I've got my boys back. At last. They're with me and we're all three in Avignon.
I've missed them terribly these past couple weeks. They've been with their father. It was his turn to have them during vacation. I gave them up to him upon our return from the States on the 11th, and have felt not a little bereft ever since. I missed their curiosity. I missed the structure they give me. I missed their easy presence and acceptance of me and our lives. I didn't miss their terrible bickering, jealousies and constant struggles for dominance one over the other (even with four and a half years' separating them!). As that story from the Magical Tree House series so beautifully described using a tiger and a lotus blossom for symbolism, you have to accept the ugly with the beautiful. They come as a pair.
I know, and cringe at, the quantity of TV and computer time they've had these past weeks. I know nothing has been expected of them, the meals have been haphazard at best, and between the heat and the running of the b&b, outings have been ever too few. Erick just couldn't manage more, not for not wanting to, but, it just wasn't possible.
So, I got them back wired and wiggy, ready to clobber each other, tired and out of sorts, hyper-excited and under-exercised. Such is life. We piled into the car with all their things, crates of toys we'd brought to Arles back in June, Filou, roller blades, etc., and headed up to our house in Avignon. On the way we stopped by the organic dairy in Tarascon to purchase our fresh, raw milk.
It is Ramadan, a time when the local Muslim population makes their own variant of fermented milk. I arrived just before a few van loads of Moroccan men come to get their fresh milk for this important element of their regime. One of the ironies of this world is the awkward co-existence of the Arab peoples and their French hosts and employers. As an example, I didn't have exact change for the farmer, but she reassured me that she trusted me to pay her the Euro I owed on another visit, something she wouldn't permit for the clients waiting outside. How sad that our local Moroccans make up a far larger number of her clients than the local French (or random American such as myself) yet she has this mildly antagonistic relationship with them.
Back into the car and home. We had time to chat about the boys' memories of Michigan, the program for the next few days, the kids who'll be living with us this year (our new boarders), the brief chores that awaited them upon our arrival, what I'd planned for dinner, etc., I'm a chatty mom, but they willingly kept up their ends of the conversations. So far, so good.
Once in Avignon it was a mixed bag. Leo was helpful, Jonas less so. But then Leo was badgering and ordering Jonas about like a general. Already, over the past two years Leo has tried to take the place of the head man of the house with his brother, and I've done my best to calm him down and reassure him that I'm parent enough for Jonas. However, I've a sneaking suspicion that he's playing the role of father to his brother even more forcefully and frequently in Arles than here. In any case and whatever the truth of my suspicions, Leo was way out of control. Though I wanted Jonas to help, I fully sympathized with him as his over-bearing brother came down like the proverbial ton of bricks. Thus I spent a goodly part of that first hour orchestrating who did what, and getting Leo out of Jonas' space.
Jonas then proceeded to have a mild breakdown at the thought and act of putting away his clothes. To protest, he lay down on a nice cold stone step (not a bad idea really, considering the heat of the day). I left him like that and went out to clean the pool, he (eventually) came down to re-negotiate terms. I'd said, "put away your clothes and then we can jump in the pool, have dinner and ice cream as a special treat for dessert." He wanted a swim first. Now, in sticky, muggy weather a refreshing dip to gather his forces and finish his appointed task made sense. So I gave in and said yes, come and swim but promise to get your clothes put away right after. As things go, I had to give a bit more. He did obediently go up after his swim to put away his clothes, but hadn't finished when dinner was ready. He finally got everything put away closer to 10PM while I was reading The Odyssey with Leo. And then, at long last, he got his ice cream. Thank goodness for the lure of sweets! All's well that ends well on that point.
The shift has been made, and not too painfully: Daddy for Mommy, TV for books, no expectations for household chores, chocolate nutella for carrot sticks, town for country. We'll be set by Monday, I think.