The Extra Child. You know the one—after the third day you look him square in the eye and say, “Listen to me boy. If you’re thirsty or hungry in this house you better learn to help yourself because my son, your friend, through no lack of training or nagging on my part, will not think to offer you anything. This is where we keep the glasses. Here’s the pantry. The microwave is self-explanatory and I put an extra electric toothbrush head with your name on it in the bathroom drawer. Make sure you use it.”
The Extra Child is over at your house so often you start treating him like your own children. No more maintaining that nice exterior for the sake of company. “All right kids, tooth brushing time. And three full minutes tonight! I know you’ve been slacking off—I can tell whenever I come within two feet of you. Whoever left their shoes in the middle of the doorway better move them and I mean now. Did you get sunscreen on your back? Turn around. Let me check. Who left their socks on the kitchen table, again?”
My favorite Extra Child, Carlos, is every parent’s dream thirteen year old. I want to bow before his parents in pure reverence of their child rearing abilities. Carlos is the type of kid, unlike your own food devouring, mess creating flesh and blood, that scratches the dog’s belly when no one else will, thinks the little sister is the best invention ever and always share the Nintendo controls. He compliments and eats every morsel of food I put in front of him, speaks in complete, coherent sentences and never forgets to say Thank You.
“Hey boys, how ‘bout some breakfast? Or lunch?” I asked at 11:17 this morning. My son grunted. Carlos chuckled politely for my benefit, then laid into his friend, “Morgan I’ve been waiting since 9. for you to wake up so we could eat.”
“Carlos!” I yelled across the kitchen and into the family room (the only place they’ll sleep); “You need to get up and have breakfast on your own or you’ll starve waiting for him to wake up. Either that or kick Morgan awake so you two can eat together. Personally, I’d opt for the second choice.”
“So would I.” Carlos laughed. “Mawwwm,” my biological son belted, “I just lost my trust in you!”
“Oh well son, sometimes moms have to use tough love.” Even if that means ganging up against your own son with the part time one.
My phone conversations with other mothers these days tend to go one of two ways: “Hello Julie? This is Karen. Can I keep your son? He fits in here so well and anyhow, the dog likes him the best. What if I trade my son for yours? I’ll throw in my car….” OR “Hello Gladys? This is Karen. Karen Rinehart, your next door neighbor. I was wondering if you wanted your son back anytime soon. You know, kinda tall and lanky, blonde hair, blue eyes, size 12 shoe, a star shaped birthmark on his left calf, appetite of Godzilla? Oh. Well, could you send over his underwear, socks and shot records?”
Growing up, I aspired to be that ultra cool mom in the Kool Aid commercials, so I’m glad, enormous grocery bill not withstanding, that my son and his friends are still willing to be in my presence.
~October 2, 2014: I. Want. Them. Back. In. My. Kitchen. Now. Dammit.