Yup, you know it: they develop a new passion for their more babyish toys.
We've had a pile of Cars (as in the movie The Cars from several years back in time and maturity) in Seth and Jesse's room for months while we ponder who to give them to or where to donate them. The boys haven't looked at this stuff, never mind played with it, in at least a year.
Star Wars is far more compelling.
So last night, as I'm in the midst of trying to get Kyle to finish his reading homework, pack lunch for the next day and find out who's getting the boot from American Idol (I mean, catch up on CNN), I hear strange noises from the little guys' room.
They're honking and beeping and chattering away in these oddly mechanical little voices. When I pop open their door, I am dismayed to see Cars toys and buildings strewn all over their briefly-not-a-complete-pigsty room. My annoyance with what looks like a miniature multi-car freeway pileup is all too clear to the pajama-clad munchkins. It's 9:30, on a school night for Pete's sake.
"But Mom, we made a whole town," Jesse tells me. "We had stores and everything."
"Yeah," Seth piped up. "And Juvie."
"You know, where the bad cars go," Jesse explains with exaggerated patience, as if the word "Juvie" was a regular part of our family vocabulary. "They have to stay there for as long as well tell them."
I have absolutely no idea how to respond to this one. I mean, where the heck did they even hear the term Juvie?
"Yeah, two of Jesse's cars are in Juvie," Seth adds.
"Teen Juvie," Jesse says.
"Mine are in Kid Juvie," Seth says. "That's the best Juvie of all. They get to go skiing."
It's almost 10 pm at this point, and I'm in no mood to discuss Juvie any further. So I force a lightning round of cleanup on the guys, then hustle them into bed and threaten dire consequences for any further noise.
We'll discuss this in the morning, I think, as I return to my next-day lunch prep work.
But I'm bothered. Seth and Jesse seem so matter-of-fact about the notion of imprisoning their wayward vehicles, ski trips notwithstanding. Do my seven-year-olds somehow think they'll be sent to elementary school Juvie for mistakes on math homework or Nerf gun battles? Is there some deep, dark twistiness around their interest in this thing called Juvie?
At 10, exhausted, I climb into bed. And start giggling as I think about my little guys and their strange game. After all, they built their little world together, in tandem, in harmony. Without adult intervention, supervision, or a tamping down on where their dreams and imaginations take them.
And that, I think, more than the content of their play, is the essence of what brotherhood at its best can be.
Plus, I can now threaten them with Juvie when they misbehave.
Score one for mom.