Becoming a manly man (5/27/2015)

In this family, anytime I am asked to smell something, I proceed with caution.

Usually, it’s Lamar asking me if his cycling jersey is too funky to wear. His queries of Cole have been met in the past with outbursts of tears whilst fleeing.

But the other day, Cole came up to me and said: “Smell me,” as he stuck his tiny little underarm in my face.

My nose immediately recoiled in horror.

“Sweet baby Jesus,” I cried. “What did you roll in?”

“Nothin’,” he declared. “That’s all me, Mama!”

“Eww,” I said. “Then you need to get a shower. Did you not shower yesterday?”

“I did. But I have been playing and worked up a nice funk.”

My child had a funk and he was proud of it.

When did this happen?

Just the other day he was still smelling all cuddly fresh like Downy and Dove soap.

And now, he had that little boy smell that could turn into a bigger boy aroma of stink.

“That’s nothing,” he said, proudly. “Look!”

He leaned closer to me so I could see above his upper lip a light dusting of blonde hair coming in at the corners of his mouth.

“I’m getting a moustache,” he announced. “I had to go trim it back a little while ago.”

“When did this happen?” I asked.

“I am a manly man!” he exclaimed, striking the pose of an Olympian.

A manly man? He was 10!

How could this be?

I still saw my precious baby every time I saw him. But noticed the roundness of his face had been replaced by soft angles. His frame had filled out and grown lanky. And now, he was getting the pre-pubescent hint of peach fuzz and B.O.

“A manly man?” I asked.

“A manly man!” he repeated, throwing his arms into another pose, laughing at his own humor.

“Well, Mr. Manly Man, it may be time you start wearing some deodorant.”

“I don’t have any!” he said, running off to find his father. “Hey, Poppa, smell this!”

He was delighted in his new found odor, continuing to cry “manly man!” at every opportunity.

When night came, that manly man looked at his mama and said, “You still gonna come talk to me until I fall asleep, right?”

I smiled. Of course I would. I wasn’t sure how much longer he would let me do that.

“Mama, do I need to use Poppa’s deodorant?” he asked as he was falling asleep.

“No, you need your own deodorant. That’s personal hygiene stuff and shouldn’t be shared.”

He nodded, his eyes heavy. “Will you take me tomorrow to get some?”

I told him I would. He nodded again.

“Mama,” he began.


“Your baby is growing up…” and he fell asleep.

The next morning, he emerged from his room, and greeted me with a hug. I held him a little bit tighter and longer than normal.

Midway through the hug, I felt his arms give me an extra tight squeeze.

“Can’t you stay my baby just a little bit longer?” I whispered.

He glanced up at me in earnest. “I want to, I really, really do.”

Later that afternoon we went to the store. Lamar had wandered off to aisles unknown so led Cole to the toiletries.

“Let’s get you some deodorant,” I told him.

“You remembered!” he exclaimed.

Of course I remembered.

I also remember how when I was just a little bit older than him, I had wished boys had known about deodorant. So I wanted him to be diligent in his personal care.

I saw his eyes glance at the men’s soaps and body washes. I had just bought him some children’s body wash a few days earlier. Apparently bubble gum scented stuff didn’t cover manly man smells.

“Do you want some new body wash, too?”

He nodded.

“I want some Old Spice body wash,” he said. “It’s manly.”

At least it wasn’t anything made by Axe. I was praying I could steer him away from those noxious products. His manly man funk smelled better than they did.

I put the bottle in the buggy and we turned down the next aisle, which happened to have baby products.

“I used to get your stuff here,” I said more to myself than Cole.

He eyed the body wash with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it. He had outgrown “Cars” but I don’t think anyone outgrows the Turtles. I still like the Turtles.

“Look!” he exclaimed, picking up a bottle shaped like a minion from Despicable Me. “It’s minion body wash!”

“How cute!” I said. And it was banana scented – a welcome change from the bubble gum and nauseating berry-scents.

His eyes glanced to the left, then to the right, before he reached into the buggy and removed the Old Spice bottle. I gave him a quizzical look.

He smiled, replacing it with the bright yellow minion with its’ holographic eye. “Maybe I don’t need to go all manly man all at once,” he said.

The full manly man evolution will happen eventually. But I’m glad he decided to stay a little boy just a little bit longer-for both of us.

Girlfriends for every stage of life (5/20/2015)

When I had a disagreement with a friend during my teen years, Mama tried comforting my hurt feelings the best she could. “Don’t worry about this little squabble. Your friendship with this child won’t last.”

I asked how she knew that.

She replied that lifelong friendships aren’t formed until you go to college.

Her way of telling me to not worry about the argument made me feel like she was dismissing my friendships. And when you are a tween-age girl, your world revolves around your friendships.

The disagreement eventually was resolved and the friend and I did eventually part ways, sitting at opposite ends of the table in the cafeteria, and just passing each other in the hall.

Mama told me in her own little way, that she was right.

But that didn’t mean that whole theory was.

Evidently, whoever told Mama this lie thought that children outgrew their friendships as they did shoes.

Why she believed it, I am not sure.

