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Peg Cushman: Never a dull moment when bringing up boys

One warm, sunny afternoon while walking near Niagara Falls many years ago, I snapped a picture that I wanted to preserve forever, to capture the love and spirit of that moment. It was of my two young sons walking ahead of me, hand in hand. It was a calm, almost angelic, image. But in reality, not all our days were this peaceful.

My oldest son, Robert, didn’t like to take naps. Daily after putting him in his crib, he would hop up and down before eventually falling asleep. Once when I peeked in, he was standing in his crib with a huge smile. I immediately noticed a distinct smell. He had removed his diaper and created some very artistic shapes on the wall. We referred to it as “poop art.” Moving his crib to the center of the room fixed that issue.

When he was in preschool, I used to say novenas before picking him up because he spent quite a bit of time in the “penalty box” for saying funny things. When asked his name, he would say, “I’m Robert Cushman from the Rhoney Funeral Home. Could you please put me on page.” He was destined to become a funeral director just like his dad.

Robert has a deep love for animals, so we adopted many over the years. As he grew, I was determined that he would be responsible for the entire care of one addition, Newton, the newt.

While reading to my younger son, I heard Robert washing out Newton’s bowl. He carefully replaced the rocks and gravel, filled the bowl with fresh clean water and returned Newton. Soon after, I heard Robert crying because Newton wasn’t moving. Robert had replaced the water with hot water so that Newton could have a hot tub. I had always prided myself on being a calm mother, but failed miserably when I screeched: “You cooked him!”

My husband and I nicknamed our younger son, Wills, “nature boy” for good reason – he hated wearing clothes. He constantly shed them. He once stood naked in a hotel window and even baked Christmas cookies in his birthday suit.

I took Wills to confession in preparation for his First Communion and while sitting there, he excused himself to use the bathroom. After several minutes, I realized he had duped me and sneaked away to a friend’s house to play.

When Wills started college, he called me to check on his lock combination because it wouldn’t open. I confirmed the numbers. He still couldn’t get into his locker. I suggested that he find a maintenance man to cut the lock off, which he did. After thanking the man, Wills finally opened his locker to find out it wasn’t his.

Probably the most awkward moment was when my boys and five friends were in the kitchen mixing chocolate milk and red food dye. I didn’t think much of it until I saw them lying across my bed looking out the window and laughing like hyenas.

One friend was lying near the road covered in “blood.” A man stopped and insisted the boy lie still because he was probably in shock. Five minutes later, two fire trucks and an ambulance transported him to the hospital.

Oh, the joy of boys. My days continue to be enlightening and endearing as they brighten my life and make me realize how fortunate I am.

American journalist and author Hodding Carter said, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other, wings.”