Almost.

I recognize that saying this out loud (or, rather, writing it out loud) goes against everything I ever learned in Parenting 101, but here I go.

I think maybe The Who is past the terrible 6-and-a-halfsies. Shh. Quiet. I didn’t say that. I didn’t even think it. I have never even heard The Who. What’s this blog? Shh.

Except, for real. Something has happened in the past week or so that has felt like a continental shift, like a settling in of sorts. Like something monumental happened while at the same time, like, no big whoop. Like, yeah, he’s almost 7. Whatevs.

Please don’t misunderstand; there are still days when I want to kill him in the face. And still moments within otherwise delightful days where I question my motives for ever trying to do anything fun or nice, but by and large? He’s kind of a dreamboat of a kid lately. He does things like say, “I’m ready for bed now,” all on his own and unprompted. He goes searching for his own shoes when we’re getting ready to leave. Yesterday, even when he was mad at me after we had some words, he spoke to me calmly and explained how frustrated he was. He’s held my hand when I asked him to, followed me when I told him to, paid good, close attention when I needed him to and has been, overall, pretty damn agreeable.

I’d like to credit my ingenious positive reinforcement sticker chart that he’s been working on for the past four weeks, but I don’t really think it’s that. I think maybe he’s just turning the corner toward 7, which I have on good authority is a much better year than 6.

But it doesn’t matter anyway. Because now I’ve spoken of it. So that’s the end of that.

Win.

I’m absolutely out of steam right now, so I won’t be including photos, but rest assured, there are many and they are awesome.

With that disclaimer, I’m checking in here to say that as both a native Bostonian and as an educating/entertaining parent, I am absolutely killing it on this trip.

In 23 days, we have:

  • Walked (some of) and ridden (some of) the Freedom Trail
  • Eaten lunch at Fanueil Hall (twice)
  • Ridden the Swan Boats (three times)
  • Climbed on the Duckling statues
  • Ridden the Frog Pond carousel (three times)
  • Toured the USS Constitution
  • Ridden the T
  • Taken a city bus tour
  • Seen the site of the Boston Massacre (and learned the story along the way)
  • Gone to the movies (twice — once with Mommy!)
  •  Visited the New England Aquarium
  • Seen humpbacks on a whale watch
  • Gone to Roller Derby
  • Spent time at my childhood library
  • Seen the Boston Marathon finish line
  • Waded in the Copley Fountain
  • Gone to the Science Museum
  • Seen a movie in the Omni Theatre
  • Taken a week of theatre classes
  • Performed in a class demonstration
  • Attended one cousin’s basketball game and another cousin’s baseball game
  • Had two piano lessons
  • Seen 4th of July fireworks
  • Gone swimming in the pool with friends
  • Had multiple meals out with friends and family.

And all this was interspersed with plenty of leisurely mornings at home, early nights to bed, relaxing evening bathtub soaks, and lots of one-on-one time.

Still to come: a day on the Cape, another week of theatre classes, a sand-sculpting competition on the beach (with evening fireworks), Legoland Discovery Center, and fishing.

We’re probably spending too much money and The Who surely misses his mommy (he told me so today) but this has definitely been one of my favorite months on record. As the time in the rented apartment dwindles (we have ten days left here and then will spend five more days at my aunt’s house before heading back), I am delighted to realize that I will be neither sad to leave nor sad to go back to Philly. I will feel like we did just what we came here to do and that we are going back to our home. Total win-win.

Watch.

We have spent the last two days packing as much as humanly possible into our time. With blazing sunshine, high temperatures, and humidity to spare. BUT. Even with all of that, The Who has been a champion among boys, melting down only when he was hungry or tired, which to my credit, I managed to let happen very infrequently. I tried to get us home each night before we both turned into pumpkins and I carried water, candy, snacks, and crayons to get us through any rough patches. Kudos to us both, for reals.

Yesterday was the city bus tour, which I will post about tomorrow, but today, we spent the day at the Aquarium and on a 4-hour whale watch (my first ever.)

Learning things.

Learning things.

Myrtle. She's, like, a hundred. And all she had for lunch was a head of cabbage, one leaf at a time.

Myrtle. She’s, like, a hundred. And all she had for lunch was a head of cabbage, one leaf at a time.

Fortunately, you don't feel the heat when the wind is blowing like this.

Fortunately, you don’t feel the heat when the wind is blowing like this.

Boston Light. Even though I don't give any shits about lighthouses in general, this one is the prettiest I've seen. Classic New England.

Boston Light. Even though I don’t give any shits about lighthouses in general, this one is the prettiest I’ve seen. Classic New England.

