Some time has passed, you may or may not have noticed. We have moved into a new house, well an old house that is new to us, but a move none the less. The boys are great, we are busy but happy, there is a lot of work to do but we enjoy it. You are all caught up now. Hey let’s try to get together more often from here on out, what do you say?
On the eve of the end of the our vacation I feel like I’m staring at a merry-go-round that’s spinning a little more quickly than I’m comfortable with and I have to jump back into the swirling vortex. It isn’t like the time off of our regular routine was restful or stress free, quite the contrary. But some how diving back into the work, school, community schedule feels daunting. I feel like some of the balls I was trying to keep in the air are no longer spinning, wait those are the plates aren’t they. The balls have rolled down the hill and into the creek that I am now up. See I can’t even get my metaphors straight enough to make sense of these feelings, how am I going to get this schedule back on track.
I think the boys feel the same way they just don’t know it yet. While I’m easing my hand into the spinning bars of the merry-go-round they are still happily playing with the slides. Soon we will fling ourselves into the mix and hold on for dear life. The transition will be rough but it’s a short week. The weekend will be here again and we can get the timing down, learning from our jarring plunge back into the great spin. Routine will be good for all of us, once we find it again, it’s just the finding that I am worrying about this eve.
After an afternoon of fun at Playdate PDX we grabbed a quick snack. Segundo and I picked out a donut while Primo went for the Cheese, Apples, Almonds, Crackers, and dried Cranberries. Way to make us look bad bud!
The boys starting the summer off right with pop music and super heroes. You know how we do!
Segundo wanted to go on an adventure. “Let’s take the bus daddy, when we go pick up Primo let’s take the bus!” He was excited and it was raining so why not. We could ride the bike and he could sit in his warm trailer dry and happy as a clam while I pedaled into the blustery mist of swirling seas, or something like that. No taking the bus sounded great so I checked in with the trip planner and found our best route. A simple matter of taking the 4 bus to the train and the train to the school, we can do this.
Step one, get on the right number bus going in the wrong direction. At first I was mad that Tri-met’s trip planner lead me astray but after thinking about it for a bit I realized my error. Getting on the bus that was going in the wrong direction from where I wanted to go should have been my first clue but I just thought it looped around.
Step two, Choose another bus that will get you there on time. The 75 bus would still get us where we needed to go and might even get us to the train on time. The bus was early picking us up but the driver waited at the next stop for 2 minutes because she was ahead of schedule. We made it to the train just as the max was pulling away. That train would have put us right in front of the school just as Primo was done but instead we waited another 15 minutes for the next train.
Step Three, get off the train one stop too early. Flustered and a little wet I thought we were at the school but we weren’t. We had to walk 8 more blocks to get to the stop we should have gotten off at and at this point we were 20 minutes late picking up the boy. He was not happy but at least I wasn’t the last parent there. His teacher had a good laugh at my retelling of the story and Primo soon warmed to the idea of a trip back home on the bus. We stopped for some lunch and by the time we were walking the last bit to our house we were all soaked but enjoying the adventure we had originally set out on.
This weekend we were up by the sound in Gig Harbor visiting Beautiful’s parents as they visit their first grand-daughter courtesy of their eldest daughter and her husband. After five boys, girls finally got on the board in the McGrail clan and she is a cutie. Their two boys and our two boys love being together but the sheer force of the four boys together keeps us on our toes. I find myself trying to mediate silly skirmishes over which of our boys sits next to their cousin, or who had the giant green ball first. The other big issue I run into is the vanishing of manners when my boys get together with other playmates.
“PLEASE!” I shout at Segundo when he cries for the same juice his cousin got, or when he demands the toy his brother is playing with. “What do you say?” is another big one as Primo gets more grapes at lunch and ignores his aunt. Teaching the kids to have manners is important to us so the repetition is just part of the process but I realized something this weekend as we were all together: I don’t have very good manners in communicating with them.
Maybe it’s the stress I feel having all the boys together, or maybe it’s a response to their powerful presence but either way I find myself barking commands at the boys instead of communicating with manners. I know that modeling behavior is much more effective than shouting orders but for some reason I forget that in their situations. It reminds of me of that great 80’s PSA about the dad who finds his teenage sons weed and yells “Where did you learn to do this?” “I learned it from watching you dad!” For some reason this PSA always makes me laugh but it’s true. They do what I do and conversely I can’t expect them to do what I’m not doing.
I know that the boys are inherently selfish and won’t just mimic manners because I use them but that doesn’t mean that I am not part of the equation. Modeling along with communicating our expectation with the boys still requires near constant reinforcement for the boys to learn good manners. Lately I feel like I am skipping the first step and I need to fix that before trying to hold my boys to higher standard then I hold myself.
Surveying all the colorful packages under and around the tree one long rectangular package caught my eye. To Primo, From Santa read the tag and as I reached for the present that “Oh Shit” feeling came over me. This was the BB Gun that Papa and Grandma asked if they could get for Primo, the one I said yes to without talking to Beautiful, and the one he would open in a few minutes. I hurried to Beautiful and pulled her a side to tell her about the gun and to apologize for being an idiot.
The problem wasn’t the gun per se. While we aren’t much of a gun family, we don’t have one and likely never will, we aren’t militantly anti guns either. Just last month we enjoyed some Shepard’s pie made with the Venison from a Deer Papa shot with his hunting rifle and I look forward to the day that my boys and I join Papa on a hunting trip. A closer connection to the food we eat and the realities of where it comes from is important to us and hunting plays a big part. No the problem was my unilateral decision making on whether it was OK for our five-year old to have his first gun.
When you are alone with the kids there are any number of decisions to be made from things as small as what’s for lunch, to whether or not the boys can ride their bikes across the street with the neighbor girl. These decisions don’t need to be discussed with someone else so I get in the habit of being the decider. Along comes one of those bigger decisions and I just answer on impulse without talking to Beautiful. I think about how she would respond and make informed decisions but I don’t always include her in the discussion and answer. But “don’t always” I really mean “almost never”. There has been a time or two when made the right call and said “Let me talk to Beautiful about that first” but that is not a natural response for me.
When I cornered Beautiful to tell her about the gun she was OK with it as well, but teased me the rest of the day. She asked if there were any other big decisions I had made for the family that she should know about. It was playful and in good fun but I knew that I was wrong in not talking to her first before WE made a decision. It’s that “WE” part that is tough for me sometimes and it comes across as me not valuing my wife. When I make these unilateral decisions I am communicating that her thoughts, opinions, ideas, aren’t important and that is far from true. I told her how sorry I was and she could see I really was even if others there didn’t see what the big deal was. It was only a BB gun after all. But it wasn’t the gun, it was the relationship and the communication. Isn’t that always the case.