We are a messy, disorganized, attention-deficient tribe. We stomp noisily around the house like a herd of dinosaurs. Too lazy to get up off the couch, or the armchair, or the bed, we communicate with each other by roaring from opposite ends of the house. We are histrionic. We are intemperate in our appetites. We are severely technologically-impaired, but we cannot be bothered to read instruction manuals. We break things. We lose track of time; we lose track of things. We lose our tempers.
I say “we,” but there is one member of our family, who is not like this at all. My twelve-year-old son is gentle and good-natured. He is a marvel of efficiency and organization. At 6:30 am sharp, when the rest of us are pressing our snooze buttons, he is letting the dogs out and filling their bowls with food and water. On the days his little sister decides she wants to ride the bus in the morning, he’s the one who escorts her to the bus stop, because at 7:11 am when her bus arrives, the rest of us are in the middle of eating our breakfast, or fixing our hair. Like clockwork, at 8:05 am, he heads to the bus stop himself, his backpack laden with homework that he always manages to finish by the time he steps off the school bus in the afternoon.
He is so soft-spoken that we constantly have to ask him to repeat himself. He does this with infinite patience, though by the third or fourth time we’ve asked him to repeat what he said, it’s clear by the tone of our voices that our own patience is wearing thin.
When things break down, he’s the one we call to the rescue. Even my parents, who live two and a half hours away, anxiously await his visits, so that he can fix the backlog of things that have gone wrong during his absence. Whenever one of us loses something, my son is always the one who diligently helps us to search until it is found. If one of us seems upset, he is the first to notice and the first to offer a hug and words of encouragement.
Long after the rest of us have had seconds and thirds, he is still picking at his food like a bird. Though he’s a picky eater, I once had to take his plate away from him to stop him from eating a failed culinary experiment that was universally acknowledged to be disgusting. It tasted so vile it was literally making him gag and bringing tears to his eyes, but he was trying to choke it down anyway, because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
I write this as a sincere apology to my dearly beloved son, who couldn’t find his watch this morning and had an epic freak out. There’s something very unnerving about seeing the calm center of a storm falling apart. I hated seeing him get so agitated. It upset the natural order of things. It made me feel jittery and irritable. Selfishly, I took it as a personal affront that he was causing such a ruckus. In a Bad Parenting Move for the record books, instead of doing what he would have done – comforting him or helping him look for his watch, I yelled at him for getting so worked up about it and for stressing the rest of us out.
Sometimes I wonder how a child like him ended up in a family like ours. Sometimes I think it must to be hard for someone like him to live in a household like ours. Always, I am astonished and grateful that he is one of us. We would be lost without him.
Related post: The Tidal Basin…or: L’enfer, c’est les autres.