So God Made a Teacher Collection (Sale!) ➔

December 20th was the third night in a row with all five of us living under one roof since our three boys left for college this fall. We’d all been looking so forward to Christmas break! My husband and I had the Christmas tree up and the whole house decorated. I had cookies made and the fridge stocked with all their favorites; my husband kept trying to sneak the special cheeses and dips and out-of-season fruit,  because for the first time since September we had actual food in there. We had eaten dinner together! Yes, all together! And then we played cribbage while Christmas carols played softly in the background. If there ever was a night to take a Christmas card picture, this was it. This is the image I had in my head as I drifted off to sleep.

Two hours later I awoke abruptly, startled by a distant noise. At first I thought I just wasn’t used to having the boys back in the house, but then I noticed the other side of the bed was empty. I sat up and strained to listen. I heard voices. Before long, the voices got louder. I was a little irritated that my husband and the three boys were obviously living it up, while I was trying to get some sleep for work the next day. Then I realized the voices I heard were not happy. I also realized I was going to have to get up and investigate. Sometimes the momma is the only voice of reason in a house with that much testosterone. Three boys and a husband AND one male cat. That’s why I’ve always insisted on a girl dog, but I digress.

Let me paint the scene I found when I got downstairs. All four of them (yep, my husband too, 52-years-old he is), were pushing and shoving and throwing their egos around the basement. I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on and nobody would answer me. It looked to me like the 18 and 20-year-old had ganged up on the 22-year-old (which NEVER happens) and my husband was right in the mix – having no idea what was going on, but puffing up his chest as his face turned beet red (like it always does – in fact, when the boys were little and dad got upset, they used to compare him to Clifford the Big Red Dog –  the resemblance is remarkable). I admit that after repeatedly asking in a calm voice, I finally resorted to full-on mom scream. That temporarily disabled them, but seriously, this is all I could make out, “There were no pillows on my bed and Chris had two! He wouldn’t give me one. He’s being a jerk!” (except he didn’t say jerk, exactly). And they promptly went back to pushing and shoving. I’m not even kidding. Just as I decided I was going to have to go get a bucket of cold water to throw on them, my oldest son exploded and yelled “THIS IS RIDICULOUS! I’M OUTTA HERE!!!”  He put on his jacket and stomped out of the house.

Now the other three went into panic mode. It was after midnight. Where was he going? He didn’t take a car, which meant he was on foot, after midnight, a few nights before the winter solstice in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan brand of cold and darkness, and who knows what, lurking. Now that he was gone, the remaining dimwits didn’t know what to do! Suddenly, I, the only one uninvolved in the aforementioned melee, was voted off the island and into said cold, dark night in search of the 22-year-old. Remember, I was sleeping, so it only stands to reason that I was in my pjs. My faux-fur, angel soft, meant-for-sleeping, comfy Christmas-season pajamas. Resignedly, I donned my boots over my fuzzy bunny slippers and my parka and went in search of him. I figured he was in the garage because “baby, it was cold outside.” After trekking across the driveway in the fresh snow, with boots and fuzzy bunny slippers now full of snow, I found him, head in his hands, sitting in a rejected-from-the-main-house glider. The same glider I used to rock him to sleep in. I’m not even sure why it’s in the garage, other than it no longer matches our grown-up décor. On this night, it seemed to offer my eldest the only comfort he could find.

“Okay, tell me what happened,” I said quietly.

“You’re not going to believe it,” he said. And the story poured forth.

He had gone to bed and left his younger brothers gaming in the rec room. He promptly fell asleep until he was rudely awakened by his overhead light snapping on. He felt a push on his shoulder and opened one eye. “What in tarnation? (I’m censoring the real words again…)

The 20-year-old was standing over his bed. “Do you have my pillow???” he demanded.

“What? Your pillow? I don’t know. Do I?”

“You know you do. Give me my pillow.”

“Okay – but seriously? You woke me up for that? Thanks a lot.”

“Well you have my pillow! Poop-head!” (again, I’m censoring).

The light snapped off, the 22-year-old burrowed under his covers and just as he was settling back in, the light snapped back on. This time it was the 18-year-old.

