When With-a-Why told me last week that he had decided to work with his friend UrbanKid for the science fair, I was happy at his choice to work collaboratively instead of on his own. With-a-Why is shy, and even though he lives in a house that is crammed full of people, he doesn't often spend time with kids his own age. He's been hanging out with teenagers since kindergarten. The fate of the youngest child in a family. Even his best friend, Philosophical Boy, is two years older than he is.
So UrbanKid came over last night, and I helped the two boys build a windmill. We used popsicle sticks, tacks, a cut-up manila folder, spools that we took the thread off, yarn, the green stuff that came on the bottom of a floral arrangement, and a variety of other household items. It did occur to me later that we could probably have looked up plans on the internet instead of re-inventing the windmill, but I didn't think of that until later. Helping them with the project was fun, but the boys did not seem all that interested in the windmill or each other, and I was kind of questioning why they wanted to work together.
Once the project was done, however, the boys took off on what seemed to be a tour of the house. I could hear UrbanKid upstairs questioning Boy in Black, asking him all about some kind of video game. I could hear Shaggy Hair talking to UrbanKid, teasing him about something in school. Down in the living room, With-a-Why went to the piano and started playing a jazz arrangement. UrbanKid grabbed a pair of drumsticks from the windowsill, sat down at the drum set with great confidence, and began laying down a beat. That's when it occurred to me. With-a-Why wasn't looking for someone to work on the science project with; he was adding an Extra to the household.
By the time I drove him home, UrbanKid was quite chatty, telling me all about his life. He lives with his great aunt and great uncle. More recently, his great grandmother moved into the household. I asked him how the household was adjusting to the addition of another person. "Well," he said, "I had to give up my room."
"That sucks," I said, "But I am sure there are some advantages to having her there."
"Yes," he said, in the completely unself-conscious manner of a fourth grader, "It's always nice to have one more person who loves you in the house."