HUB IN THE HOOD: The "B" Word
It started when a friend of my son’s declined an offer to come spend the night at our house. Thinking nothing of said declined offer, I was surprised when I received a call from the friend’s mother. I was even more surprised when she apologetically explained that her son didn’t want to come over because our house was “boring.” Boring?! Our house? I could think of a LOT of words which would describe our house, but boring was certainly not one of them. This kid – we shall call him “Bob” (because I believe in changing names to protect the guilty) – had been a guest of mine prior to this revelation.
It took a few weeks, but I finally finagled an at-home spend-the-night for my son’s friend “Bob”. Without revealing my plan, I wanted to observe this pre-teen creature in my own environment and possibly determine a significant explanation for why we are so boring. I am one of those unsettling individuals whom adore research, and thus I was about to conduct an experiment.
My observations were quickly rewarded with a wealth of information…all of which was openly volunteered by my son’s friend. “Bob” said our house was boring because we only had one TV. He openly shared with my son that at his house, they have one of every game system known to man, and every bedroom in their house has a TV, complete with satellite service. “Bob” also divulged the fact that at his house they have an extra refrigerator, which is always filled with copious amounts of soda…to which he apparently has VIP access. Then “Bob” started quizzing me.
“Do you have iPads?”
“How many computers do you have?”
“Do you have a PSP?”
“Do you have iPods?”
“Then how do you listen to music?”
On the radio.
“Do you have smartphones?”
“My mom and dad do, and I have an iPhone …”
“OUTSIDE!” I shouted in my best drill sergeant voice.
Giggling children scattered to the four winds. “OUTSIDE AND PLAY!” The last one out was my son’s friend. I hid behind the bookshelf and watched him as he crept into the sunlight. He stopped, squinted, and scowled. Cupping his hand over his brow, he searched for the other children, looking for signs of life. “Bob” seemed confused and unsure of himself. He was speechless, which I did not believe possible. Slowly, he took the first step into the wilderness that is our 11-acre yard. Birds were singing. The sun was shining. The dog was waiting, his tail wagging. I thought the boy was going to cry. He wobbled like a newborn giraffe, paused…took a deep breath and ventured into the landscape.
Suddenly my son appeared. He was soaked and was carrying a bright orange water gun. Without hesitation, my son shot his friend right in the chest and then ran for it. “Bob” took off in hot pursuit. The water gun war was afoot. I finished some laundry and prepared dinner. Once in a while I would hear peals of laughter as children ran by the house. I didn’t see the boy for 2 hours. Later, as evening settled in, I gave the shout out. Kids quickly arrived for dinner. I was not the least bit surprised to see my son’s friend shirtless, muddy, sunburned and sweaty. He even asked for a Band-Aid because he scraped his leg climbing a tree. “Bob” was proud of his wound.
The next morning, after we all made chocolate chip pancakes, “Bob” had to go home. Imagine his mother’s surprise when he begged her to let him stay. Her confusion was apparent as she furrowed her brow. I smiled. She expected to find a son who was dying to return to the comforts of technology. Instead she found an overly excited lad with a few new freckles and the pink hue of a baby gerbil. He told her he had the best day of his life. He told her that she never cooks chocolate chip pancakes. He told his mother that he climbed a tree and almost broke his leg falling out of it. He told his mother the other kids shot him, and that he stole a gun and shot them back. He told her they built a fort out of trees and sticks. He told her they found and fondled lizards. “Bob”’s mom deftly procured a purse-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and pumped his hands full. It took that woman 30 minutes to get her kid in the car.
My son hugged me. I asked him, “So, what do you guys do when you go over to spend the night at his house?” My son shrugged and said,
“Nothing. He plays games the whole time and sometimes I go outside and ride his bike. Sometimes I play a game with him. It’s boring.”