I thought we were worldly. Urban. Right from the street, son. But now that we're in Louisiana country, down where the "water don't move," I have changed my tune.
First major difference is how kids physically run back and forth between homes to play here. What? People still do that in this day and age? News to me. In Virginia, we have play dates where parents almost always attend. Some of us hover or at least spy-plane during the entire play date to make sure our kids are not making murals from Sharpies all over their walls. Moms
I see youuu.
Here in the south? So very different. These little buggars are largely on their own. Kids play, moms need not always apply. No mama girlfriend in tow with a bag of Veggie sticks in one hand and a bottle of Bailey's in the other. No in-home cookie decorating to keep all age groups united. No being a 39 year old preschooler along with the 5-year-olds so everyone plays fairly.
It's like going back in time. Kids are allowed to be kids again, not inmates being policed and monitored by parents who worry for their children's safety. Kids here are watched from behind closed windows as they scuttle across the street, then outside then inside, then mudroom, sunroom, driveway, back yard, front yard then back inside with their motherless snail rot shoes still on.
"Miss Lady, do you have any snacks," the new group of bellies ask me.
"Umm... Yes. I mean...have you eaten lunch yet? Are you allergic to peanuts? What is your name again? Do you like cucumbers?"
You guys, it's an entire new thing of beauty here. Pretty much 1984 without shoulder pads and Speak & Spells.
"Grayson, please let me know when you leave the house, and make sure you walk your sister across the street she doesn't look she trips every time thank you!" Our door closes, the kids shuttle each other across the street and I look sideways for another child to help but none are singing my name whilst on the john or inside a cupboard. Ahh, such new found freedom in this retro lifestyle.
Until the fight. My boy and his new friend get into a tiff. Not a fist fight but enough where I feel the need to halt my joyous cleaning frenzy to mediate. I, however, make a very poor social worker and New Friend still leaves in a huff even after an apology from my own boy who stands at my left confused that "I'm sorry" does not work.
"Oh Bud, give him some time. He might come back."
But New Friend never does come back.
Later that night, Grayson tries again but is denied. He comes to me with chin quivers and tears pushing at his pupils. "He's not home. He went to his best friend's house to play with him instead of me."
Oof. Zing. Yeah, that one does hurt a bit, Little Man.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I ask praying he will rather play Lego Batman. But he does want to talk about it so I pull out my best Maya Angelou and let him know that new friendships are fragile, take time to grow into something more reliable and firm, and that no caged bird sings or some shit like that.
He lets me squeeze his little bony shoulders to my soft ones and brings his eyes to meet mine.
"Do you think he'll want to play with me ever again?"
Of course I want to say YES! Every fiber of me wants to reassure him that this too shall pass and everything will be sunflower and coconuts once again but something stops me. This time I resist the urge to explain away human suffering. I refuse to give him any more empty promises. Instead, I hold his face and let him know that I have no idea how things will turn out.
And man alive is it hard to watch my boy and those hurting eyes that, up until that point, believed I always had the power to fix any of his broken things.
But this time? I don't feel mending his broken heart is sound parenting. That practice is getting much too risky now that he's getting older. He must learn to navigate these sticky social spider webs himself. And how can he practice that if I keep hovering/spy-planning/mediating the way I've always been?
Grayson and New Friend have not seen each other since the tiff but Grayson seems eager to try again. His tenacity is admirable but scary. Personally, I would not try again, after the second rejection.
Luckily for him, he is not me. Sadly for me, I must remember that I am not him. And his heart? It's his to run inside, then outside then inside, then mudroom, sunroom, driveway, back yard, front yard then back inside with his motherless snail rot shoes still on.
And my heart is to wave to him from behind those closed windows.