“I win I win I win!” he cried joyfully as he ran celebratory laps around the kitchen table, fists pumping in the air, arms flailing.
This was the reaction of my then seven-year-old son on being crowned the first winner of our family’s Best Boy of the Day contest. I think perhaps he had an intrinsic age advantage over his four-year-old brother, but then maybe not, due to personalities. Yes, they were (are?) competitive, the younger in sports, the elder in life. In fact I think our family still is banned at some area miniature golf courses and bowling alleys.
After exhausting his celebration, elder son turned to me and asked “So what do I get?”
I replied “Well, you get the title of Best Boy of the Day and all the honors, awards and accolades that go with that.”
“So that means I get nothing, right?” elder son asked as his win buzz quickly began to evaporate.
At best my parenting style could be classified as relaxed, and both boys gave me a run for my money at different stages. But the one thing I always tried to do was notice good behavior and reward it.
Over the years we used the Best Boy of the Day award quite often, especially as they became young men. Even better when we added Hubs as a contestant. It became much more entertaining. When one son (guess who?) would have a minor skirmish with school or law authorities, the other would say “Ha! I’m Best Boy for at least another month!” When Hubs would do something husband-like, the boys would gleefully shout “you can kiss that Best Boy Award goodbye!”
Last weekend was one of those golden, glowing life events that will stay in my memory forever. Our immediate family, plus Granny, Aunt, Uncle and Cousin all traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate elder son’s graduation from law school. There were family dinners, formal galas, towers of seafood, and the chance to sit outside in the freezing rain, getting soaked while watching the ceremony. It was truly one of the best weekends of my life.
Monday was my birthday, a definite anticlimax to the weekend. Elder son, in the midst of all the graduation celebrations, handed me a card and gave me a gift card (BOOKS!) before we left for home. Hubs dug through his disheveled travel bag, searching for my birthday card he was sure he had packed. Couldn’t find it. Younger son strolled into the airport and said “Oh, good, we’re early so I have time to buy you a birthday present. How about a neck pillow?”
Eventually he left the group, purportedly to use the facilities. He came back with a little brown bag and dropped it in my lap. “I know how patriotic and stuff you are, and everyone can use more of these,” he said.
I opened the bag to find a package of paper coasters, decorated with flags, fireworks and all things cheesily jingoistic. “You shouldn’t have … really!”
I quickly attached the coaster package to my necklace to proudly display my wonderful, heartfelt gift.
That evening I announced the Best Boy of the Day title, obviously awarded to my most thoughtful (that day) elder son. But then I rescinded it. No one can make me laugh like the younger, and I will treasure my paper coasters forever, or until they wind up in someone’s exquisitely decorated, intriguingly large and enticing Christmas gift box.