August 18, 2009
The little neighbor kids, Ponytail and Biker Boy, have spent many mornings this summer playing on my front step. I leave bins of toys on the porch for them, and we’ve got a big lawn that is mostly shaded. We’re on a quiet, deadend street so my front yard is a safe place.
Some days, they’re good about playing quietly while I’m working in my home office, just a few feet away. When I want to take a break, I come out and sit with them for a while. We talk and eat snacks -- or put the garden hose in the tree so that they can run in the spray. Sometimes Shaggy Hair Boy will play with them or take them on walks. He’s good with kids.
Four of us in the household work at home sometimes, and that’s hard for these little kids to understand. Boy in Black’s summer job has been doing research; that is, he’s getting paid to sit on the couch in our living room writing computer programs and running simulations on his laptop. One of my daughter’s jobs has been freelancing for a magazine: editing articles on her computer. I’ve been writing, of course, and putting together syllabi. My husband checks the stock market on his computer and answers emails when he’s working at home.
The kids don’t get how doing stuff on a computer can be “work” or why we might need the household to be quiet during the day. They’re needy kids, with a difficult home life, and sometimes they drive the household crazy, always banging on the door to ask for another drink or snack or “Can’t I play the drums now?” Teaching them boundaries has been difficult work. One day when I left early to go run some errands and forgot to lock the front door, Boy in Black was awakened by the two kids jumping up and down on top of him.
Little Biker Boy is a child with a whole lot of anger inside him. At eight, he’s already got a host of childhood demons to deal with – and not the resources to do so. I’ve explained to him many times that the “no hitting” rule at my house works in his favor – since he is considerably smaller than the gang of young men who live with me. But it’s taken him a long time to curb his tendency to react violently when he doesn’t get his way.
But he can be sweet and charming, too. He’ll bring in the trashcans after the garbage truck comes through, and he’ll be so proud of himself for doing us a favor. “Look! I brought your trashcans up the driveway!” Some days, I ask him to wash my car with the hose – just to keep him and his sister busy and cool – and he’ll brag for the rest of the day about how clean the car looks.
On a ridiculously hot day this week, I came outside with juice so that we could have a snack in the shade of the river birches. I was wearing an old shirt that was covered with stains, and shorts leftover from the 70s. I’d yanked my sweaty hair up off my neck with an old scrunchie – not a flattering look -- and because my contact lenses had been bothering me, I was wearing a pair of glasses that my daughter has called ridiculous.
Little Biker Boy gave me the kind of sweet look only an eight-year-old boy can give. “Jo(e),” he said with complete sincerity, “you look beautiful today!”
Posted by jo(e)