Hanging with my son

The Taz and I at a Giants game over the summer.
The Taz and I at a Giants game over the summer.

The Taz has been a different kid this week.  This would be the very first week he’s been home without his sister here.  They both left for their dad’s house two weeks ago, but Taz was the only one who came back.  DQ has been adjusting up in Grass Valley, going to a new school and meeting new friends.  We’ve all been adjusting to life here with one less person in the house, cautiously paying attention to what that feels like.

When I had brought Taz home last weekend, I asked him what he thought about his sister not being here.  He admitted to feeling a little jealous that she got to stay and he didn’t.  But he also said that it might be good if his sister was gone.

“You guys were always hanging out,” he told me.  “Maybe now we’ll be able to hang out more too.”

And it’s true.  DQ and I had a lot in common.  Hanging out with her was easy.  We like the same shows, liked doing the same things, and could easily chat about anything.  Taz, on the other hand, had two interests – playing video games, and talking about video games.  I have no interest in either one of those, just like he has no interest in any of the things I like to do.  Sometimes I’ll come in his room and sit on his bed while he plays, and I’ll let him teach me about the game.  But honestly, for the most part he would lock himself in his room and we’d hardly see each other at all.

One of the things I decided upon when the decision was made for DQ to move was that I was going to change all that with Taz.  Rather than dive into being sad about my oldest leaving the house, I was going to take advantage of being one kid down and focus on the Taz a lot more.  At first it wasn’t easy.  Taz and I are notorious for not seeing eye to eye, and many times this turns into a huge fight.  He has an excuse for everything.  I want things done a certain way.  He just wants to have fun.  I can’t understand why he doesn’t just do what he’s told and get it out of the way.

The first two days together were a disaster.

Then the Taz decided to play videogames at 4am.  Mr. W caught him and told him to turn them off, and we’d deal with it in the morning.  I was fuming mad, but managed to get back to sleep.  Time has a funny way of making things a bit more calm, however.  Rather than flying off the handle in the morning, I calmly asked him what happened the night before.  When he told me, I asked him what he thought his punishment should be.

“Take away my videogames for a day?” he asked meekly.

“I want to take them away for a week,” I told him.  He hung his head in defeat, and didn’t argue with me.  “But I’ll just take them away for two days,” I conceded.

We spent the next two days together.  We played countless games of Apples to Apples, just the two of us (even though it’s really a 4 or more player game).  We watched shows together, including The Biggest Loser, and did exercises at commercials.  And we just hung out.  When he got his videogames back, he was smarter about his time with them.  He finished up his chores and homework early so he could play.  And most evenings they were turned off after dinner so he could spend time with us before bed.

And there’s more. I’ve been making his breakfast and lunch every day, something I used to just leave for him to do.  He used to pack lazy lunches and skip breakfast, ending up way too hungry after school and snacking on everything in sight.  Now he’s getting enough to eat, and has been laying off the snacks.  He’s more willing to work at eating better, and doesn’t argue when I tell him he can’t have seconds at dinner.

He calls me every day after school, and shares with me what happened that day.  Instead of talking about how school sucks or that he has no friends, he’ll tell me the exciting stuff that happened – how he saw a lizard that looked like a snake, how his essay was chosen to be read in front of the whole school, how his teacher loved the artifact he made for his report on ancient Greece, how he really loved his sandwich that day…

He’s a happier kid.  I don’t think it’s because his sister isn’t here (though he did tell me he’s glad she’s not here to tell him he’s not funny when he makes a joke).  But I think it’s because he suddenly has the spotlight.  He’s been in the seat of the second child for all his life, moving into the seat of the third child when he gained an older stepbrother.  Being the youngest, it’s easy to be left out.  Now, he has a chance to be noticed.  And I’m making sure to give him that.  It’s only been a week, and the difference in him is noticeable.

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