I don't know how you feel or felt about your kids, but I'm finding a six year old is about the most amusing, adorable and lovable human on earth. He can speak in full sentences, defend his own point of view, and his jokes are so often bizarre and illogical that they're thigh-slapping hysterical. He can express strong likes and dislikes and is unafraid to shout, 'I love you!' across the playground during school drop off. I wouldn't say things are easy, especially now with having to divide his time between two households, but in many ways these feel like golden years for me and Z; years before the self-consciousness, the self-doubt, and the angsty disagreements with everything parental.
It wasn't always this sweet. Over the past two and a half years I've watched Z's behaviour and friendships form and shift, get shaped like Paydough, then mashed up in frustration. One day we were at the nearby crumbly nunnery ruins with other boys and other moms. A friend of Z's announced to his left-leaning, pacifist mother that, since women could marry women and men could marry men that he wanted to marry Z. I had a real 21st Century reaction when my first thought was, "That is super cool." And then I had a second thought which was, "You are way too gentle for my steamroller son and you had better reconsider." Within a week, Z had caused this friend near grievous bodily harm and threatened to punch his mother if she didn't let them have a play date. I pretty much lost it that day. How many times must I keep telling him that you get what you want by being nice, not by being a bully. What I really feel like saying sometimes is, "Do what you want with your own friendships, but don't screw up mine!"
Things are a lot better now. Friendships are pretty well established now in Year 2, usually orbiting around a predilection for or avoidance of rough housing. Z doesn't hang out with girls really, though I'm often witnessing him shouting to them in greeting. When this happens he suddenly transforms into a swaggering, brash teenager who is grooming himself to be irresistible. But with the boys he is all boy. And this boy tribe is getting better at handling their emotions. Even when it looks as though the scrum of them is going to come to blows, they usually manage to work things out. When I was Z's age, these kind of schoolyard altercations would really shake me up. When kids started pushing it felt to me as though a blood feud had been proclaimed. This is about the same time I took up journal writing and set up a cardboard desk inside my closet. No, Z and his friends seem to be getting over things in about forty-five seconds. And now his buddies seem to be Z's very reason for living. Getting him out the door for school feels like getting a three-toed sloth to do jumping jacks. But once he sees a mate I can't keep up. As we were walking to school the other day and ran into one of the kids we see all the time on our way to school Z was so elated he shouted, 'Alex! Wow! I can't believe you're here!'
One friend in particular has Z acting downright smitten. They already seem like the old couple who can finish each other's sentences. They both soured on karate lessons when it became clear they weren't going to be taught ninja moves. On a recent sleepover, N's mom told me they went to sleep spooning each other in the single bed. When it comes to saying goodbye, they usually bring out the plastic swords and lightsabers and try to keep me at bay. By the time I'm literally dragging Z to the door they usually break away one last time and cling to each other as though they were going down on the Titanic.
Fortunately, N's mom S is a good friend of mine (see 'A World of Misadventure'). She makes me laugh and they live across the road from my new flat. The teachers and staff at school don't usually like releasing your kid to anyone who doesn't have written permission from you to do so, but they finally seem OK with the boys getting picked up by one or the other of us, just as long as they are taken punctually so the teachers can recover from the tornado of energy the boys leave in their wake.
Seeing Z get on with such synchronicity with his boy friends has me hopeful for the young man he will become here. I have a male friend who has lived in Boston, London and Paris and in the European cities he is more comfortable than he ever was in the States. He says European men are more at ease in their bodies. They are less afraid of casually touching or hugging. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a state's ability to ban gay marriage my English friends just shook their heads and said, 'What took you so long?'
So I hope Z keeps hugging his friends, hugging me and his dad. I hope he'll grow up understanding that love doesn't have to be reserved for your family and your romantic partner. I also hope he'll stop tackling the smaller ones in order to get his point across.