While waiting for the whales to reveal themselves, The Who caught sight of this moon jelly alongside the boat, long before the tour guide mentioned it. Keen eye.

While waiting for the whales to reveal themselves, The Who caught sight of this moon jelly alongside the boat, long before the tour guide mentioned it. Keen eye.

And then we saw this spray of water come up with many more to follow. We were lucky to see a group of four humpback who kept popping up and diving down right next to us.

And then we saw this spray of water come up with many more to follow. We were lucky to see a group of four humpback who kept popping up and diving down right next to us.

When I mentioned to The Who that I had never seen a whale up close before, he asked, "Have you ever seen one far away?" "Um, no. I mean, I've just never seen a real, live whale before." "Have you seen a dead one?" "Um. No. I meant I've never seen a real one before." "Have you seen a fake one?" Finally, a question I could answer yes to.

When I mentioned to The Who that I had never seen a whale up close before, he asked, “Have you ever seen one far away?”
“Um, no. I mean, I’ve just never seen a real, live whale before.”
“Have you seen a dead one?”
“Um. No. I meant I’ve never seen a real one before.”
“Have you seen a fake one?”
Finally, a question I could answer yes to.

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Math. 

2 trips to the Common and the Garden + 2 rides on the carousel and swan boats + 1 nephew’s basketball game + 3 trampoline jumping sessions + 1 piano lesson + 2 trips to Logan + 3 afternoons swimming + 1 family BBQ + 1 night at the fireworks +1 daylong bus tour of the city + 1 boarding of the dry-docked USS Constitution + 1 stop at the site of the Boston Massacre + 2 meals at Faneuil Hall + 1 movie + 2 Back Bay street-parking spots scored (+ 0 parking tickets!) + 1 cup of chowda at Legal’s + 1 roller derby bout + (tomorrow) 1 Aquarium visit and 1 whale watch = 13 days. 

Eleven Down.

The reason we’re staying here for the better part of six weeks is not so The Who can sit on his Grandma’s lap and have his ears so lovingly covered as the fire trucks come screaming down the street during the parade.

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Hometown parade.

And it’s not so I can dust off my old Boston accent and perfect my flat A while ordering hometown ice cream.

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I think the extra “a” is unnecessary, but no one asked me.

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Wattamellin sherbit with chocklit jimmies.

Nor is it for the history lessons The Who is getting about decades-long traditions and centuries-old freedom fights.

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No. While these are all great perks of this trip, the way I see it, none of those is the real reason. The real reason is this: 

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From jumping to chatting and back to jumping again.

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I could sit and watch my boy with his cousins play and talk and wrestle and love on one another forever.

Home. 

I woke up this morning to the familiar rhythm of raindrops making their way through the trees, falling onto the dense blanket of pine needles and flattened grass. Drops rolling off the shingled overhang outside my childhood bedroom window. Wind and distant thunder. It will rain all day today, according to the weather app on my phone — a brief detour from days of sun and low humidity. I’ll take one day of this, the sound and smell of it immediately transporting me back 35 years to a rainy morning in 1980, lying in the same room, listening to the same sounds. 

I explainedthe notion of ‘returning home’ to The Who as we rolled over the state line into Massachusetts on Monday. “When you leave the place where you grew up, if your time there was good, you will always have a warm place in your heart for your home. I could see him smiling in the rear view mirror as I waxed nostalgic about red, white, and blue license plates and plentiful Dunkin Donuts drive-thrus. 

At The Who’s request, we spent the day in the city yesterday: the Public Garden, our favorite part. We took the train with my mother, meandered through the Common, rode the carousel, walked the perimeter of Frog Pond. We crossed Charles Street into the Public Garden, rode the swan boats, dropped dollars into the open guitar cases of musicians playing among the flowers, and called each one of the ducklings by name. 

And then Copley, because The Who wanted to see the finish line, a landmark he learned about for the first time just a few months ago as we watched our friend cross it via live stream on Marathon Monday. He asked about the placement of the bomb while we made our way down Boylston and we had a philosophical conversation about the death penalty, as the sentence had just been handed down. 

It was just the kind of day for our first full one here. The sun was plentiful and so was the shady respite. Today, though, it rains, which is just fine with me. 

  

Inside. 

We had seen the preview for Inside Out numerous times and we knew we wanted to go when it came out. The concept seemed like it might be a little difficult to grasp (personified emotions inside a kid) but it was poised to be Pixar’s big summer blockbuster, so it couldn’t be that obtuse, right?

