Figuring Out Boundaries

I spent the day with my 4th grader's class on a field trip.  I had requested the day off of work as I often feel that my son misses out on mommy time as I am too regularly focused on my 3rd grade daughter who has been going through a clingy stage for about 2 years now.  In some ways, she is actually easier to figure out.  I know she always wants me around and asks days in advance about which days I have off so that she can request that I have breakfast with her or spend the whole day.  Last year I spent equal amounts of time between her class and Little Bit.  Nicholas rarely asked for me to come to his class and I suspected that he was figuring out how much independence he wanted.  Occassionally I would catch a glimpse that he needed me more than he was willing to admit.  And since he was in the same building as the girls, it was easy for me to slip into his class to let him know I was around without crowding or embarrassing him.  This year he moved to the outer building and access to him isn't as easy.

Although I try to split my three mornings between the three kids, inevitably something happens on Nick's day preventing me from actually having breakfast with him.  At home, he is loving and touchy.  I often receive foot massages or pats on the back as I relax on the couch or am making dinner.  Yet at school, he remains distant. When I let him know I would be attending the field trip, he seemed pleased.  Once in the classroom he barely acknowledged my presence.  It is an odd feeling.  I couldn't help but compare his behavior to that of his sisters.  Perhaps it is because he is a boy; perhaps age is a factor.  Cierra becomes enraged if I am not sitting in a chair by her desk while she eats breakfast.  Speaking to the teacher, or, heaven forbid, doing a favor for the teacher, incurs her wrath as only this 8 year old seems to possess.  Rachel is a bit more relaxed about my presence in her classroom.  I am allowed to interact with other adults and students as long as I remain in the room.  Most of her classmates were in her class last year so my presence in the class usually means massive hug attacks from all sides.  Rachel only becomes irritated if she feels her territory is being invaded, but she will also quickly let me leave with a hug and a kiss when it is time for me to go.

The bus ride did nothing to lessen my confusion.  Again the comparisons came to mind.  The girls would be on my lap if I let them so I always knew seating assignments would include me with my girl and a classmate.  Nick piled into a seat with two other boys.  Nick is not a large child - he needs size 10 pants for the length but can get away with a 7slim in the waist.  The two boys he chose to sit with appeared to be twice his size.  There was no room for mom.  I ended up sitting near the rear of the bus with a group of rowdy boys, yet alone nonetheless. Although the class had been divided in two for counting purposes and Nick was in my group, the class remained together during the entire tour and he was up front with the tour guide while I brought up the rear. 

The field trip was to Taliesin West - Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home which now is preserved by the FLW Foundation and is still used as a school for architectural students.  The majority of the tour consisted of traipsing through desert foliage to explore the shelters used by the students.  During a student's first two years, the student can choose to live in a tent the same as those used by the original FLW students or stay in a shelter designed and built by previous students.  In the third year, students are given the option to design and build their own shelter or renovate an existing shelter that is deemed in disrepair.  One shelter we visited looked like a ship floating in air.  To get to the sleeping compartment, one would have to climb a ladder and traverse a metal balcony.  The students had been asked to keep track of sculptures found around the main buildings and the keenest observers were allowed to climb the ladder of this shelter.  Nick and one other student took the prize.  After he climbed down, I quickly met him to congratulate him on his acute observations skills. He burst my bubble by confiding that he hadn't kept count, but just guessed.  And then he was off to the next adventure, leaving me in the dust.

Lunch was another bubble burst.  At home he had thought it a great idea to put both our lunches into the same sack.  At the site, he quickly grabbed the bag and retreated to a table with his buddies.  I barely got a glance as I went to retrieve my lunch and drink.  When lunch was over, he remained with his friends while I ran groups of students to the bathroom facilities.  He came over to me long enough to take the last of my lemonade and then was off again.  Back on the bus he had ensconced himself in the very back seat up against the window.  His fortress of friends surrounded him and I once again sat alone. 

I want to give him his space, but I also want to be there when I'm needed.  I've read the books, I've raised two other boys through these same years.  I reflected to their needs at this age and realized that I was probably oblivious to their wants and needs as my life was consumed with babies.  In fact, the same babies who now are a mystery to me in other ways.  And so Nicholas eludes me.  I left for home once we were back at school as I needed to take care of some errands before picking up the older boys from school.  Nick barely noticed.  Yet an hour later, when we were all home and I was tasking them to get their homework done, he requested help with homework and begged me to play video games with him.  I don't understand him.  Perhaps he doesn't either.


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