Boys and injuries–like chocolate and peanut butter, they just go together

I’m a mother of five boys. Injuries just happen, especially if there are several boys. Before they’re reached their teenage years, each of my sons has been clanked and clonked and dropped and slammed multiple times. Even my quietest, most sensible son has had stitches for splitting open his thigh by merely tripping over a wheelbarrow. (I saw it happen, otherwise I never would have believed it.)

It’s remarkable how much damage can occur to/by boys simply by running to the kitchen when dinner is ready. My youngest son is now eight, and even though he’s fairly mellow, there will be injuries before he’s an adult. I keep my insurance card handy at all times.

Pboys and head injuries

Pbrain damage boys

The Walls in the Middle of Idumea will be a FREE DOWNLOAD this weekend. I’ll let you know which days!

All boys have some brain damage or they’re not real boys. (or “You’re not going to believe what happened . . .”)

I have five sons, ages 7-25. All of them have some brain damage, and it happens something like this:

“Anyway, the little guy came barreling in there, and just as I stepped out, he turned and smacked right into my sword! Clanked his head, I’m sorry to report, but all little boys have to have some amount of brain damage, otherwise they aren’t real boys. And that’s how I met him.” ~The Walls in the Middle of Idumea, coming summer 2019

It starts when they’re babies and they roll into walls. On purpose. Again and again.

Then as toddlers they run into corners of tables, couches, and the walls, again. Sometimes on purpose, just to see if it will cause as much pain as before; sometimes on accident, because they’re actually running for the couch and somehow the wall got in the way.

As gradeschoolers, the brain damage occurs in too many ways to count, but here’s a short list:

  • bike crashes,
  • skateboard crashes,
  • walking crashes (they literally crash their foreheads into the driveway, and there was nothing around them to cause it, not even another brother),
  • tag-you’re-it crashes,
  • riding in a wheeled garbage can crashes (I refused to go help with that one, but got a hose instead),
  • let-me-hit-you-with-this-wheelbarrow crashes.

You get the idea.

When they’re high schoolers, brain damage occurs in more dramatic if not bizarre ways, such as falling out of 60 foot-high pine trees, or getting tossed out of a wheelchair a week after foot surgery when a friend (a teenage boy, of course) decides to entertain his temporarily invalid friend by taking him “four-wheeling” through the fields behind the house. (Fortunately the wheelchair suffered more damage than my son did. He moved to crutches sooner than he had planned.)

Then there are the real dangers: cars, boats, four-wheelers, motorcycles, walking down the street (STILL they trip over themselves and get road-rash in the oddest of ways).

And now after teaching high school for two years, I believe this even more:

Walls meme brain damag boys

I love boys, little and big, my sons and others’ sons. Their daring makes them courageous, powerful, and hilarious. My three adult sons seem to be managing all right, despite their earlier mishaps. Or maybe, because of them.

They see that they recover from their exploits, learn something useful along the way, and now have an awesome story to share.

So I cringe every time a son or a student begins a sentence with a sheepish expression and the words, “You’re not going to believe what happened . . .”

Because actually, I will.

“Just tell them that underneath it all, despite what they may see, the sky really is blue and they can count upon that fact.”

There’s no creature quite so arrogant and simultaneously so insecure as an 11-year-old. I learned this many years ago when I was asked to drive a group of 11-year-olds for a church group because I owned a station wagon. (Yes, I owned a station wagon at age 25, and was proud of it! I also owned one at 16, but that’s another post.)

So, with a carload of boys I didn’t know, I set off to deliver the group. Soon one very loud, very authoritative kid with unruly hair and far too many freckles announced, “Hey—here’s a riddle. What color is the sky?”

001Obedient, and bored, the other boys looked outside—

“HA!” shouted Hairy Freckles, “Got ya! Everyone knows the sky is blue! Suckers . . .” He added that last part with the same disdain I’d heard from his 14-year-old brother, who likely pulled the same trick on Hairy Freckles.

The other boys embarrassedly looked down at their hands. But I glared in the rearview mirror.

029“That’s not true,” I said plainly. “That bit—right there? That’s white.”

Hairy Freckles scowled and looked out the window, which he hadn’t done since he’d entered the car. “That’s a cloud!”

“And it’s not blue,” I nodded.

A couple of the boys, previously shamed, now hesitantly smiled.

006“That doesn’t count!” Hairy Freckles declared and gave me a look that said, If you were my mother, I’d have you put into a home.

“And that, right there,” I pointed out the window, ignoring him, “that gray bit with some red? Also not blue.”

“That’s a plane!”

“And it’s in the sky, part of it, and it’s not blue,” I said.

005Now all of the boys were smirking at their friend. Nothing’s worse than being put into your place by a know-it-all 25-year-old college student. Who’s female.

“Now, when the sun sets, ooh—definitely not blue,” I continued.

019 (3)“And what about night?!” another boy finally felt brave enough to contribute. “There’s definitely no blue then!”

