Thursday, May 12, 2016

In the Land of the Cloud Giants

It’s been raining nonstop for the last 15 days, and the wet weather is starting to take a toll on all of us. The sky hangs low in the sky, filled with towering cumulonimbus clouds that look like sentries guarding us, or overbearing parents looking down on us disapprovingly, arms crossed, perhaps. The sky has been grey for so long, I don’t know what other color it could be.

The most obvious side effect has been a bit of cabin fever exhibited by the kids. Without being able to get outside and burn off energy, they have taken to wrestling on the couch. The house—as small as it is—cannot contain them. There is no extra space, so for even a small portion of that space to be filled with chaos has the effect of throwing the entire house into turmoil.

The boys have not had soccer games or practice for the last two weeks, because of the rain. The City of Falls Church is inordinately protective of their fields and, even at the slightest drizzle, closes them. Thankfully, there was a break in the weather of width and breadth large enough to fit Peter’s soccer practice into Tuesday evening.

The inactivity has been hitting Sam the hardest. Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s being eight. Or being in second grade. Or maybe my changing work schedule. Or maybe the weather, too, has been having ill effects on his psyche. Whatever it was he was particularly out of sorts Tuesday afternoon, breaking down into tears and full-on hysterical sobbing at the prospect of having to go to Pete’s practice, apoplectic that he couldn’t be left at home by himself.

His demeanor didn’t improve much once we got to the park. When he wasn’t throwing pinecones at kids on the playground and basically being a little shit, he was moping around, whining, “I don’t know what to doooooOOOOoooooooOOOOooooo!” and “I’m booooooOOOOooored!” When I did offer to kick the soccer ball around with he and Clem, he started acting as though he were Pele, kicking the ball so hard neither Clem or I could kick with him. Though he can be exceedingly sweet to the little sister of one of the kids on Pete’s soccer team—playing with her, pretending to trip and fall down to get her to laugh—he is somehow incapable of sharing the same compassion with his own little sister.

At one point, Sam kicked the ball so hard it flew through the air, sailing past Clementine’s head. She was pissed. Rightfully, so. And bent down picked the ball up and stalked away. Sam called “Hand foul!” and tackled her. I snapped, grabbed him by the arm, and began hauling him to the car. I tried not to make a scene, but Sam was being obstinate, and I quickly figured out the only way I was going to get him to the car was through physical force. Elise gave me a look, and perhaps a few choice words, and I softened my approach. To little or no avail. I did eventually get him in the car and left him there. Much to Elise’s chagrin.

I overreacted and was embarrassed by my actions. That’s happened more than once recently. I’ve been working on a kind, patient approach with the kids that’s been getting me nowhere. If I make a calm, reasoned request of one of the kids, they completely ignore me until I’ve made the same measured request three or four times, and even repetition is often useless. That’s when I lose my cool and yell. But I’m trying to understand that it doesn’t have to be one end of the spectrum or the other, and that I can be a firm disciplinarian without being an ogre. It’s not easy. I know they don’t understand that I wouldn’t get so mad if I didn’t love them so much.  

The following day, Sam had an annual fitness test at his school. According to his mother, he ran four miles in jeans, and I could tell there was something different about him. He seemed mellower. He seemed like I feel after I go running. The boys had early release yesterday and were already home when I got home from work around 3:00. Sam and I played legos while Pete and Clem watched Wild Kratts on the iPad. After a half hour or so of looking through an idea book Elise and Clem checked out of the library for him, he decided he wanted to try and build a castle. He worked on the drawbridge, while I worked on the front gate. That’s about as far as we got before it was time for me to clean the downstairs bathroom in anticipation of out of town guests: Aunt Jackie and Uncle Bill.

They arrive in a few hours, so here’s to hoping the cloud giants march back to their homes in the sky for a few days. 

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