Leo had a very adolescent evening the other night. Not only is he a very tall twelve, growing facial hair and sky-rocketing towards the sky, he is growing ever more serious and sensitive. I do believe there will be unforeseen side effects to my hosting a young boy six months Leo' senior (yet a head shorter) and a tall and delightful fourteen year old girl. Hormones are surging.
Post-shower, hair wet and draping ever so tantalizingly over his eyes, elegant jeans, and a half-way unbuttoned white oxford on his summer tanned skin. Whoa... this is my little boy who was climbing trees, leaping in the water and scarfing down brownies this summer? Yes, I'm his mom, but he was darn gorgeous as he showed off terribly for the benefit of our young teenage female boarders.
And, his haunches up (is that the phrase?) he was in a cocky mood: Not the best preparation for a calm session of everyone reading a paragraph each of Gulliver's travels. As we've done most evenings this week, me and my charges strew about my bed with an abbreviated version of Gulliver, highlighting his visit amongst the Lilliputians. After one turn each, Jonas looked up at me and begged that I read him a book in his room before he fell asleep atop me in mine. Thinking the group relatively stable, I went off with Jonas, leaving them to continue reading.
I hadn't taken into account male dominance theory. Leo may be bigger physically, but Mael is older by six months and quite a strong and defiant character. He also is very physical and with minimal limits imposed upon him to this point apparently. So, as I understand it, Mael teased our little eleven-year old, pinning down her arm, tickling perhaps. Leo leaped to her defense, thinking to be able to manhandle Mael off of her and by his larger size, put him in his place. But, tall though he is, Leo is not a creative fighter (as they would say here, il n'est pas trop malin). Mael easily used a manoeuvre or two with elbow and knee, winding Leo with a blow to the chest, and freed himself.
In five minutes, Leo's pride, view of the world, sense of moral order, and more were touched, and deeply. He was so riled up he was not going to sleep, and adamantly so. I spent a moment with him, gathering information and trying to figure out went had gone so very wrong in my brief absence. Then I descended to speak with both Mael and Maeva. Basically, I communicated a new house rule. No physical teasing and wrestling. We simply are not going to play the game of who's stronger and who's quicker and who's more slippery. And, no touching the others. Permit and respect the imaginary cushion of air around each person. We live in a house that protects and cares for, not one where battles for dominance are going to take place. Maeva was reassured. Mael, no doubt, thought I was over-reacting.
And yes, perhaps I was. Growing up as the younger sister to a much bigger brother I was often a punching ball, tickling receiver, wrestling hold practice bag, you name it, for my older brother. I survived, more or less. And he was assured of his physical superiority and myself of my absolute weakness in the face of such. At one point (or a few times no doubt), I screamed at the top of my lungs, trying to break his hold, break him, and if only by breaking his ear-drums establish my own level of strength and power. No luck. I never did get out my finger nails, nor did I bite (something Jonas was once--no longer, gratefully--particularly adept at). And, I have no regrets on this point. I'm not normally a physically violent individual, and it was only the incredibly frustrating sense of being over-powered that brought it to such a pitch.
Perhaps I'm over-protecting, but I would rather prefer to limit this sort of behavior in my home, particularly as these are not siblings, but live-in guests.
I went back up to Leo after my discussions, hoping he'd have calmed down. But far from it. I spent the next hour by his side, listening, communicating, searching, and observing that my little boy is hitting those intense peaks of emotion and sensation that adolescence too often promises. The anguish, the hurt pride, the frustration, the anger, were all roiling in him pushing sleep away. Not before midnight was he finally willing to turn out his light.
The next morning wasn't a whole lot better (over and past are the days of thirty minute sulks?), but thank goodness, by the time I picked them all up at 4pm, the boys were not only talking but sharing their interest in music again. Phew! Crisis averted. For now.