Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Third World Green Daddy 48: Life as a family

Last week was the first time in a long time, perhaps in my life,  that I left work and came home to my family.  In the past, I had never had a legit, long-term job and a family living with me at the same time.  This was a big event, and a wonderful feeling to finish a good day's work and look forward eagerly to seeing my wife and child. 

Three weeks ago my wife and my son came to live in our small town for the first time in almost two years.  She has worked out a work-from-home arrangement with her job, so they timed their homecoming to coincide with Holy Week vacations.  Hence that first week we were reunited I didn't go to work, and we spent much of the time organizing various logistical things for their new living arrangement in our town.

Another activity that occupied a good part of our vacations was a trip to my father-in-law's farm.  It had been months since we'd last visited; since Caro and I lived apart, our precious weekends together were usually spent traveling between Bogota and our town, and we were usually too tired to make the many-hour journey to the farm on top of all that travel.  But now, living as a family in our house, it was no longer difficult to drive together to the farm, and I believe that for the next few months we will go there every other weekend or so, like a summer cottage.  This is especially the case as I am still in the process of organizing a parcel that I intend to plant to coffee.

Starting on our vacation week and continuing to the present, I've also become closer to Sam, my son.  He and I have always gotten along, and when we have been together I've spent a lot of time with him.  But it was always an adjustment for him to spend the week without me, and then to have Dad around on the weekend.  There were certain things he usually preferred to do with his mother as opposed to me, like going to the bathroom or eating.  I always felt bad not to be able to help with these things, especially as my wife was always so tired from her work. 

These past weeks though, Sam has become accustomed to having me around, and sometimes even prefers to do certain things with me and not Caro.  I feel happy to be closer to him, and happy to contribute more to our family's household functioning.  It is a big change though to be totally attentive and responsible to Sam now, as opposed to before when I had to abdicate many responsibilities because he wouldn't let me do things for him.

As for my job, I have been noticeably less interested and motivated now that I know the two people I most want to be around are nearby.  This is aided by the fact that we're wrapping up a big project now, so things are not as fascinating and inspiring as when we were in the thick of fieldwork.  At any rate, many an afternoon I have found myself just wanting to get home to see my family.  I'm sure this sloth of mine will improve as I get more used to having them around.

Another big change contingent upon our recent restructuring is that Sam is in a new preschool (incidentally the same school his mother and his cousin went to in their day).  Caro and her mother thought it would be very traumatic for him, but he has adjusted well, and really looks forward to going to school every day.  Even the school uniform, which is a new requirement that was absent in his more free-form school in Bogota, hasn't bothered him much.  It is a navy blue sweatsuit on Tuesdays and Fridays, and a navy blue blazer with tartan checkered pants the other days, both with the school's little crest on the chest.  He puts up some resistence to getting dressed in the morning, but then he doesn't want to take off his uniform at bedtime!

Anyway, with the new school as with many things in parenting, I think Sam is much more adaptable and resilient than the adults around him.  We as parents often fear changes much more than our kids do, and it's important not to project our own fears and neuroses onto children that don't yet have them. 

On the topic of fear, Sam and Caro recently watched the movie "Finding Nemo".  Caro says it was a traumatic experience--the movie opens with the main character's mother getting killed, which prompted my son to cry disconsolately.  Just when Caro was trying to calm Sam by telling him that surely everything would work out okay, the little fish lost his father, and the rest of the movie heaped tragedy upon tragedy.  They never got through with it, because Sam was so shaken up.  I normally try not to shield my child from the harsh realities of life, and indeed many children's tales deal with loss and tragedy as seen by kids.  But on the other hand, I don't want to traumatize my son.  I don't know where the healthy midpoint is between shielding kids from reality and exposing them to issues they're not yet ready to take on.

One last new development is that we are also expecting another child which, not yet knowing its gender, we refer to alternately as "Frijolita", "Poopies", or "Twillbe".  Up until now I haven't even really digested this bit of news, as our frantic, hectic situation of living apart kept my mind busy with other things.  But again, now that Caro and I are under the same roof and our life has assumed a slightly more tranquil rhythm, I've started to think more about this new baby.  I'm not as nervous as with Sam, and frankly we're not doing much special preparation beyond prenatal checkups and vitamins and such.  We've already got many of the necessary accoutrements from Sam's infancy, so there isn't a lot of shopping to be done.  But I don't want to be complacent or neglectful, either.  I am making a point to try to talk to and read to the new fetus, just as we did with Sam.  At this point we've only just started the D'Aulaires' book of Greek myths, which is really excellent (though obviously the new baby can't see the wondeful illustrations).  It's not easy to make time for the baby with Sam running about and demanding attention, and it's a challenge to coordinate the things I want to read to Sam with things I intend for the baby.  But we're muddling our way through. 

As Caro, Sam, Frijolita, and I spend more time together in our cozy house, I hope this muddling will gradually evolve into a more harmonic, organized setup.

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