My nephew sent me an instant message on Facebook the other night. He wanted me to know he was bringing a friend to the lake this weekend.
“Uh oh, that means more trouble,” I joked.
“You may want to know it’s… a girl,” he replied.
He’s 14, my nephew. That’s old enough to have a girlfriend, right? Maybe. He claims she’s only a friend. A friend who’s a girl. Either way, having a girl here at the lakehouse is like throwing a kitten in with a bunch of pit bulls. This family of ours is blessed (or cursed, if you want to look at it that way) with more than its share of testosterone. I have four boys, my brothers each have two boys, and then there’s Lydia, the lone girl. She loves all things girl, but she can hold her own in the midst of this pack of boys.
When Girl showed up with Fourteen-Year-Old Nephew, my boys – ages 12, 10, 8 and 7 – gathered around her and stared. What was this creature standing before them? Surely they had seen one before, but to be in their territory was a little different. She had entered into their space; she wasn’t merely passing by, or sharing a classroom with them. She was there because their cousin had invited her. To the lakehouse. All weekend.
Fourteen took Girl on a tour of the house. It became obvious very quickly that Fourteen wasn’t going to have much alone time with his female friend. I suppose they wanted to make sure their cousin didn’t leave out any important information on the tour because my boys became co-tour guides and provided the entertainment segment of the tour by jumping from bed to bed in the large bedroom they share.
After the tour, Girl changed into her bikini and reappeared downstairs. Soon after her appearance, I heard the thumping of boy feet scrambling up the steps to our bedroom, followed by shouts, “Mom, where’s my swimsuit?” Clothes went flying out of the duffle bags and onto the floor in a race to get swimsuits on, towels gathered and to be the first one to get the coveted lounge chair next to Girl.
My boys love the water. But I have never seen them stay in the water as long as I did this weekend. I blame their sunburn all on Girl. She wanted to play King of the Raft, so every boy (along with Lydia) played King of the Raft She wanted to have a diving contest, so the boys had a diving contest. She wanted to tube, so the boys asked one of the parents to drive the boat. She wanted to play water basketball, so everyone played basketball. My favorite was the game Categories.
Categories is the game where all the kids except the one who is “it” line up along the dock, in the water. The person who is “it” stands on the dock and keeps their back to the kids in the water. He or she declares the category, for instance it could be types of cars or favorite colors or NFL teams, etc. Everyone in the water thinks of their answer. Then the “it” person starts guessing, say, the NFL teams. “Colts, Vikings, Patriots” etc. When he or she says your team, you slowly leave the dock and swim away to the Sea Doo dock. (You usually play Categories in a pool and swim from one side to the other.) If “it” person suspects you are swimming away, he/she turns around to see if you are indeed swimming, in which case she dives in to try and catch you before you get to the other side, or the Sea Doo dock in our case. If she turns around to check and no one is swimming away, then she has to take a step forward.
At one point in the game, Girl decided the category would be “Favorite Person Here at the Lake.” Guess who the favorite person at the lake was? That’s right. Girl. And she knew it. The looks on their faces when she turned around and dove in to tag them was priceless. They all had shy smiles as if to say, “Come after ME! You are my favorite.”
One afternoon, my brother and I wanted to wakeboard. The adults often sacrifice boat time for the kids, who are all tubers. For years we have tried to get them to ski or wakeboard. None of them are interested, except for one of my sons who attempted to ski once. Once. But Girl decided if we were going to wakeboard, then she was going to learn. Guess who else wanted to learn, too? Boys. Not all of them. But half of them suddenly acted like this is what they had been waiting for all summer. “Wakeboard? Oh, yeah. I’ve been dying to learn how to wakeboard.” So scramble, scramble they go again, looking for their lifejackets in the boathouse and coming out with the wakeboard and rope like they do this all the time.
After my brother and I got our fixes in (we’re selfish like that), we promised to teach them. Fourteen tried first. Since Girl was his friend, he had to puff out his chest in bravery and show her how it was done. Well, sort of. He got up and stayed up for about 4.5 seconds. Then Girl tried. And tried. And tried. She was tough. Finally, we had to tell Girl that there were others who wanted to try and she would need to come back on the boat for a while. Secretly, I think she was relieved. It’s a lot of pressure being idolized like she was that weekend and not being able to show up the boys in this area. Next my kids tried. Each of them got up but no one could beat the 4.5 second record. My second child held the record for most seconds combined. Even if it was from the influence of a girl, I’m proud of them for trying.
Usually dinnertime at the lake looks like this: adults sit peacefully on the upper deck overlooking the lake, while the kids eat inside as quickly as possible so they can get back to playing down in the basement. Not so when Girl was there. She took the prime outdoor spot. The adult spot. Since she was our guest, we let it fly. Besides, the picture of all those boys, and Lydia, gathered around that table with Girl was priceless.
When the sun set, the boys begged my brother to take them out on the boat. Again, the kids are usually split on who wants to go out on the boat at night. Not this weekend. Every child was on that boat. My brother needed a stiff drink after that ride. You can only take so much, “omgod, I love this Demi Lovato song because she’s like my favorite singer besides Miley Cyrus…” talk.
It was time to face bedtime. My brother had given Fourteen strict rules and a hefty lecture about where Girl was to sleep. In the basement, away from all boys. Funny how my boys thought it would be a great idea to have a slumber party in the basement that night. Weren’t they afraid to sleep down there just last weekend? Things that make you go hmmm.
I don’t mean to objectify Girl. After all, I happen to be very sensitive about the objectification of women and I teach my boys not to use women as objects either. But I will admit, this girl had power. She was the object of every boys’ affection this weekend.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that power. I’ve decided that if she ever comes back to the lake, I will take her by the hand and have a little chat with her. I’m not going to ask her to wear her bikini, but I’m thinking maybe she could come to my house and pretend she loves to do dishes. Or clean bathrooms. Or have a spotless bedroom. If necessary, I’ll slide her a $20 under the table. We moms have to be creative when it comes to a getting a house full of boys to pick up after themselves. I may not have that much clout when it comes to motivating my sons, but if Girl does, then I ‘m going to figure out exactly how to harness that power … for the betterment of our household, of course. And maybe if she does a good job, I’ll give her private wakeboard lessons so next time she’s out on the boat, she’ll beat that 4.5 second record and earn her rightful place as the Girl who could rock the wakeboard.