A Bear in the Woods

    Or maybe not. Apparently the bears are moving out of the woods.

    It seems that every week there’s another sighting. Another roving bandit making his not-so-stealthily way through city and suburban neighborhoods across the country. They’re pulling at birdfeeders, scurrying through yards, perching themselves up in backyard trees.
According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, this is the time of year when the mama bear kicks the kids out and sends them into the world. Those baby bears are supposed to find their own territory, start their adult lives.

    At the risk of being redundant (https://kidssuck.net/2010/09/01/deer-in-the-headlights.aspx)

and way-sexist, I posit that the sow bears are doing exactly that. Heading out of the family dens and building some of their own, on track and on target.

    But that not-so-little guy with the dumb-eyed look hanging in an Attleboro tree last week, I’ll guess he’s a boy. A teenager, for sure. And the thought bubble above his head in less-than-articulate fashion probably reads: What? Where? Vinnie Babarino in a bear’s cloak.

That’s not to say I don’t think the boys are smart. On the contrary, they are. That’s what makes their life delays so damn frustrating. I think Michael has actually devised a mathematical algorithm to compute the absolute minimum effort required to get by in certain areas of his life. And he’s not alone. I’ve had some pretty in-depth conversations with a few of his friends. In a foggy, fast-forward scenario, I can even picture them as adults. Responsible, good men.
But now, they’re just baby bears, a bit wild, somewhat misguided, and roving.

    And like the bears popping up in places they’re not supposed to be, many of the boys I know are taking the most circuitous routes possible to get to god-only-knows where they’re going. I don’t. And I don’t think they do, either.

    But back to the bears.

    All those mama bears in the woods are pushing their kids out into the world. Our world. They’ve taught them well, I’m sure. And they probably know that the girls have paid heed, will likely do just fine. But I bet mama bear also knows full-well that her baby boy isn’t quite ready for the world. Judging from the overblown reaction he gets every time he makes a backyard forage, the world isn’t ready for him either.

Mama doesn’t seem to care. Ready-or-not, she pushed him out anyway.

    Too bad we humans don’t do likewise.

Instead of following the rules of nature, we’re bucking the intended order of things. It seems that all those helicopter parents created a rash of boomerang babies. The kids often go off and out. But then they come back.

    And in true 21st century fashion, rather than remedy our missteps with action, we’re reacting with talk. There are websites, blogs, discussion forums, all themed around adult-children-living-with-parents.

    All to tell us, we’re not alone.

hat’s part of the problem. Because when we’re assured that we’re not the only ones, it lends normalcy to the trend. 

I know of so many really good parents who’ve gotten themselves in this too-many-adults-under-one-roof predicament.

    Reminds me of the guy interviewed on television after something horrible happens in his neighborhood, saying if it can happen here.

    It can happen anywhere.

    Unless maybe we follow the bears. And the birds, for that matter. The nest above our back porch light is a-chatter with chaotic chirping in the spring. Long before summer ends, though, it’s pleasantly silent.

    Michael’s only 17. But on days when he’s performing solo drum concerts for hours-on-end, I sometimes wonder what silence emanating from his playroom nest might sound like. And if I’ll ever hear it.

Still Waters Run Rough


    My son wants to borrow the canoe.                    

    I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal. Not really.

    He’s almost 17, knows how to swim, would actually don the lifejacket at the first sign of turbulent water in the passive Ipswich River. And, even though he might disagree, he’s not that much of a risk taker.

    All good.


    A few buts, actually. Big buts.

    First of all, the canoe caretaker is daddy. And it’s pretty unlikely that dad is going to willingly hand over the oars anytime soon.

    See, Michael’s track record with daddy and canoes –Not so good.

    Two episodes stand out, neither of which involved our canoe, but in both cases daddy swears Michael shaved a decade off dad’s life span. 

    In Michael’s first canoe adventure, I was away for a girls’ weekend. Dad was in charge.

    For most of you, this sounds like a benign lead-in. For those of you who know the dad-in-question, there’s likely an “uh-oh,” sputtering through your brain.

    As it turns out, “uh-oh” is the accurate response.

    In my defense, though, my weekend escape was neither. It was less than 48 hours, did not occur over a weekend and I was only 120 miles away from home. This was not me selfishly jetting away from it all. And Michael was supposed to be in school for most of the daylight hours. Dad’s on-call duty should have been minimal.


    New England’s weather is fickle. Okay, that’s an understatement -particularly with regard to this specific March Monday/Tuesday weather event .

    I really don’t understand why the kids got out early on the Monday, but clearly with the school underwater, classes were canceled on Tuesday.

    Underwater, no school, canoe. You get where this might be going?

    In dad’s defense, I may have made onnnnnne tiny error before I went AWOL.

    I turned off Michael’s phone. Don’t ask why. That’s a whole other story.

    But , and I don’t want to make myself sound ancient with this statement: people actually did manage to communicate with one another before cell phones. Honest. Children would leave their homes, go out for the day, and –believe it or not- return. It happened all the time when I was a kid hanging around with the dinosaurs. And we didn’t use smoke signals or flares. We just went out and came back. Okay, in the case of my brothers and me, we often returned at the piercing call of my father’s whistle echoing through the neighborhood. Or we simply adhered to the streetlight dictate –they came on, we went in. By the time I was 17, though, I was on my own.

    And on this particular day, so was Michael.

    Well, not entirely on his own. It was Michael, Sunshine (a boy, not the star)a canoe and a town flooded with water. Lots of water. 

    They literally did laps around the high school track –in the canoe.

    How cool.   

    And maybe that should have been the parental reaction. One hundred year history was being made and Michael was able to grab himself a front row perch, albeit from the seat of a canoe. He spent the day communing with nature and creating memories that will no doubt last his lifetime and beyond.

    Harmless fun.

    Save for one little issue.

    Dad didn’t know where he was.  

    This is where their version of events differs. Michael swears he informed dad when he was leaving; dad says no such communication occurred.

    And oh yeah, did I mention Michael had no phone?

    Or that his dad invariably jets to worst-case-scenario where his kids are concerned?

    On the ride home from New Hampshire I noticed that my own cell phone was on vibrate. I hadn’t heard it for awhile. And by awhile, I mean to the tune of 26 missed calls. Seriously.

    Dad was freaking out and apparently didn’t appreciate doing it alone. When I got on scene, I was able to talk him out of calling the police and summoning the scuba teams.

    Long story short: Michael survived.

    So did dad -barely.

    In the second episode, I have to admit that even I was edging around the panic position. To the extent that  I said yes when the parents of the other boy asked if it might be time to call the authorities. But by that hour, Michael had been gone for nearly twelve, had been radio silent for six and was almost three hours overdue on his dock time.

    We were burning daylight, as his dad kept reminding me. And we knew Michael was in the water –somewhere. We just didn’t know where. The last news update was that he had successfully canoed to the ocean. Hardly info that would quell rising nerves.

    Again, he survived. In fact, his next morning Facebook post referred to the best day ever, and boasted of his river run to Crane Beach.


    And my friends wonder why I often say my son is trying to kill me? Actually, my friends don’t ask any more –most of them have teenagers of their own. They merely agree: they’re all trying to kill us.

    So while I fully support Michael’s notion of a leisurely run on our local river, I can’t really blame dad’s reluctance at bringing the canoe home from the office. With the 20 years Michael’s already trimmed off dad’s life clock, time is ticking pretty furiously. And while Michael may have some motivation to get dad further out of his life, dad has no real desire to hasten his own demise. Because even dad agrees now, Michael is trying to kill us.