Thursday, November 11, 2010

Struggling to not be me

My life used to be quiet. REALLY quiet. Cats and NPR kind of quiet. (Well, except for the Karaoke part.) Now, it's not so much. You know - the kid thing. Two kids. Dog. Cat. White picket fence and all that. And it really IS all that. It does live up to the hype. I love everything about it. So the noise thing? I've adjusted. It's been totally worth it. (At least a good 90-95% of the time.)

But the kid thing? I'm still trying to adjust. Not to having them, of course. That part, I've got down pat. I've got my own, I borrow my friends', I work with them. The kid thing is great. Even the loudness. Especially the loudness. The adjusting part is to not being ME around them. Or rather, to not being the 'first reaction' me.

Because right now, there are about 10 kids in my backyard (I'm estimating). Only one of them is mine. They are all loud and rambunctious and doing all the things that kids are supposed to do: They are kicking balls as hard as they can across the yard (and I only had to tell them once to please stop kicking them into the window, so bonus!) They are swinging swords (okay, fine, light sabers) at each other. They are whacking things with plastic bats. (Only once did I have to tell them to please quit hitting my metal planter with the big wooden stick.) They are attempting to break into the house to fill Super Soakers (and it will be a failed attempt, because once I found the first random kid wandering out of the kitchen, I locked the doors) They are raiding my garden and throwing the last of my tomatoes at each other. They are climbing on things the wrong way, and landing on each other, and someone, I just know it, is going to get hurt.

And this is where I have to stop myself from trying to stop them. My first reaction is to say, "stop that! Its dangerous! You could hurt someone, or break something," But I don't say that. I don't let my fear of something stop them.

Because this is what they should be doing. They should be yelling and running and climbing and falling and throwing and almost getting hurt, and maybe actually getting hurt, and getting over it, so they can get up and do it again.

And I get to watch and listen to it all, because my office faces the yard. I wanted to be able to keep an eye on the kids while they play but still be able to work. And this seemed like such a great idea. But now I hear them all the time. And see them. Ian just came out from behind the shed, carrying a cardboard container of what I hope is only dirt. Julia is climbing up the slide, backwards, in bare feet, and someone climbs over her to go down the slide. One boy is standing on a swing, holding on to it with one hand and trying to climb up the frame. Ian is now, I think, planting something. I have no idea. I'm trying really hard to not open the window and ask what they are doing. I think of the physics concept - that the act of observing something changes it. And I don't want to change a thing.

So as I sit in my office and hear random shouts of cherry bombs (cherry bombs!? What do they know about cherry bombs?), I close my curtains. Because somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember not being observed by grownups when I played. I remember being kicked out of the house and being told to go play somewhere, anywhere. I remember going into the woods in the morning and coming back before dark. I remember wandering around construction sites, the smell of clay permanently embedded in my mind. I remember climbing the pine trees behind my house. They were sturdy at the bottom, but as you got to the top, they were thin and would sway in the wind. I would get scared when I looked down, but I loved the view, and loved the smell of the pine, and hated the sticky residue on my hands. But the residue was my proof that I did it, so I loved it, too.

I remember going down to the creek, and climbing on the rocks, and reading the graffiti left by previous generations. And I remember almost getting hurt. And definitely being scared of things (the big kids, the dark, the unidentified noises, the mysterious makers of the randomly discovered forts). I remember the excitement of coming home at night, having survived another day of being a kid.

It's hard to survive something when your mom is standing over your shoulder, protecting you from the little bumps and bruises that may come your way, or when she's watching out the window, telling everyone to play nice and be fair.

I do want him to be careful. And I want him to play fair. But I really want to just be a voice in the back of his head, telling him to think about what he's going to do, but then after thinking about it, to DO it. Because I REALLY want him to climb the tree. I want him to scrape his knee on the rocks when nobody is around to help him, and feel the pain of picking the little rocks out, and know the relief that he gave himself from doing it. Because the next time, it might not be gravel in his knee. It might be a broken arm, or a broken heart. But he will know he can do it, that he can get through the fear and the pain. That he can survive taking chances. That he can survive being a kid.

This is a lot to think about, when I'm also thinking, dude, you guys are so loud, and man, you are totally going to break that! And do you know how long it took me to GROW those tomatoes? I have to stop that voice. So I close the curtain. The real one. The mental one. I go get more coffee, and I wonder, briefly, what my other kid is doing upstairs, because she's being awfully quiet. And quiet, NPR and cats notwithstanding, isn't always a good thing. And then I tell her to go play outside.