Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday before Vacation Ends

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

Yesterday I picked the boys up from Erick's. This vacation was organized with me having the boys at the beginning, and the end of the two weeks, and their being with Erick in between. As mom, I do my best to get them back onto a school schedule, and process them through a home-based television/computer de-tox program. As we drove from Arles to Avignon, Leo regaled me with the story lines of umpteen different TV shows. Jonas was in a bit of a daze. We stopped by the farm to pick up some fresh milk, and happily, Jonas showed his true colors and climbed out of the car to play with the farm dogs and investigate the barn where the new calves mulled around their mothers.

The evening was remarkably free of wigginess. Amazingly so. Normally the boys are flying off the wall when I get them back. But, for some strange reason (and for this I was grateful) they were calm. I put on the heat, started the fire in the stove and began cooking. We had a simple dinner of spare ribs and cauliflower, and watched the movie Billy Elliot together. Leo, who loves to dance to tectonic music, was inspired, and tried out a few double pirouettes just to see. And, in keeping with our tradition of having a good chat about life before he goes to sleep, we used the film as a starting point for talking about the gay friend Michael and what a great friendship the boys have, that no doubt a few of Leo's friends will some day come out as being gay, and that that's completely ok.

Teeth brushed and little boys cuddled and into bed, I curled up with M.F.K. Fisher's Alphabet for the Gourmet. But what's this? A little seven year old being is coming into my room to join me (and Filou, who, now that I'm back from Jean Paul's, has taken up his rightful spot at the foot of my bed). "I can't sleep because I keep seeing the images of the pubs from TV," he says. "I can't make them go away."

Ah, the invasion of televised images. As bad as an invasion of aliens in their souls. No child has a filtering mechanism built in to differentiate between real life and TV. Only time and richer, more nourishing fare can help purge these disorienting and conflicting visuals. Come on in and cuddle my dear. And he does so. Soon curled up by me, he's out like a light, while I read away. I look at that gentle little face that truly prefers playing with dogs and legos, running outdoors, cuddling with a parent and a book and climbing trees to being in front of a TV non-stop. But, that's what being at Daddy's is about, the stolen pleasures that Mommy limits. So, he overdoses intensely on the televised world, and comes back to me sick with these persistent images and ideas. A time of purging and processing is necessary, and then... he'll go back again next week.

The wind is whistling ferociously outdoors, through my little bedroom window I can see the branches swaying back and forth. Sleep comes easily for me as well. I'm calm in my own home, whole, pleased to be surrounded by my choices and my children.

Erick loves his boys intensely, but, to put it simply we've not the same ideas about raising and educating them. How to sort all that out and do the best for the boys? A father's love is precious, his approval and pleasure in having them with him sincere. But, never a book, rarely an outing, no limits, no chores. It's a balancing act for us all. For the moment, we're all working with the basic structure of our life, and the boys are doing pretty well. I often dread their Sunday night return -- the wigginess, their hyped out but weary selves. It takes the full week to bring them down to Earth, get them back to a normal existence, with daily rhythms, meals, books, playing outdoors, quiet time. And then I send them off again. And the pattern repeats week after week.

But, let me not be hypocritical or from outer space here. I used to watch way too much TV. The last of three kids, I was the least supervised of us all, and who might I have become if my brain hadn't been so filled with Charlie's Angels, The Brady Bunch, The Loveboat and other rich fare? How did I survive? Long TV-free summers, limits, books... Did I come out ok? The debate still rages. Silly TV shows of the 70s evolve into random generational connections and reference points. So, trashy though all that is, I'm fully aware of a (minimal) need for my boys to be of their generation, to be exposed to Pokemon, Dofus, Warcraft, The Simpsons, etc., But, it is painful listening to this spew from their lips, to the exclusion of anything else.

Parenting, divorce, choices, judgement. I'm not the first to contemplate, struggle, fight, accept, compromise. I hear advice from many corners. For the moment, the status quo is manageable, and my boys are good, getting better, learning and absorbing what I'm trying to teach them (though The Black Stallion in book form doesn't replace Dofus in cartoon form in Leo's hands). I do hope they are learning for themselves to weigh the two worlds they're living in. Easier for Leo at 11 than for Jonas at seven, just as Tuesday night is far calmer than Sunday.

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