Monday, May 8, 2017

I Am Not My Son

I've settled into a groove with you haven't I?

My life appears to be all kitten, all the time.

It's not. I assure you. But it's so easy too look at Blitzen with his little belly roll, the way he tilts his tiny head, the way he sits with his front paws apart. He looks like a boy studying a gully. Is it too far to leap, will I fall into the mud, or can I make it?

Blitz doesn't leap well. He's gotten into the habit of asking Nick or Mike or me to lift him onto the washing machine where we keep the dry cat food away from Teddy. Teddy loves dry cat food, but he's allergic so if he eats some, he goes outside and pukes later on. It's always a flurry toward the door when he makes that gulping sound. Everyone with hands leaps from the couch or the computer or the food preparation in the kitchen to go unlatch that door and let him out. We only put the wet kitten food on the floor because it doesn't seem to bother anybody very much.

Did I tell you that everyone eats each other's food? Blitz eats diet cat food and dog food, turning his nose up at the kitten food I patiently put into a little bowl for him on the floor every morning. He asks for it, so I give it to him. Then he sniffs it and goes over to what I've given the dog and eats a little of that instead. I've tried different flavors, every flavor there is. He doesn't think, because I give it to him, that it could possibly be as good as what I give the dog and the old fat cat.

Didn't I tell you this already?

Didn't I tell you that when Teddy eats, Blitz likes to go and nip at his ankles and tail because he doesn't want the dog eating the food that is surely better than his own? And Teddy tolerates that, sometimes stepping back from the bowl and sometimes wolfing down what he can before he's kicked out entirely. Blitz never bothers to nip at Teddy's ankles when he sneaks over to eat from the kitten bowl. Why is that? And why do I never hear Teddy sneaking?

How does a dog keep his nails from clicking on a vinyl floor when he's headed for wet kitten food?

The sound of a dog tiptoeing.

I have to tell you that I'm in a groove. Nick drives himself to all of his own events. Evenings are quiet. Mike and I eat dinner together in front of the TV. We take walks together with Teddy. Even when Nick is home, he's behind a closed door, either playing video games, watching Netflix, or occasionally doing homework.

Yesterday, a friend of mine said, "I am not my daughter. If her life falls apart, that's not me."

It was like a coat I wanted to try on. I wanted it to fit. I wanted it to look good on me too.

Nick's life is not my own.

He's not an adult yet, but he's ready, with his closed-door message, to be let go of. A little. He can make his own plans. He can be late. He can, God forgive me, decide to watch television and play video games all weekend and never see a single friend.

I'm telling you that if Mike hadn't been in this household, that would not be the truth. There would have been limits starting at age four. I told Mike that I blamed him for the amount of time Nick spends in front of a screen.  I don't usually play the blame game, but with this, I did. He nodded his head and looked away. It wasn't the nicest move I've made during an argument, but it felt like the truth. I worry about the screen time. Nick's less social than he used to be. His reading and writing scores are lower than I know he's capable of achieving. He needs more exercise than he gets. The worst thing I can do is take away television or video games. It's as if I've actually injured him when it happens.

I worry. You can see that I worry, can't you?

So, Nick and I are at an uneasy truce with regard to his habit. He knows I don't approve. I've explained why I think it's too much. I've nagged. I've yelled. That time is past. I'm telling you that if it were drugs or alcohol, Mike would be onboard with any necessary treatment. He sees the damage that I see. He just thinks Nick will come out of it on his own. I'm not so sure.

So, I press my lips together or ineffectually nag once in a while. Nick ignores me and keeps watching. And I try not to stew about it.

I am not my son.

But with the funny kitten, the dog and his lovely walks, and the fat old cat who demands that I sit down so he can be petted, I have pulled myself away from living Nick's life. I am not Nick.

Instead, I occasionally tie a long string to Teddy's collar and get him to run around the house so that Blitz can chase it. The look on Teddy's face when he finally understood the game?


Thank you for listening, jb

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