Monday, July 02, 2007

games and markers

Summer is now here. Except in the shady bits, and when the wind blows. Still, sunscreen is on the kids (most of the time), and we're off to the playground.

A notorious slacker as a playground parent, I found myself unexpectedly at loose ends one day, with the Toddles staring wistfully at a playground full of happy kids. I gave in, we went.

It was actually rather fun. The other kids were fascinated by the Toddles, some patting him gently and murmuring, 'baby, baby,' others hugging him, some completely ignoring him and shoving past on their way to exciting heights on the climbing structures. Watching the Toddles stagger back on a high platform, as a bigger kid whisked by, I muttered, 'I'm not cut out for this. I'm just not.' But the Toddles recovered his footing and failed wholly to fall to a terrible fate on the woodchips below. So maybe he's cut out for this, even if I'm not.

It seems that there's a happy ignorance in illiteracy. Though able to competently count to eleven (don't ask me how, I can barely do that myself), the Toddles breezed right past all the signs saying 'This structure is designed for children ages 5-9 years' and started climbing. Fearless, he attained great heights, and calmly surveyed his options. He chose one slightly less nerve rattling (my nerves, not his) than the rest, and whoosh! down he went.

A small boy came up to me, and asked for help with his wristwatch. I spotted the Toddles on the ground nearby, then turned to help. Moments later, I looked up and saw empty air where the Toddles had been. Well, okay, no problem. I scanned the rest of the playground area below my knees: no kid. I walked around, refusing to be the sissy mom who panics, and eventually found the Toddles, staggering slightly at the base of a slide. I looked up: it was the biggest, twistiest of the slides, from tippity top of the school-aged children structure.

Hi, I said, determined to be calm.
He looked up at me, wavering slightly. Side! he informed me.
Slide? I asked, really? Slide?
The Toddles, drunkenly righted himself and pointed. Slide. Big. He explained.
I looked up. Oh, my. Yes, it *is* big. Time for mommy to go get that valium, I told him. Nearby, another mom heard me and laughed, as the Toddles managed to fall over his own feet.

As the Toddles blooms and becomes daily more delicious, the Eldest is passing an emotional milestone - the prickly kind. I'm spending a lot of time throwing my hands in the air, and saying to him, I just don't know what to do here. I don't know how to explain this to you as he stares at me blankly, stubbornly.

Right now, my sweet boy is primarily interested in the question of power. He'll play with his brother, but mostly just by having the Toddles sit and watch him. He'll do things to help around the house, and enjoy it, but at the first sign of parental insistence, will balk. A reminder of looming consequences only makes things worse, as parental threat breeds youthful threat, and tempers flare. If we provide consequences (that being the currently in-vogue term for 'punishments), we only prove our power over him, and demonstrate that the strong exercise power over the weak. He then turns around and tests this theory on his sibling...snatching toys, and occasionally casually clouting the Toddles. He doesn't behave this way at school, he doesn't treat his friends so, it's a glory and wonder saved for we at home. Joy be ours.

Power breeds power? Power breeds envy? All I know is that, right now, the exercise of power breeds the exercise of power, and it's making everybody miserable. I'm reading books, looking for ideas, looking for wonderworkers and magic wands, while secretly hoping that time will do the trick, and that haplessly we will watch the Eldest complete this particular transformation into whatever comes next.

And that whatever it is, doesn't go around roaring and whacking his brother.
Today, the Man and I have been married for eleven years. We got married young, so young I'm faintly astonished that our families didn't flatly forbid it (not that they could have), so young that I'm persuaded that we just got lucky that we grew up into the kind of people who still love and cherish each other. Eleven years. It's hard to explain what that means - it's a combination of love and the ordinariness of that love, of taking each other for granted and appreciating each other, of trust and small irritations and did I mention love? Oh yes, and a lot of work.

Thanks to a heroic effort by Mary Jr, we spent a good part of the day at Marblehead , a little New England town that I happen to adore, complete with phenomenal toy shops (because what adults-only outing is complete without the guilt toy?), some cute and inventive craft/oddment shops, and a lovely park bench, placed solely for the purpose of eating takeout and having the Man explain 'pull hitting' to me. Apparently, Big Papi is a pull hitter, and how could I live in the Red Sox Nation and not know this?

Mysteries abound.

We returned to collect our children, cook dinner and lavish them (briefly) with affection before Mary Jr returned and we disappeared again for dinner and a movie. Oh, the luxury. Eleven years apparently comes with some perks, hmn?

Smug, that's me. And I suppose that I get to be a bit self-satisfied - if you'd asked me four years ago, if we'd have made it this far, I'm afraid I would have laughed at you. Bitterly. We've worked for our eleven years, and I'm glad to be here.

Oh yes, and the movie? Our first in many, many moons. Knocked Up was fun, I laughed a lot, and the Man didn't think it was that funny. But then again, he didn't read the baby books, either...

Meanwhile, a dear friend was being told that her partner wants out. I'm appalled, and I want to be furious for her, but am badly hampered by actually liking and (less now than before) respecting her erstwhile partner. I keep talking, trying to find the words that help me to understand what's happening, to believe it, to say something that will help her. Really, I should just shut up and listen. Really, I should stop trying to fix this. But mostly I just want things back the way they were, and I truly, ruly (as the Eldest says) ought to know better.

Next post: rewriting Candy Land


dykewife said...

bon anniversaire!! i hope you and hubs have many more years of love and growth to come.

long ago, we explained to boy that there will always be someone who has more power than he does. there will be teachers, bosses, supervisors, police, judges, etc (ad nauseum) and that our power over him was temporary and, as best we can, a way to help him learn to make choices that will help him in life. we also made sure he knew that it wasn't just him, it was everyone in the world, even his parents.

he still doesn't like the control we have, but he also sees how powerless we are in situations like the one with our landlord.

*sigh* good luck wiht your balancing act.

magid said...

Happy anniversary! Glad it was a lovely day to celebrate the milestone.

(Sorry for the belated wishes; there's barely been time online at all this week on the wrong coast.)

Go, Toddles! (Hope you have your Valium supply at the ready ;-)

And I wish I had any suggestions for the Eldest prickles. Just a lot of virtual hugs all around...

Auntie A said...

Happy belated anniversary! Was your wedding really 11 years ago?? Geez...
I'm glad you got a chance to do fun stuff.

As for living in the Red Sox nation, when I told eldest nephew (age almost-7) that my friend from Boston was coming to visit (yay!), I was treated to a 5-minute monologue on the virtues of the Red Sox. So there's no escaping it.

Hugs to all,

mama o' the matrices said...

Merci buttercups to you all!

Dw, I like your explanation of the structures of power a *lot*. I may need to borrow it.

and Auntie A, I do hope your eldest nephew isn't too disappointed in me - I don't know one Sox from another. I was shocked to learn that the Derek Jeter glove the Eldest uses is now item non grata - apparently the ungrateful wretch has fled to another team. Phooey.

magid, as always, good to have you back!