I didn’t have friends over to my house when I was a kid. We lived on a block with a fair number of children in a pretty close age range – on any given evening we could muster up to a dozen kids for kick the can or bloody murder. Summer afternoons my brother might play running bases with the boys from up the street, and I would play on the swing set in the neighbor’s back yard – and for a few years kids would come to the slide in our back yard, until the Blizzard of ’79 when our garage collapsed sideways from the weight of the snow and crumpled the slide. (My brother and I were getting older by then, and our parents didn’t replace it.) In the winter we went to the sledding hill or the ice rink. I often think of myself as having been a solitary child, but the more I think about it, the more I see it’s not so much that I didn’t have people to play with, it’s that I never brought friends over to my house.
It might be the first thing a child of alcoholics learns: having people over is a risky proposition. Bringing people home spontaneously especially so. This was never articulated or discussed; my parents did not forbid house guests nor did my brother and I agree to some pact in which we didn’t have friends over. There were not outward signs of chaos that we might have been ashamed of – my parents didn’t argue or shout more than the average harried parent might, the house was always clean, the yard always well-kept, the kitchen well stocked, our parents appropriately dressed, my brother and I had bedrooms that were nicely decorated and perfectly normal kids’ rooms, it all seemed pretty standard. But we knew, the way kids know such things, that it probably was not such a good idea to have friends over to play. Adult children of alcoholics reading this might understand that internal alarm bell, the sixth sense that picks up the invisible wrongness underneath the seemingly regular suburban home. Whatever it was, I had it.
The boys have friends over a lot, especially Small Boy. He’s finishing up his second grade year and has the type of long-standing friendships with kids now that Boychen, as a first year Kindergartener, only just is beginning to forge. Small Boy and his friends are also more independent – they can get to each other’s houses on their own and only have to ask for permission but do not need to be accompanied back and forth the way the 5 year olds do. So they arrange their own plays among themselves and then, at the last minute, remember to ask a parent if it’s okay. (Usually. Small Boy has been known to come home from the playground with an unannounced friend in tow. Saying they’re really hot and need popsicles.)
SB had two friends over yesterday afternoon (Mondays SB has afternoons free from school but Boychen has Kindergarten in the afternoon), and as the rain kept coming and going they ended up playing inside most of the time. They were loud and crazy and running from SB’s room to Boychen’s room shooting Nerf darts at each other. When the boys left (after shaking my hand and saying goodbye to me, because they’re good Swiss boys), I told SB that I like his friends. I do, actually. And I like that they come over here to play, and I like that the boys feel comfortable having their friends over. I like the wild rumpus of boys everywhere. As my parents’ daughter, as the adult who grew out of that kid with the sixth sense, it means a lot to me to see that my kids know their friends are welcome here.
It means that I am my parents’ daughter, but I am not my parents.
It means that my boys aren’t me.
It means that I need to stock up on popsicles.
Life in the Swiss countryside, Mama days, What makes me tick | Comments (2)