After YD and her significant other SOAS moved into a new condo in Chicago and realized the scope of work required, YD discreetly suggested that her dad come out to tackle some much-needed renovations. Looking forward to a change and being the dad that he is, Mike loaded the car with tools to drive the 1800 miles, with Blue Boy gathering experience under his driver’s permit. Unhappy with the extreme heat, contained by physical distancing, and frustrated by politics on all levels, I opted to fly out to join everyone. Thus, for the past two weeks, while Mike tears down walls, AS goes to work, and YD works online and unpacks, I retreat to my she-shed in the basement or to the back deck.
Without the sway of parent or sibling, Blue Boy’s behavior provided an image of the adult developing in this pleasant, accommodating, intelligent albeit somewhat lazy teen. He assisted in tasks when requested and participated in meals and games, showing us humor and lightness that is often restrained in the mundanity of family life. He even allowed me a full hug!
It is enlightening to experience the changes in dynamics when the family mix changes. Take one child away, the others behave quite differently. The child who expresses dissatisfaction at home becomes the perfect companion for another family on a road trip. One parent goes out of town and the roles amend.
When the boys were younger, I took them individually, occasionally, for an hour or two, to spend time together in the library or at the park. Interacting with them without their parent or sibling, even without their grandfather, just one on one away from home, exposes personality characteristics that remain otherwise submerged. Now that the boys are teens, those opportunities are fewer, but no less revealing and treasured. Allowed to share the front seat of the car, Mowgli wiggles with the anticipation of adventure, untamed creativity, and deep thought that is truly him, releasing an imaginative vocabulary of which is he is unaware. Share a hiking path or summer ski lift with Blue Boy gets me a lesson in mathematics or the comparison of various elevations. As we return to the fold, the conversation reverts to ordinary family banter.
Living with the boys daily can be a threat to the observation of development. Sharing memories and reviewing photos with ED and Mike adds perspective. A break away, time alone together in a new environment, is informative and uplifting.