The rest of the boys howled as if that was the funniest joke in the world, while Hairy Freckles glared at me through the rearview mirror.

“And then there’s that big bright ball of white,” I went on.

002“That’s the sun!” Hairy Freckles pointed out. “And it’s yellow!”

“No, it’s not,” I said easily. “It’s white. They just make you use yellow crayons in school to color it because your paper is already white.”

None of the boys knew what to do with that, even though they peered at it to make sure, then blinked away the fact that they just scorched their retinas.

“Hey, I just got Donkey Kong—” and just like that, the conversation turned. Because hey, these were 11-year-olds.

I’ve always been obsessed with clouds and sunsets, and since then I’ve taken dozens of pictures as evidence that they sky is NOT only blue. Yet I never cease to be amazed at the amount of children’s books, TV shows, movies, and even textbooks that simplify the complexity of the sky to declare, “The sky is blue . . .” when anyone  can tell that it’s much, much more.

011 (2)We do this with so many things, just like the middle school textbook my oldest daughter had in science one year that said, “Ocean water is made up of two things—salt, and water.”

“Rubbish!” my 13-year-old had declared, and asked to be homeschooled.

And I wonder, why? Why do we oversimplify the world, even to the point of telling lies about it—if you want to get that direct—to our children and ourselves? Why do we ignore the multiple colors and shapes in the sky and insist that it’s one color, especially when that color is actually just an optical illusion, produced by the sun’s light rays bouncing back blue?

More importantly, what do we miss when we assume we already know the nature of something, and don’t even look out the window to see if our assumptions are correct?

I suspect we miss the true nature of the entire world.



“All our ideas were just as pitifully inaccurate as four year-olds arguing over what kind of baby snake a worm is. “

There are a few conversations you don’t want to hear your children having in your backyard.

“Ooh! Look at all the baby snakes!”

Yeah, that’s on top of the list.

I was in my kitchen when I heard my three-year-old son and his friend in the backyard squeal in fascination. Our house was new, the yard unfinished and bordered on a canal, which bordered on a field, which apparently bordered on the edges of Snake Heaven. And that Heaven was invading.

(It’s just a photo–calm down.)

“Those are pythons. I know. My grandpa showed me baby pythons last week,” the friend said with great authority.

I gulped and quickly made my way to the back porch to investigate the terror. Now, I’m fine with snakes—as long as they’re in a zoo, in the wild, and far, far away from my house and my children.

“I don’t know,” my son, who knows nothing of snakes, said. “I’m thinking boa ’stricker.”

Bravely I marched to where the two little boys were crouched and poking with a stick.

Please let there not be rattling! No rattling!

“Pythons. Definitely.”

I put on an overly happy face—more for my benefit than for theirs—and said with forced cheeriness, “What do we have here?”

The beamed up at me, stepped away, and—

It was NOT baby snakes.

It was FAR worse.


(I know, I know–you should have seen me convulsing as I sorted through the images looking for this . . .)

Yes, all right—worms terrify me far more than snakes. The massive earthworms they had uncovered were far more disgusting, slimy, and smelly—yes, they smell!—than snakes.

Oh, how I wished for a hole of rattlers right then.

I took a step backwards.

“Cool, right Mom?” my son said happily. “Strickers, right?”

“No,” I said, fighting back the urge to wretch. “Just worms, boys.”


The friend shook his head. “Nope. My grandpa showed me baby snakes just like these last week in his garden. Snakes,” he promised.

I knew grandfathers like that. They misrepresent the world to their grandchildren as a one-sided joke, then wonder why when their grandchildren are teenagers they never want to talk to them.

“No, those are worms. I know. I had to dissect those in 8th grade.” The most traumatic year of my life. Not as if junior high isn’t bad enough, but let’s throw in a handful of worms and make you cut them up!

And people wonder why teenage girls are so moody.


I backed away slowly, advising the little boys to leave the snake/worms alone and come in for a popsicle (popsicles are the end-all, be-all of distraction and reward).

Back in the kitchen I tried to fight down the urge to throw up and tried not to think about the many dried up worms that must have been on the driveway. It had rained that morning. That means all cement becomes a horror show, with dried up bits that aren’t Chinese noodles. (When I see bowlfuls of those on salad bars, I feel like screaming, “Dried up worms! Everyone, run away! Dried up worms!)


(Not a Chinese noodle, unfortunately.)

The odd thing is, I was more worried about worms—reportedly useful in gardens, but scientists lie all the time—than I was about the possibility of two little boys messing with a snake nursery. My own bias set me up to ignore a real danger. Snakes were seen in our backyard later in the season. Some may have even been dangerous. But I only recoiled when I saw the worms.

Now, sixteen years later, I encountered not-Chinese-noodles on the ground and again found myself doing the ooky tip-toe dance of “Don’t squish them!”

There are far greater hazards in the world, and I wonder, do I spend more time on things that don’t matter, that aren’t real threats, than I do on the things that are?