Sunday, April 18, 2010

Long Hair, Serious Attitude

It's been a while since I've written about my boys. Mostly, things are progressing quite pleasantly. Leo's hair is longer and longer, and as I study him freshly clean from his shower, dressed in clothes I don't recognize, sitting beside me eating his pasta and fresh goat cheese on a large, thick slice of my dark bread I notice how large his hands are. How long the fingers. I'm tempted to stop him in mid-bite to measure mine against his.

I get up to clear away a dish and look back and I see an impressive quantity of dark and long hairs on his lower legs peaking out from under the just-long-enough pants. The shadow on his face has moved beyond his upper lip to delicately darken his chin and the still small and fragile-seeming line from his temples to his jaw.

Once, in the past few weeks, I was granted a clear view of his face. The day we went swimming with JP at the pool in Nîmes. With a cap on his head, I could marvel again at the beauty of his bone structure, and remember the many times he'd been taken for a girl when he was but two years old. I am only slightly impatiently awaiting the day his hair is long enough to put in a pony tail -- if he will agree that is.

He is lengthening. I barely saw him this vacation. And these two weeks of distance have marked him. The first week he spent with his brother in a 'colonie de vacances' on a boat, péniche on the Canal du Midi. I had the pleasure of picking up the boys at the station when the tour was finished, and reveled in their bubbling up of stories as we enjoyed pizza and profiteroles at our favorite restaurant on the island. Though they assured me it had truly been nul I could see their smiles, hear their stories, and learned of the kids they met, the facts about sharks they'd learned, the interesting experiences they'd lived. Leo didn't like the pâté served the first night, and politely explained that he was allergic to pork. For the rest of the trip he ate with the Islamic kids, sharing their pork-free dishes. He accepted the situation gracefully. And clearly, the boys had gotten along very well together, Leo protecting and including Jonas throughout the week, even carrying him back from an outing when Jonas had had a tummy-ache. They spoke in surprise of the little boy who was younger than Jonas, and shorter, but who weighed as much as Leo! He almost crushed the back of the small pony he rode atop! Stories spilled out of them both.

Only a day later I passed them to Erick, to share his birthday and to spend their week in Arles.

Tonight, the night before school begins, I got them back. In two weeks, so much can occur. I'll put out the measuring tape tomorrow. I do believe Leo is a few centimeters taller. Certainly his shoulders are broadening. Are his shoes getting tight?

As they walked into the house at 8PM -- Leo's homework yet to be done, neither bathed nor showered in over a week, etc., I was both joyous, and conflicted. The list of things to be done, my expectations for them came flowing out of me. There I was chopping, mincing, and pureeing the vegetables for the evening's pasta sauce, and before me were my much adored boys, the elder of which was showing serious resistance to getting started on his homework (and why hadn't he coped on it before coming back to me???? - what is this excuse about having left his book bag in my house???) and loathe to shower, and taking his own sweet time to make his bed, and procrastinating rather than immediately going to Gaetan to tell him that yes, he'd borrowed his bike without asking for the week, and why and that he'd cared for it and...

How quickly can a mother get into a dispute with her adored elder child? Seeing he had to get going on at least one of the many things on the list spewing from my mouth, he ducked out of my sight and headed to the shower. I followed a bit later and started over, but a bit more carefully:

Leo, I have expectations for you. I know that in Arles you find it great, awesome, relaxed, easy. Your father just lets you do as you please, and never gets riled. But my dear, you are old enough to take on more responsibilities. And you have it in you. I believe that you can be respectful and thoughtful and immediately go out to Gaetan and explain why you had his bike, not wait for him to finish mowing my lawn. And, I believe that you could be more helpful and take the initiative yourself to help mow that lawn. And I think nearing 13, it is up to you to be sure you do your homework, and get your papers, contact your friends for the questions, etc., Waiting till late Sunday night just doesn't cut it. You can be responsible. Your father had no idea what you needed to get done. You need to communicate, and you can. I am here to help you grow up and be the young adult you are. I believe you can be better. So yes, I come down on you hard. It's way easier at Daddy's. Perhaps it's super-chiant here. But it's because I believe in what you can and need to do.

So, dinner's in 5 minutes. Get out of the shower and get your butt down to the kitchen.

And, shortly afterwards appeared this tall and gangly young adult. Dinner was quite pleasant. Dishes cleared away, and homework begun. Will he get it done tonight? Will he need to get up early tomorrow? I couldn't resist reminding him that even if there are only three questions to answer, he cannot just whip out a single sentence for them. He needs to write down all he can think of that could answer the question. He may need to put down five sentences, and perhaps even a page full of writing... Skimping is no longer acceptable.

Hopefully the message got through? Yes, I'm struggling to raise his own standards for himself. I am doing as I might to convey the importance of trying harder, reaching higher, aiming for more...

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