My Friend, Anna

I have a friend named Anna. OK, she’s not a close friend. Just someone I like a lot. I don’t know her all that well. She’s 11.

Recently, I picked her up from a middle school dance. Because her mom asked me to. And because she’s a third child, and I have one of those, so I understand. And, also, because, well, she’s Anna.

Anna came out of the dance with my son. They are not friends, but I do believe there is a third child bond. They are both used to getting rides from people who can give them. And offering rides to people who need them. Because third children, well, there are only two parents. Third children get that. They go along.

Anna came out of the dance flipping her hair. She was kind of skipping. Also smiling. My son was smiling, too. But he was not flipping his hair. His hair doesn’t flip. He also wasn’t skipping. He was sweating. Big swaths of smelly sweat. And his shoes were untied. His shoes are always untied.

It was a good dance. At least that is what Anna said. And it was nice to hear.

Sometimes things kind of fall apart at our otherwise idyllic home. That idyllic home where my three perfect sons board, rent-free. There are big screaming matches. There is disrespect. There is obstinance. There is unacceptable behavior. It is not pleasant. It is not usually me. But sometimes, of course. When this happens, this out-of-control household happens, I like to think of Anna. And how it would be if we were together all of the time.

Anna and I would drink juice out of champagne glasses. By the pool. Wearing big movie star glasses. We would never, ever, ever watch football. Even the big games. Instead, we would shop. For me. Anna wouldn’t mind. She’d say, “oh, think of yourself for a change!”

We would compliment each other’s nail polish and clothing and, well, everything. Compliments would be big between the two of us. When I got a new hair cut, Anna would say it looks marvelous. She wouldn’t say, “huh.”

Anna would not burp at the dinner table. Or lean her chair way back until she almost falls over. She would not look at her phone while eating. Even secretly. Anna and I would have absolutely no discussions about poop. Zero. She would eat with her mouth closed. Completely closed. Anna would wait her turn to talk. And she wouldn’t even think about interrupting.

Anna would not challenge me to arm wrestling matches or pull-ups or push-ups. But if she did, and I could only do one, Anna would not laugh. She would not say, “mom, you gotta step it up.” Never. She would tell me I made a good effort. And she would say it without a snicker.

When it is time for Anna to do homework, she would shriek, “hurray!” and she would run to get her backpack. She would say, “organization is the key and the only way to be,” and we would both smile and look at her perfectly organized binders. And smile again. There would be lots of smiling. Anna would review her agenda book, where she has written every assignment in a different color. As she merrily finishes her subjects, she would check them off. “Complete. Complete. Complete!,” she would say.

Then she would tell me all about her day. And ask about mine. “Tell me more!,” she would say. “This is so interesting!”

After homework, Anna would not play video games. Or computer games. She would say, “I abhor electronics!” And again, smiles.

Then Anna would say, “time to get ready for bed!,” and she would get ready for bed. And brush her teeth. There would be no reminders. And it would be eight o’clock. Because Anna knows the value of a good night’s sleep. And she would sleep long and hard and wake up in the morning without an alarm clock. But with a smile.

That would be my life with Anna. And it would be perfect.

Boys will be boys is a myth. It is. Yes, my boys can be annoying and irritating and I occasionally want to kill them. Not because they are boys. Because they are mine. Each individual one of them. And that is why I love them, too.

But, come on. Can you put the toilet paper on the holder? Ever?

Never mind.

Thank you, Anna.

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