“Now what?” my oldest son asked.

“Why are you being such a meanie? Why did you take Conor’s pillow? You’ve been a snaggle-toothed dragon since you got home. You aren’t being very nice”  (seriously, the censoring is so time-consuming).

Right around this point in the story, the story got a little fuzzy. Somehow they all ended up out of their beds, hurling insults and slow punches. I just want to clarify that when they were little, if they woke up scared or not feeling well or had to go potty, I was up like a shot, while my husband snored on. In fact, this past September, when they all finally left, was really the first time I had a full night’s sleep since 1993. For real. So pardon me. This ONE time my husband got there before me. Believe me, it will NOT happen again.

I was able to coax my oldest son back into the house with my soft, soothing words and the fact that we were both shaking so badly from the midnight air. He slept upstairs on the couch that night, afraid of another pillow raid. I sat up with him for another hour and we talked about the ridiculousness of the night. My husband tried to join us, but because he had jumped into the fray so enthusiastically, we chastised him and sent him to bed, alone.

The next morning both younger brothers apologized for their attacks. In the daylight they could not believe how childish they had been. By early afternoon, they were all at the gym together, playing basketball. (Not the husband; he was not allowed to play in any reindeer games after his previous night’s antics). On my way home from work, I stopped and bought an arsenal of pillows – firm, soft, synthetic, down, body, contoured – you get the picture. After that, we lived in relative harmony for the next three weeks of winter break.

I feel for my boys. Coming home is both easy and difficult. They are adults in so many ways, but they look forward to coming home and having someone else cook for them and do their laundry and most of all, love them everyday they are home. The difficult part is that they are not the same people they were when they left. They’ve matured and become more independent.

And yet, when they walk back into their childhood homes, they revert right back to the little boys they used to be. They know they have grown past this ridiculous childhood rivalry and yet they can’t help themselves. They still have to mix it up and assert their dominance. I’m just glad no one felt the need to mark his territory by peeing on the floor. Including my husband.

Pillowgate, as we’re calling it in hindsight, reminded me of the millions of times the boys wrestled in the living room, grinding each other’s faces into the carpet, asking “Whose carpet is it?” Barbaric and funny, their giggles turned into growls, as playing around turned to serious competition. I miss those days. Not the fights, but the daily presence. I could count on seeing them at least in the morning and in the evening. I could hug them and take care of them and love them everyday. I’m so proud of the men they are becoming (except during holidays), but life has changed so much since September and my husband and I are still trying to figure out what to do with each other. But that story is for another time.

Erin Berndt

Erin Berndt and her husband moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for just a few years, 25 years ago, and have raised their three sons and various cats and dogs there. Erin has been teaching high school English for 26 years. Although most of her writing has been done in red ink over the years, she likes nothing better than to write about her family’s escapades.

Every Time the Doctor Says, “It’s a Girl!” My Heart Grows a Little More

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sisters sitting on park bench

When I’m in the grocery store with my girls, I always get comments. My oldest girls are walking near the cart with my two-year-old running up and down the aisles. “Three little girls! Wow! God bless you, Momma!” Then they look in my cart and see the car seat holding my nine-month-old. “Is that a baby boy in there?” “No, another girl!” I reply. I get a variety of responses when people realize I have four girls under the age of seven. “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!” “Going to try for a boy?” “You are truly blessed—your girls are...

Keep Reading

Raising a Child with a Severe Food Allergy Affects the Whole Family

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy looking at ice cream cone

I saw something recently that said, “It’s National Ice Cream Day today!” and I cannot stop thinking about it. Now I know that sounds silly, but as a mom of a child with a severe dairy (and egg) allergy, I must admit at times it makes me sad (and more often jealous if I’m being completely honest) when I know my son is going to miss out on another fun or “normal” thing that other kids his age are experiencing, like actual ice cream and ice cream parties. If I continue to be honest, I get jealous when I see...

Keep Reading

So You’re Not the Fun Parent…So What?

