Jul 16, 2010

Easy Boy

The other day my neighbor sat on my stoop and we watched some of the younger kids playing on the block. Her son was screaming and racing around. He's five and is an especially rambunctious youngster with loud opinions and an at-rest stance (one arm up in front of his head with a clenched fist. the other fist at his waist, elbow pointing sharply out behind him) that makes him seem always prepared for battle.

When does he grow out of this phase? she asked me, pleadingly. When will he settle down like your son? She was referring to my nine year old. My younger kids are girls, seven and four.

I never know how to answer this. I'm asked it a lot. I think it can be traced to how the wave of gentrification has spread out over this corner of Brooklyn. We couldn't afford a nice brownstone in Fort Greene ten years ago like many of our counterparts could, but we could afford to take a chance on a crappy fixer-upper here in Clinton Hill. Several years later Fort Greene's prices were astronomical and all those thirty-year old professionals bursting with their first child bought up places in Clinton Hill. So while my son has a lot of peers about seven blocks away, there aren't many kids his age nearby. And among these parents of younger kids, he stands out as being this older, slightly mysterious kid. He's into baseball, he's into Star Wars, he's into whatever blockbuster movie's at the theater, he can talk to grown-ups but unless he's talking about one of the aforementioned subjects, he'd really rather not.

On the whole he's an incredibly mellow chill kid. So all these parents of younger boys ask me this question all the time: When will my son get to be all relaxed like yours?

Of course I have no crystal ball, but I do have the dark secret that my boy was never like their kid. I remember one time when he did this little destructo thing at a Barnes and Noble--pulling all the board books off the shelf to watch them kind of cascade down. But that's the only thing I remember. He was two. One other time (at a Barnes and Noble, I'm wondering if there's a pattern here), he cried and wouldn't share a train with a stranger-boy at the train table. He was two and a half. That's it. One destructive moment, one major unkindness. But that's really it. He's just a sweet gentle boy.

Full disclosure: My four-year old daughter has proven destructive and unkind enough for all of us. I've caught wind that the PreK she's entering has grouped the classes around HER powerful personality. In some ways, after watching my older two kids getting slotted in as space filler around some of the more out-there members of their grades, I do feel like I'm finally getting my money's worth, even though it's a public school.

But I'm not asked about her. I'm asked about him. Here's how I hear the question: When will my little monster turn into your amazing son? Another way is this: When did YOUR easy boy STOP being a terrible little kid? And I'm back to not knowing how to answer.

I usually just shrug and say 'well he was always pretty mellow,' I pull out the two examples that I mentioned above to show some 'mother-of-a-wild-boy' solidarity. But it's not too convincing.

Sorry folks, he's just a great kid. Good luck with your little nightmare.

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