All of us walk around thinking about the burdens we carry, the things we must do, the things that others depend on us for. My usual focus is taking care of the house. It gets me so mad that the entire burden of keeping this home livable is on me. No one else cares if the Equal packet sits on the floor for days on end. And if I didn't pick it up and put it in the compactor or the recycling, dang, there it would still be sitting.
Suddenly, it occurs to me, well...maybe not suddenly, maybe it has been creeping up on me, the focus I have had is probably just a distraction. If we walked around thinking about what the real burden is, we would be so overwhelmed, we would probably be paralyzed.
We have a different kind of household, with children and grandchildren, and it is a constant struggle to try to be fair and to not pick favorites, to not show preference to the cutest, or the smartest, or the most needy, to not differentiate between my offspring and someone else's offspring, to not look at some of the residents as being someone else's burden. So far, this particular part of my life has been pretty successful. The kids and the grands pretty much feel as though they are on equal footing, except for an occasional occurrence when some of the grands realize they don't have an actual parent rooting for them. So it is a difficult situation for them also. And they share in the success.
Today, the youngest, five, Ben, was out on the lawn with a neighbor child. This neighbor boy, Cody, six, and a head taller, has caused a lot of problems for us, and we frankly do not like his style. We do not let Ben play with him without supervision. Grandpa was sitting outside watching them and came into the house for a minute. Mom, Fran, looks out the window and sees Ben beating the stuffing out of Cody. Ben was made to immediately come into the house.
As we were preparing to leave to run errands, we put Ben into the car with us, and the discussion that started when he entered the house continued. Fran tells him he will not be allowed to play with Cody anymore. Fran does not ever want him to play with Cody, but we try to work out compromises so Ben does not become an asocial hermit.
Fran comments on how Cody affects Ben's behavior and Ben tries to explain that they were playing, that Cody beat Ben and then Cody told Ben to beat on him. Fran actually slips into "Momese", a language she tries to avoid, and says, "If he told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?" So the discussion segues into the fact that in our family we do not think beating people up is a way to play. I say that Cody's family is different from ours, and that they think it is alright to play that rough, but in our family we try not to be that mean. (We CERTAINLY do not bring up the subject of Cousin Terry's broken hand...) Fran, Ben and I talk a little about how some families are different, and not every one's family thinks the same things are important. Then Ben says, "I think Cody's family should have a grandma living there. Then it would be alright because grandma's know everything." I make a vague "hmmm" noise, and Fran and I are speechless for a few short seconds, and I think, but in retrospect, am not too sure, that Fran said, "There!"
The discussion then went far afield to avoid pitfalls and discomfort. This is totally the type of thing that I cannot even think of. How much of an effect am I having on this child and what will it mean in his life? To just go on and keep up the same old routine is so necessary, but perhaps it will stay in my mind enough to make me a bit wiser and keep me from jumping the gun so much in the future.
I so much have the reputation of putting foot into mouth. Christmas day Louie was being SO nice. I couldn't understand it, and it is kind of pitiful that it was SO noticeable. I so much wanted to say, "You are being so nice. Do you have a brain tumor?" But I didn't say it! I just quietly enjoyed Louie's being so nice.
Maybe we are all growing up together.