We have a very clear division in the Ditto family: the big kids and the little kids. The big kids consist of Lucy, George and Jane, who are all teenagers. The little kids are Henry, Emmett and Hyrum, who rule our household with a sticky fist and range in age from 5 to 10 – until last week, that is, when Henry celebrated his 11th birthday.
Over the past year or so, Henry has been vying for more “big kid” privileges, doing his best to show us that he is worthy of such a distinction. Some nights, he’ll offer to read to his little brothers before bed, or do the dishes without complaining, or be extra responsible by turning off his reading light and going to bed on time without us having to remind him.
He’s been pretty impressive, actually, and his efforts have been rewarded with a slightly later bedtime and extra privileges here and there that are usually not afforded to “little kids.” He wants nothing more than to be among the ranks of the big kids.
So on his birthday, he was thrilled when he saw an envelope sitting with his wrapped presents, given to him by none other than his idols: Lucy, George and Jane. He ripped it open to find a simple card with large words printed in glitter pen:
So you want to be a big kid
Do you have what it takes?
Big Kid Initiation
Tomorrow, after school (or sometime)
Henry was beside himself with excitement. The next morning, I asked the big kids what their plans were for this initiation.
“So, first we’re going to put a pillowcase over his head,” George began gleefully.
“Let me stop you right there,” I replied. “This isn’t an armed robbery. You’re trying to make him feel loved and welcome, not like he’s being taken hostage.”
“Of course,” Lucy said. “Don’t worry; he’s going to love it.”
“Seriously, Mom,” Jane piped in. “We know what we’re doing.”
I inhaled deeply, said a silent prayer for Henry and decided to let nature run its course.
Later that day, Henry was reading a book to Emmett on the living room couch when the big kids crept up behind him.
“Shhhh!” they motioned to Emmett when he glanced up and looked rightfully alarmed. He kept watching, wide-eyed, as they advanced toward their target. And then the initiation began. Lucy placed headphones over Henry’s ears, through which was blasting a continuous loop of the song, “You’re Playing With the Big Boys Now.”
George slipped the pillowcase over his head, and then Jane handed him a length of rope so he could tie up Henry’s hands, and as I’m typing this, I realize that I’m probably going to get a call from Child Protective Services sometime later today.
But anyway, Henry was loving it. As soon as the pillowcase went over his head, he yelled, “What the???” followed by, “Ohhhhh yeahhhhhh, big kid initiation!!!” You’ve never seen anyone so excited to be assaulted. I stood there filming everything and laughing, like any mom who’s been quarantined with her children since March would do.
I watched as the big kids led him out to the waiting car and buckled his seatbelt before driving him up and down our long driveway a few times to discombobulate him. From there, they took a roundabout route to Dairy Queen, where they finally pulled off his pillowcase and headphones and treated him to a Blizzard.
As they ate, they talked about who knows what; I’m a staunch member of the Often-Tired Middle-Aged Mom Group and have no idea what kind of topics are of interest to those in the Big Kids Club.
An hour later, they all came home laughing and talking – and Henry was absolutely beaming.
“How was it, buddy?” I asked him as the now four big kids splintered off to different parts of the house.
“It was awesome,” he replied, a huge smile lighting up his face. “Where are Emmett and Hyrum? I want to tell them all about it.”
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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