If there’s been one surprise in having my eldest away from home it’s how much I enjoy the days alone with The Boy. This morning he’d printed out a list of new instruments to make – a washtub bass, a trumpet, and a tom tom drum. He got busy on this, collecting clothespins and sawing plastic jugs in half – the kitchen floor was littered with lethal-looking knives. He cut himself, just once. He spent a good few hours on these employments – well, and eating. I was busy finishing a grueling (no, truly) sewing experiment come Hell or highwater. You know those kind of ambitious goals you set for yourself, and you work so hard to accomplish them – blood, sweat, and tears – and you do finish them, but instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment, you just feel tired out and maybe underneath it all a dull throb of hate? Well, that was me. You’re welcome, resentful-sewing-project-of-the-month.
At 1:30, dazed from being indoors in the poorly lit monstrous Victorian house that is our current domain, Nels and I drove to Honey Teriyaki for lunch. My children like to order bento there, an epicurean monstrosity that comes in a two foot square lacquered box and contains about six different entrees. I’ve learned to not order for myself since there is enough food involved to feed three or four people. Today Nels demonstrated the utmost in dining-out sophistication, paying for his orange juice by himself (an afterthought when our food was delivered) then electing to use chopsticks for the meal – relatively well, in fact. “I love you I love you I love you” he smiled at me, after rolling his eyes in pleasure from a bite of chicken teriyaki. Looking into his brown eyes I knew what he meant.
After our meal we visited the drugstore for fabric dye, a prescription, and to look for yet more accoutrement for Nels’ projects: some “metal stuff” for his would-be chimes (he ended up purchasing a cheap paint can opener, two different sized plumbing nipples, and three copper fittings which he then attached to a coat hanger by fishing line). While at Rite-Aid in line for the prescription we were cornered by an older woman with red-rimmed eyes who talked to him quite a bit about his instruments; in a low, gravelly voice she gushed to me how handsome and gifted and precocious and intelligent he was. I laughed and agreed with her, but, I admitted, “I’m biased”. The thing is, strangers should notice other people’s children all the time; perhaps they need not praise them with abandonment, but to treat them as people in their own right would be a step in the right direction.
Hanging out with Nels, just the two of us, is a lot easier on me than my typical routine – and, I’m sad to say, illustrates to me how severely I’ve lacked in giving him one-on-one attention. I love and miss my daughter, and I’m so pleased my children enjoy one another as much as they do. But when they are together they are often about a thousand percent more energy than I can relax with. A lunch date is turned into an undignified race where I bolt food down and try not to be irritated with their rambunctiousness, switching seats a handful of times, sliding underneath the table to go to the restroom, and of course the requisite fart jokes the two seem to never tire of after at least a solid year of such fare. Honestly, at least with the fighting I can yell at them from the front seat of the car and they might actually stop – not so with the crazy giggle fest that is their typical bread and butter.
A golden few days with my son aside, it turns out that being away from my seven year old daughter is Kind Of A Big Deal for me. It’s not something I think about all day, but then suddenly I’ll think of something she’d like to read, or it will be on the tip of my tongue to offer her something to eat – and she’s not here. She’s not here and she’s not even going to call. I feel a pang deep in my gut, and my eyes sting. I am enjoying an easier day as a parent to One, but I will be so glad to see her again.