Saturday, April 9, 2011

interval without sleep: family rambling

J and Anna stopped by the office this week to pick up a marble-track building toy someone is discarding. J was amazing! He met my co-worker Jess and looked directly at her the whole time, with no prompting! I had to remind him to shake Irene's offered hand, but then he did it with Joe by himself. He was being extra-adorable, from the moment I said "Hi J!" and he brightened and said "HI CHRIS!" in that way he has of not really bothering to control his volume, because hey, why would you?

Also interesting to watch people see me differently as I interacted with him. I think I still don't talk a lot about my private world, so for these people who have known me for 5 weeks, I imagine it's educational for them to see me in Stepdad Mode.

It occurs to me that J first met me when he was 3, and he's now 6, so he's known me more or less as long as he can remember.

I wonder when or if he'll decide it's safe to be as much of a jerk to me as he sometimes is to Anna. Right now there's no good name for our relationship, and we haven't explored the word "stepfather" yet; maybe once the wedding's done, I'll get to be Worst Stepdad In The World as Anna is certified as the Worst Mama. (Occasionally this is merely Worst Mama In California, but sometimes ratchets up to Worst Mama In All Of Time.) I imagine it has more to do with that fact that she's the one who takes care of him, and thus makes him do all the necessary things that he hates (which of course vary from moment to moment).

I have a pretty cool outsider effect on J. In many ways, he finds Anna suspect, always encouraging him to try new foods, interrupting his drama-queen moments, training him to use direct communicative language instead of passive-aggressive muttering. What an awful, sneaky Mama! Definitely the Worst Mama Ever.

He has no trouble giving Anna a hard time. But I'm a bit of a conundrum. I'm just this guy, you know? I'm Mama's friend who's now Mama's extra-special friend, and I love J and J loves me, but I haven't raised him, I've just been around and we've gotten to know each other like any two other human beings. Much like we don't believe our mothers telling us we're cute or smart or whatever, we think that people a little farther away from us can see us more clearly; which is true, in many ways. He sometimes finds himself determined that something in the world is wrong, but then finds me doing it, and doesn't quite know what to think.

Take the issue of naming one's car. Anna's car has a name, which J has grown up with, and they talk about her as though she's a person. I don't really name my stuff. I address my car directly as "Car," and any pets I'm interacting with will often be Dog and Cat. J doesn't really like that my car is called "Car": he's very particular about names, and about being called "J" instead of nicknames.

("Buddy," "Kiddo," and curiously, "Monkeyferret" all seem to be okay. But man, the second time I referred to him and Anna as "the barbarian horde," he raised his voice a bit and said, "CHRIS DON'T MISTAKE US FOR THE BARBARIAN HORDE EVER AGAIN." So noted.)

Rightly or not, I perceive in him a desire to be judgemental about Car not having a proper name. But it's me, and I'm special, so he gets this delicious inner conflict. Then he lets go, because he can't really decide that I'm bad or wrong, and then he learns that people can do things differently than how he thinks.

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