Her closest friends were the ones she grew up with – my Aunt Cherry and Aunt Connie being her childhood best friends – and her friends from work.

Whoever told Mama this erroneous theory believed children couldn’t form solid friendships until they were more mentally and emotionally mature. And quit fighting over boys.

I did make some great friends during college.

I didn’t have the normal college experience that most folks do, as I commuted the whole time.

There was no living in the dorms, no pledging sororities, or any of the other fun stuff that forged lifetime allegiances. I made some good friends just the same.

Our friendships have been more solidified now that we are grown than when we were complaining about how our Criminal Law professor liked to sit on his desk while he lectured.

I tend to believe we have girlfriends for every stage of our life.

Like that proverbial saying: “Some friends come for a season, a reason, or life.”

I have had many friends who came for a brief period of time and then we went our separate ways.

There’s nothing wrong with that either.

Some people think if we don’t nurture these lengthy, emotional bonds, it signals there is something wrong with us. Or the other person.

But that is simply not the case.

Some friends come in and out of our lives, with no bitter ending just a simple moving on.

A few friends have come into my life to teach me lessons-either by mirroring my own flaws, highlighting my strengths, or just teaching me how to be a better friend, mother and wife.

Sometimes, I was the teacher.

Once the lesson was learned, we just seemed to ease out of each other’s lives.

Unlike Mama’s earlier notion, I have a few friends that I have known since I was four.

It’s not a question of if we are still friends, it is a knowing we always will be.

My soul-sister and partner in crime came into my life several years ago when we worked together.

“It’s nice getting some girl time in,” Sara Jean said over salads during one of our first lunches.

“I agree,” I answered. “I never do a Girl’s Night Out; I’d rather be home with my boys.”

Even though there’s times I have told Lamar how I could kill him in ways that are empirically undetectable, I still would rather be home with him, Cole and the pups.

“I’d rather be with my family, too,” she said and that’s how it all began. Having such a strong value in common forged our friendship early on.

When I had a teeny tiny fit a few years later and quit another job, I felt like a lot of people were disappointed in my decision.

Instead, Sara Jean showed up the next day with a trunk full of groceries and necessities -the girl brought me toilet paper (“It’s a daily necessity,” was her statement when I pulled it out of the bag) – and a homemade peanut butter pie. And helped me get Plan B formed in my head.

I am glad Mama’s theory didn’t hold water, and not just because it’s always good to tell her when she is wrong.

Sometimes, the friends made at four are friends for the long haul.

They knew us when we were gawky, geeky, awkward, chubby and pimply -and still stayed friends with us.

And sometimes, if we’re really, really lucky, we make new ones that see our new awkward moments, our fits, and moments of utter insecurity and instead of running, they sit down and settle in for the rest of the ride as well.

No matter when they are made, they all are – and should be – cherished.

The Grey’s Anatomy Effect (5/13/2015)

Let me start by warning you, there are a few spoilers in here in case you DVR’d “Grey’s Anatomy” this season and haven’t watched the episode from a few weeks ago yet.

Now that you’ve had a spoiler alert, let me tell you: McDreamy has been killed off.

I know. I am heartbroken, angry at Shonda Rimes, and wondering how Meredith will go on, too.

I am also wondering if they are going to pay Patrick Dempsey for the remainder of his contract-I think he had two years left.

I just started watching it on Netflix a few weeks ago, thinking it would be good background noise in the evening.

Normally, I don’t like hospital shows. But, my Netflix flavor profile is not exactly one of discerning tastes.

If anything, I am sure Netflix thinks I am a 14-year-old girl with my list ranging from anything with Sandra Bullock to the original “Star Trek.”

So there I was, thinking I wouldn’t get sucked in to “Grey’s.”

Boy, was I wrong.

I was all in and sitting in my chair, sobbing.

And McDreamy was still alive and adorable in these episodes.

“Why do you watch something you know is gonna make you do that?” Lamar asked, watching me as I wiped my nose on my sleeve.

A guy friend posed a similar question to me recently on Facebook.

Why do women bring that drama in their lives each week with a T.V. show?

We say we don’t want drama, then we grab a glass or two of wine and watch a show that delivers a solid hour of it.

And it’s usually something husbands have zero interest in watching because of the drama.

“It’s the Grey’s Anatomy effect,” my friend called it.

It’s completely unrealistic.

I mean, come on – even I admit that some things are a tad bit unrealistic.

The plane crash, for one. If that much stuff happened to the same staff after a while, I think people would go work at another hospital and someone would condemn the hospital for bad juju.

We see doctors marrying, divorcing, having affairs, having babies, being in car wrecks, and, then, when you think the season is safe- someone dies.

A character we love and think the show can’t go on without dies in a big blaze of dramatic glory.

“This is too sad,” Lamar commented after two minutes.

I sniffled and shushed him.

“Why do you watch this?”


Maybe there is something about seeing situations being resolved in a 60 minute program, where everything works out OK in the end.

Perhaps we like to see someone do something terrible to their arch nemesis and get away with it (I can think of a few I would like revenge on, but am scared it would backfire on me in real life).

