When I checked to make sure my second son was awake and moving, he greeted me with a complaint. "I don't think I should go to school today."
My standard answer came fast: "Get the thermometer. You have to have a fever."
He argued rather convincingly. "But you know my friends are sick, mom. I think I'm getting the same thing."
I looked at his face, and had to grudgingly agree: he was pretty pale. Still, I didn't give in so easily. "Maybe you should have slept more normal hours during vacation week, not so much of this go-to-bed-at-midnight-get-up-at-noon thing. Keep your schedule more normal."
"I still slept 10 to 12 hours, Mom," he said. "So it was not lack of sleep." I sighed; I can't win this argument.
"Your choice," I stated. "But know this. There will be no cell phone. No X-Box. It will be books, or sleep. Period. And nothing at night, either. Sick kids go to bed early."
He protested mightily, but I didn't budge from what he claims qualifies as child abuse. "It's not about staying home with electronics. Go to school. Or, stay home and sleep all day. Sick kids don't need cell phones." I left.
He was downstairs and off to school a few minutes later. A miraculous recovery had apparently suddenly occurred.
The next day, he woke up sneezing. His eyes looked dull. I braced myself for a repeat conversation. Instead, he appeared in the kitchen, fully dressed, hacking away. "Let's go, Mom," he said, filling water for the rabbit chores the two of us do together.
"You're going to school today?" I dared to ask.
"Weight room, Mom, weight room. Can't miss that. It's a weight-room day," he stated matter-of-factly.
I have only walked into this infamous weight room one time, while just a few guys were preparing to start. I've not seen them all in action.
But the allure of this (rather smelly) place is undeniable. Other mom friends tell me that their sons have similar reactions to it. It's not just my household where the weight room reigns king, they assure me.
Here, the weight room makes "the two good things of the day"--typically for both of the boys, three times a week. Vacation sleep-ins were thrown aside to go to the weight room. Sleepovers, late night X-Box fests, all their holiday scheduling ... planned around the weight room.
It is the location of most of the stories they share during supper ("... and then my friend dropped the weights, just dropped them, right onto the floor ...")
It is the source of many a social media posting and commentary. ("This one was taken in the weight room.")
It is the be-all-know-all for nutrition. ("Coach says that chocolate milk is good for building bone strength, Mom, and we need it after we work out in the weight room. Can't you just buy like three gallons of it at a time?")
They have even shared stories of "dance-offs" that apparently are led by our superintendent of schools on some Fridays when he joins them. ("He's really a pretty good dancer, Mom," they said, laughing at my surprise.)
Very often, I have asked my sons to tell me "something academical" for their two good things of the day. "The weight room is fine," I say, "but what about classes? What are you learning?" They groan a bit, but they come up with something they have learned in chemistry, or architecture–or gym. Still, it's the weight room they would rather focus on.
"Honestly, guys," I said in exasperation one night. "Isn't school about what you are LEARNING? It seems you two go to school for football in the fall, lacrosse in the season, and the weight room in between," I said one night.
"Yes, Mom," they chorused together. "School's all right. But the weight room ..."