In: Kids, Marriage, Motherhood
Woman reading book while two play in background

I’m not the fun parent in our household. Of course, this comes as no surprise to me but it still stung when my 8-year-old said to me rather bluntly the other night, “Daddy’s way more fun than you.” And while the rational part of my brain knows better than to take this kind of comment to heart, my super-sensitive, highly emotional primitive brain did the exact opposite and ran with it.  Daddy is the more fun parent. I’m the stricter, more rigid, and more uptight parent. I’m not the type of parent who, in the spur of the moment, will...

Keep Reading

Mine Is the Shy Kid

In: Kids
Girl sitting on side of playground

I’m the mom of one really shy child. But not your quintessential shy kid. I don’t mean she is “slow to warm up,” because my daughter might not warm up at all. And I don’t mean that she’s only shy until she gets to know you. There are friends and family members she still hides from or won’t talk to. What I mean is my almost-4-year-old struggles so much with her shyness that it’s hard for her to interact with most people. Especially her peers. I’ve Googled more than you could ever imagine about this topic: How shy is too...

Keep Reading

In This Magical Place Called Kindergarten

In: Kids
Kids at elementary school circle time

It’s hard to put into words what happens in a classroom in the course of a year. Especially a kindergarten classroom. For many children, this is their first experience away from home, from their place of comfort and security—the place where they can always be themselves. But teachers are a special breed—especially teachers of littles. And they step into this substitute role with the biggest hearts and the most love to give. They take this unknown, intimidating place and then transform it into a magical, wondrous adventure. A classroom, a community, a family. A place where these little people can...

Keep Reading

Summer Goes by Too Fast

In: Kids
Boy lying on bench at park, color photo

To my oldest, As our summer vacation nears an end and we begin school supply shopping, I think about all the things we didn’t get to do together this summer. I instantly feel mom guilt. All the plans I had made? Only half of them done—if that. RELATED: Remember When Summer Lasted Forever? All the books I was going to read to you at bedtime? Only a couple short ones. All the creative art we would do? Maybe just one time. The fact is, I let time slip away from me. I was too focused and anxiety-ridden about work, my...

Keep Reading

Going on Family Vacation with Young Kids is Work That’s Worth It

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom with two young kids on airplane

Our routine will be a mess. Our toddler won’t sleep in a new environment. Our baby needs all of the gear. The flight could be a disaster. I went through a mental checklist of reasons why this kind of family vacation would be hard. It was a pretty convincing list if I’m being honest. I considered throwing a pity party dedicated to the concerns I shoulder as a mother. A few days later I felt a wave of conviction wash over me. I was dreading a trip that was meant to be a blessing to our family. Any kind of...

Keep Reading

I Want To Raise Good Sisters

In: Kids, Motherhood
Four girls sitting on a rock in the forest, color photo

My current dilemma: how to teach four little girls how to be good sisters when I have no idea what I’m doing? I was an only child growing up, and a tomboy at that. It was a lonely, quiet childhood. I remember wishing for a sister, but knowing that with my single mom, it wasn’t going to happen. So, the sister thing is a big mystery to me. I’ve noticed (admittedly with some envy) adult sisters together and their inside jokes, shared history, and language known only to each other. I’ve read about sisters in books. The relationships between the four...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Just Love You, I Like You

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boy standing at bridge, color photo

My growing child, my heart often aches when I look at how big you have gotten. You aren’t a baby anymore, you’re a whole kid. You are your own person, with your own thoughts and feelings. You have your own friendships, and interests.  Parts of me realize you don’t need me the same, but deep down I know you need me all the same. And I’m realizing, that in all of these changes, my love for you is also a like.  RELATED: Being Your Mom is the Greatest Honor of My Life Because now we can connect in a whole...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergartner, I’ll Always Remember You This Way

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and child touch foreheads

The first magical flickers of your strong heartbeat on a black and white screen— the reassuring evidence I needed to know you were gaining strength for this world. My belly grew, and I proudly went shopping for maternity clothes to cover it. I felt the first dances of your little feet, and it reminded me of butterflies taking flight— the movement of a true miracle. I’ll always remember you this way. The sounds of your first cries—music ringing in my ears. You were real, Earth-side, and wanting only to be loved. The softness of your skin, the way you smelled,...

Keep Reading

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.