This is true. WHY would you throw your barn boots in the swimming pool? WHY would you soap the bathroom floor and slide around naked like penguins? WHY would pick your brother’s nose while he was sleeping? WHY? WHYYYYYYYYYY?

Tim leaned in. “Here’s the thing,” he said. “They don’t know. They have no idea why they do these things. There’s no point in asking.”

I can see the wisdom in this and I have tried to stop asking. I really have. It’s hard not to when the imaginings of their confused little brains result in property damage and/or minor injury with some regularity, and all of it could be avoided with a little forethought and common sense. But I am trying.

On Sunday, when I walked by the front door, I noticed that one of the sidelight windows was dirty. Like, really dirty. Like maybe the dog was digging in the garden and then smeared dirt around on the window when he was trying to get someone to open the door.

We don’t have a dog.

Upon opening the door to examine the window, I discovered more dirt. I stepped back. The front door, sidelights, and surrounding siding were covered in dirt clods. Thanks to Tim, I did not have to wonder how this might have happened. I stepped back into the house, where Paul was trying to herd Levi over to the couch to start his evening treatments and Elias was reading on the big chair.

“Were you,” I said carefully to the assembly at large, “throwing dirt clods at the front door?”

“IT WASN’T JUST ME!” Levi yelled, as Elias tried to simultaneously sink into the upholstery and protest that it wasn’t his idea.

I took a breath. “Did you do this anywhere else?” They had. You have three guesses, and the first two don’t count. Tim is a modern-day prophet.

I do not have a picture of any of this to share with you. I was too mad for photography. Here is a picture of the little darlings on a day when I did not consider running away to Fiji. I’m sure they were plotting.


Levi’s treatments were postponed for cleanup of the front door area and garage door. The boys protested that they weren’t tall enough to reach a lot of the dirt. “Perhaps you should have thought of that when YOU WERE THROWING IT,” I said. “Figure it out.” Paul, doubtless envisioning ladders perched precariously on chairs and the bumper of the truck, went outside to supervise.

You may be impressed to know that during this whole debacle I did not once ask why. I may, however, have wailed, “But what could possibly have made you think this was a good idea?” There was no answer.

Testosterone poisoning, I think, is the only real answer. As Paul has said more than once: The short ones? With all the testosterone? You can’t trust ’em an inch.

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