"I am too old for this! Too old! This whole thing? Embarrassing!" Tommy grumbled as we walked into the Youth Center.
"It's fine," I insisted. I gave our names to the uniformed soldier sitting behind a table.
"I'm too old!" Tommy repeated for like the twentieth time. He repeats himself a lot. I didn't realize it was an autism thing. Sometimes he'll ask a question and I'll answer him and then an hour later he'll ask me the SAME question.
"You deserve a medal too," I explained.
We were at the Home Front Hero dinner that the Airman and Family Readiness Center on the military base put together for deployed families. The kids were all getting a certificate and medal for being brave while their parents were away. I found this to be an awesome thing--and even better, they were feeding us so it meant I didn't have to cook.
There were some booths set up that we checked out. Some had free books. Candy. Pens. I could always use pens. Mine always disappear. At one booth a woman handed over some bags and said, "Here's something for your children." To which Tommy immediately said, "I'm not a child! I'm 11! I'm too old for this!"
I made him apologize. He said, "I'm sorry. But I'm not a child. I'm growing up."
He made my head hurt.
He seems to think that because he's in middle school that he's no longer a kid. He explains that his voice is getting lower and that he's going through puberty. He doesn't like toys anymore--except for Legos. He's turning into a man. He tells me this multiple times a day. I inform him that he's still technically a kid until he's 18. He disagrees.
This is basically how Tommy looked during the first hour:
"Tommy!" I hissed. "You're scaring people. Stop it."
"I am too old for this!" Tommy whispered back.
He wasn't the oldest one there. An eighth grader showed up.
"Maybe Tommy needs a time out," Natalie said primly. "I'm happy." She twirled and went, "Ta-da!"
"You are the worst sister," Tommy grumbled. "I'm too OLD for this."
I looked around hoping to find some alcohol. There wasn't any. So I reached for the package of M&Ms that were passed out. I ripped it open and poured a huge amount into my mouth.
"Hey!" Natalie shouted indignantly. "That was MINE!"
I chewed. I probably had a chocolate bubble at the corner of my mouth. A Colonel walked past at that moment and did a double take. There were a lot of commanders at the dinner. I was not making the best impression. I quickly swallowed and wiped my lips.
Some important people talked. Thanked the families. Then announced that it was time to eat.
There was music playing--Disney music--so Natalie started to dance:
Her outfit looked like this by the way:
Her shirt says, "Daddy is my hero and I am his princess." I did not make this. I cannot sew. I buy my products from Etsy. You can purchase the set here.
As we were eating, a different Colonel sat down at the table. That's what the higher ups were there to do: converse with the families, make sure we haven't lost our minds, stuff like that. I had just taken a gigantic bite of roll when he sat down and introduced himself so I sat there chewing like an idiot. Then I reached out to shake his hand and I totally jabbed him with my jagged nail. He was polite about it as I apologized profusely.
And then I got a case of verbal diarrhea. When I'm nervous I start talking and then I can't stop. It's why I worry about going to a blogger convention. I'll make a fool of myself and be known as The Girl Who Won't Shut Up. I told the Colonel about missing Tom. About eating tons of chocolate. ("I've probably gained like 10 pounds, ha! Most wives are out losing weight when their husbands go and I'm stuffing my face!") About how my kids can drive me insane. ("My daughter doesn't like to listen to me but she listens at school.") The guy sat there nodding kindly. After talking his ear off I thought, "It's okay though, I'll probably never see him again. He's a COLONEL." But then he was like, "Oh, I sometimes sit in during dog certifications."
My husband works in K9 and will most likely be getting a dog when he comes back. And will need to get certified. So he will meet the Colonel who will remember his last name and say something like, "That wife of yours is a chatterbox and she clawed up my hand!"
The only reason I stopped talking was because the ceremony began. I'm sure the guy was relieved. The kids were all called up to get their certificate and medal:
Tommy seemed much happier after getting his medal.
I thought it was a fabulous thing for the base to do. I only frightened one person, so that's a plus.
"That was okay," Tommy said as we walked to our car. "But I'm not a kid anymore. Just so you know."
I sighed. "Yes. I know."