The Kid and I

June 30, 2008 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

I often feel that I’m walking a tightrope in my relationship with the Kid. And I often notice that I’m not walking very steadily or perhaps the correct way to use this analogy is that I’m walking the tightrope steadily but in the wrong direction.

Here’s one example. Basically since the X moved out, I’ve not had broadcast TV in the house. For maybe six months I was able to finagle getting the local PBS station on reception from the house antenna. But then the coaxial cable connector from the antenna started not working. Instead of figuring out how to fix it, I announced that service was no longer available. We had VCR tapes and at some point brought DVD into the lineup. But no broadcast TV.

The Kid was fine with that until the X decided to get cable at her place. From being an occasional TV watcher, he became an obsessed maven. And he became increasingly grouchy and moody when he was here at the Piedmont house. After months of guiltily skirting around the problem — convinced that my absenses from his life were the source of this skism between us — I flat out asked him. In anger and frustration I said, “Why aren’t you happy here?”

“You don’t have the same things here that Mommy has at her house.”

“Like what?” I challenged.

“TV” he replied.

I gestured to the box where he was watching some moldy VCR tape for the 50th time. “We have TV”

“But, not…” and he rattled off a list of cartoon-type shows that he was regularly watching with the X.

Baffled silence. Interestingly, the Kid wasn’t suffering from a grown-up’s version of angst. He just missed his shows. I had tried everything I could think of doing to provide an interesting environment for him here. I’d come up with activities. I’d brought in materials I thought might interest him. We went for walks in the woods. We gardened. But, I admit, sometimes I did need to “park” him while I got some mundane chores done quickly. And since the cable went in at the X’s, his interest in our activities at the Piedmont house had waned. He just sat and watched videos and DVDs with a depressed aspect.

In this location, I didn’t have the option of cable. But I could potentially bring in satelitte TV. Now the questions before me were two — could I afford it? and should I do it? The first, as I’d recently retired the debt I incurred when the X moved out, was yes. I could afford it. The second I concluded was also yes. Maybe it brands me as a bad mommy. But sometimes I can’t see a way around the arms race of expectations. I do try to demonstrate, live, model and expose the Kid to a different way here at the Piedmont house. But there are some minimal commonalities that need to be observed to keep his life on an even keel. I came to feel that broadcast TV had fallen into that category.

When the sat TV (with DVR option) landed in the house, I began to seriously re-think my choice. The Kid became addicted to the most schlocky, gratuiously violent cartoon show I could imagine. Although perhaps my imagination does not stretch far in this regard. I promised to record shows for him when he was with the X. And for awhile, he watched the TV non-stop when he was here.

After having brought the thing into the house in order not to fight with him, I was really unwilling to fight with him over watching it. I went about my business — having a lot more time for it. And just hoped that eating really good food would be worth something. And that eventually, he would arise from the televised mush and notice that something interesting was happening around him.

Yesterday, after a week of dryness a really good thunderstorm looked like it was blowing up. Since I’ve been trying (with only limited success I admit) to moderate my use of the a/c I’ve become incredibly attuned to the weather. I wanted that storm — for the coolness that was bound to ride in on the front and for the water the garden desperately needed. I stood out on the porch for awhile, watching the clouds — hoping for rain. Finally, I went inside and dragged a chair out on the porch. I sat outside watching the wind whip the tall trees around, sipping seltzer water, feeling good. I could only barely hear the noise of the television. And I knew the Kid wasn’t really watching it so much as “having it on” as he worked on the comic books he draws and writes.

Then the Kid appeared at the door. “What is it sweetie?” I asked — expecting a request for a drink or snack.

“What are you doing out here?”

“I’m watching the storm come up. I’m really hoping it is going to rain. We really need it.”

He paused to consider this information. “Wait a minute” he said, “I’ll get a chair and join ya.”

He retreated into the house and came back in a moment with a chair and his own bottle of seltzer water. Side by side we sipped and watched the wind, heard and felt the lightening and thunder, appreciated the rain when it finally started falling. When it started coming down sideways pelting us with spray, we came inside.

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Entry filed under: Parenting, Piedmont.

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