Or maybe it is seeing people look pretty, even after they cried off their makeup; they still have on lipstick and look cute.

It’s neat, and nice and wrapped up around commercial breaks. And our own lives are not so neat and pretty sometimes.

Life is messy.

Real life drama can drag on for what feels like an eternity, and usually doesn’t have the happy outcomes television can offer. We know no matter how bleak it may look during May sweeps, something better will happen.

T.V. is scripted, so everyone says the right thing, to the right person, at the right time. There’s no fumbling for an appropriate comeback that displays the magnitude of your anger; it’s perfectly delivered, with no stuttering or spitting.

In real life, we are sitting there coming up with the wittiest reply only after a few days have passed.

In T.V. they may deal with crazy stuff, but you never see them waiting for someone to come fix the satellite; romance just happens and is spontaneous and well, romantic.

In real life, we don’t want the personal drama because who has time for it?

We have families, jobs, housework, pets that are more demanding than toddlers – who has time to deal with such silly stuff?

We tell folks we really don’t want to hear any gossip because we have too many of our own problems to deal with.

It does show us that everyone has problems – they may be different than our own, but they have them.

How they deal with them depends on the character; how it’s written, and how it’s played.

That part is a lot like real life. How we deal with our problems all boils down to our character and how we play our roles.

We really don’t want drama in our lives. It’s just nice to have a little escapism every now and then.

And looking at McDreamy didn’t hurt, either.

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the e-published novel, “The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery.”

In defense of not having a free range child (5/6/2015)

Parenting is hard work. You always feel like you are messing up and someone – usually a person who doesn’t know the difference between a zygote and a pygmy goat – is always full of advice and criticism as to the quality of job you are doing.

Even other parents are critical, starting with whether or not you breastfed, what kind of diaper you used, and God forbid you let your child use a binkie. You were setting them up for a lifetime of dependency.

My tendency was to not listen so much to the noise and let it go around me, filtering what was useful and discarding what wasn’t.

Criticisms, depending on who they come from, were filed away appropriately.

Probably the biggest criticism I receive, and probably always will, is that I tend to be overprotective.

I have been told I need to loosen up, cut the umbilical cord and let my child experience childhood.

I can shrug it off because I know I am doing my main job-and that’s keeping my child safe.

So hearing about the new ‘free range child’ movement makes me, well, nervous.

There’s all kinds of stories about how children are walking home by themselves, being allowed to ride public transit unaccompanied – things that would probably make my anxiety level increase and I’m an adult.

“They call them free range kids,” Lamar said. “I was probably a free range kid. I would wait for the sun to come up, get on my bike and be gone all day. My Mama probably didn’t know where I was.”

But the ‘60s were different than today, or at least that’s how it seems.

You didn’t turn on the news or pull up Facebook to find your feed full of missing children – or worse.

Just as my husband was running wild and free, I was fairly sheltered, and didn’t spend the night away from home until I was 11.

Even then, it was a church group at a lady’s house my mama grew up with, and I am pretty sure she slept in her car in the driveway.

Mama knew even then, there were scary things out there and her job was to keep me safe because I was a child.

Sure, she let me do some things – she dropped me off at the Athens Skate Inn when I was 13, she let me go to other overnight events, she let me cruise the Piggly Wiggly and Rec parking lot on just about every Friday and Saturday night, even though she questioned my direction in life for finding it to be entertaining.

But again, things were different then.

I couldn’t imagine dropping my child off at a skating rink by himself. It wouldn’t happen.

I can’t understand how some parents can take their parental responsibility so lightly and act like children – children, mind you, as in 12 and younger -are supposed to be able to take care of themselves.

“I would never dream of letting Cole do some of the things I did,” Lamar said.

I shudder at some of the tales he has told me, like a bus ride by himself to see his father when he was five.

They say the free range movement is supposed to help these children become more independent and teach them coping skills, so they can become more self-sustaining adults.

Remember how I said everyone’s got their own opinion about parenting? Well, here’s mine.

That’s a crock of something.

It’s the parents’ job to give our children tools to learn how to cope, help them make good choices and equip them to be independent.

When they are children, they are scared and not able to make certain decisions – it’s our job to help guide them. And while guiding them, we are supposed to keep them safe.

Not throw them to the wolves, almost literally, and say: “Hey, you are a free range child and I don’t want to be perceived as a helicopter mom, so good luck to you!”

They are children; not chickens.

They are children; not a marketing label to tell people why your chicken is better and justify the higher price.

Proponents of the free range children movement claim other parents are preventing children from growing up.

I disagree.

I think we are doing our job and making sure they do just that. But apparently, trying to protect your child makes you crazy nowadays.

“You’ve got to let your child experience childhood and be a little boy,” someone told me one day.

I’m not saying for every little bump or bruise he gets I freak out and whisk him to the emergency room.

I am cautious, but not fanatical.

He gets dirty.

He runs and falls down.

He plays on things at the playground that make my head spin.

But my child has very, very firm boundaries and limitations. And I think like most children, he likes knowing those boundaries are there, because within that enclosed range, he knows he is safe, secure, protected and loved.

And that is really the best way to make sure children will become self-sufficient adults.