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In training as a damsel in distress

Oct 10, 2013 - By Clair McFarland

Last weekend, for the second time, autumn lost the game against our aggressive and early winter.

This holds certain adventures for the optimist -- the event of our most colossal branch landing on a vacant spot just between our neighbor's car and house, our completion of a snowman that looked like Igor (not Frosty), and our growing love of a mere recording of a roaring fireplace, found on YouTube.

The early cold caused us to spend more time indoors than out. As a family lives its rambunctious day within close quarters, the members therein grown reacquainted with the precise workings of the minds of the others.

For instance, instead of ferreting over my boys as they walked on the sidewalk, I spent the stormy afternoons studying the curvature of their eyebrows while they made war strategies under my kitchen table. The change in focus brought to light an alarming reality: my boys are in some sort of self-imposed (Dad-assisted) training program for men-to-be.

My older son, age 3, has an aptitude for (Nerf) sharp-shooting, and for police procedures. While his official job title is "dentist-farmer-cop," he spends most of his workday trying to collar suspects.

He charges through the living room, leaps over real and unreal obstacles, levels his cap-gun at a stuffed lemur, and shouts "come out with your hands in the air!"

Still as unaware of the seriousness of the situation as I am of the fact that "COPS" is not a TV comedy, I say something like "baby, you're so cute."

This is not the appropriate response to such theatrics. I may as well have told Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson he looks pretty in pink.

My younger son, age 19 months, is into baseball. His mission in life is to find every spherical object in existence and fling each one across the room.

He also likes to swing a bat around. This he does wearing fleece pajamas, Elmo house slippers (the kind with the big bobbling Elmo heads sticking up from the toes), and a terrific, baby-fat smile. He is pretty good at connecting with a ball on a tee, and even better at swinging the bat so hard that he and his Elmos do an involuntary spin.

This is precious, and I tried to tell him as much, but he shot me a look like an indignant David Ortiz. Big Papi is not precious.

Thus, I have had a new dilemma placed upon my shoulders: I will have to find a way to accommodate this man camp that is taking place in my home, without assimilating into it myself. Better put, I've got to raise little men but not get mannish.

I thought about this while playing catch with Big Papi, and again while watching the cop drag the stuffed lemur to jail, and I've come to just one conclusion: What I need to be -- when the role of ferreting mother is waylaid by a man-child's fantasy play -- is a damsel in distress.

The title sounds daunting, especially when my car is working just fine and my roof is not leaking, but bear with me. If these boys are going to experience the pride known to hard-working men upon whom others depend, they will have to first get a sense of dependency from someone close to them, even as early as their nursery days. They will have to see awe and gratitude in my eyes when they save me from the bad guys and pull through for the Red Sox.

Furthermore, let the reader note that one cannot be a sheltering mother and a damsel in distress at the same time. It isn't done. My skills for fulfilling the latter role are rusty, so I may have to get some visual pointers from profession DIDs like Marilyn Monroe, Lois Lane, and Bugs Bunny.

But I'll rekindle my skills, and when the colder weather finds the children and me taking shelter in our imaginations, I will be calling out for a rescuer and clapping for home runs.

Who knows? I may enjoy the vacation from motherhood, and in so doing, raise boys who will fix a broken car or mend a leaky roof.

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