Here’s where I warn you that if you haven’t seen it and you want to, maybe you should stop reading. It’s a kid movie and it’s certainly not a whodunit, but there will be some spoilers here. I will talk about all the major plot points. So, read on at your own risk. 

Ok. Now that that’s out of the way, let me say this: The Who was absolutely riveted throughout the whole thing. He leaned on my arm and he reached for his water bottle a few times, but he really didn’t take his eyes off the screen the entire time, which is pretty rare for him. I think Bears was the last movie that held his full attention for the duration and that was over a year ago.  He was definitely taking it all in. 

And, honestly, it was difficult for anyone not to be fully engaged. The story of Riley, the girl whose brain (Psyche? Spirit?) we inhabit through most of the movie, is compelling. She’s a cute baby. An endearing toddler. A spunky tween. We’re with her. She’s had joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust (the five) but overwhelmingly, she is happy and well-adjusted and we immediately relate to her. 

But there, of course, is where the story turns. When her family’s big move from Minnesota to San Francisco coincides with the relocation of the characters of Joy and Sadness, adults know what is going on. Kids do too, even if the nuance is a little bit lost on them. It’s treacherous there for Riley for a while. Everything that shaped her — all her memories — have been tinged with sadness and then all of a sudden, she’s just left with Anger, Fear, and Disgust. 

There is, of course, a happy ending. Because Disney. But not before Riley (and everyone in the audience) gets to careen from joy to despair and back again, pit-stopping for everything else in between on an 2-hour, non-stop amusement park ride of emotion. 

And so it was no wonder. 

When the lights came up and we all returned our recliners to the upright position, The Who, after having sat mostly stock-still the entire time, leapt from his chair and started body-checking his pal. Then they held hands and lurched toward the aisle. And they giggled, sort of maniacally. And then, almost as quickly, The Who started crying. And when I insisted he carry his water bottle up the three steps to the trash can so I could make a hand available to hold it for him, he dissolved. Then, thinking maybe his earlier silliness was from having to pee, I asked him to use the bathroom along with the rest of us and he threw a fit, whining about tired legs from sitting so long and needing to stand, but also wanting to sit more and again about how l made him carry his water bottle himself and it all just seemed so absurd. 

We got into the car, and he was still complaining and carrying on and I just sort of looked at him for a full minute. And then I feel like I actually saw a lightbulb illuminate above my head. 

“You’re feeling pretty sad and angry now, huh?” I suggested. 

“Yeah,” he grunted. 

“Kind of like what Riley was feeling in a lot of the movie. Did you feel sad or angry when she was?”

“No,” he replied flatly. 

“When she was feeling sad about leaving her friends and going to a new class and taking a long trip and being away from what she knew and was feeling sad and scared, did you feel any of that too?”

He softened. “Well, maybe. A little.” 

“Yeah. Sounds actually a lot like what is going on in your life. Ending kindergarten. Going to camp next week. Going to Boston for a month. Leaving your friends. I would think you might be feeling sad and scared too. And I would bet it might be a lot for you to see Riley going through all of that and then as soon as it was over, to have me make you carry your bottle and go pee when you didn’t want to, that must have just felt like too much.”

“You’re right, Mama.”

“Yeah. No wonder you were so angry. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that sooner. But thanks for talking to me about it.”

“You’re welcome.”

And that was it. That was the end of it. He returned to his pleasant, agreeable self. And then we had a completely lovely and easy breezy evening and bedtime. Maybe tomorrow, he will talk more about it. Or maybe he will just notice the feelings in himself as they crop up. Or not. 

But, regardless, at least now we both know. That feeling stuff? Intense. And this movie? Intense. For adults, yes, but especially for kids. Kids who are experiencing it all right with Riley. Kids who are perhaps not so accustomed to being, for all intents and purposes, trapped inside a small room for two hours with all of their feelings and all of everyone else’s and absolutely no respite. It’s a lot to take in, especially for a little person. Even one as well-versed in expressing feelings as The Who generally is. 

Go see this movie. Definitely. We will probably see it at least one more time, if only to continue to process the emotions. But, yes, definitely, go. It’s funny and entertaining and poignant and sweet and beautiful. It’s worth the ten bucks. But when you do go, if it is with a child, take note. Shit might get really real. So arm yourself for some backlash and open up your heart for some aftercare. Even if it doesn’t seem like they’re affected or like they need any special attention, they do. I’m almost certain. 

As a side note, and something to bear in mind, the personifications of the feelings were also problematic. Sadness was a short, fat girl with glasses. Joy was a perky, thin girl with a cute pixie cut. Anger was a man. The Who and I will be talking about those things, too, once the rest of the movie sinks in.