Friday, September 08, 2006

Sitting at the Big Folks' Table

The other evening, Tucker was sweeping the kitchen floor, Max was in the living room allegedly doing homework, and I was in the family room folding laundry. Our home is a split-level, so even though the three of us were in different rooms, it was easy to communicate with one another.

Tuck seems to do some of his best thinking when he's sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor. I can't tell you why; but that job takes him approximately three times longer than it has to simply because he continuously stops to chat. That evening, he had explorers on his mind. He's in fifth grade, and his class is knee-deep in a unit on global exploration. Whenever I hear the names Magellan, de Gama, and Ponce de Leon, I am instantly transported back to my own fifth-grade classroom at Lincoln Elementary School in Wisconsin. Explorers and fifth grade go hand-in-hand.

Tuck began talking about what he was learning, and Max chimed in with his two cents (which is always more like five hundred sixty-two dollars), and then I got involved in the conversation. For ten minutes, the three of us discussed the pros and cons of each explorer in terms of how interesting each was. It was a lively conversation.

And when it was over, I realized that for the first time ever, Tuck was able to participate in an intellectual conversation with his older brother. Those two talk about music, guitars, bands, and playing techniques all the time. But dinner time is often taken up with a discussion begun by Max regarding some current news topic. This stuff often goes right over the heads of the younger kids, and then boredom sets in and Bella breaks the serious atmosphere by burping (or worse) like a truck driver.

But this time, Tuck got in on the dialogue, and it was really fun for me to listen to those two go back and forth. At bedtime, I asked Tuck if he realized what had come to pass in the kitchen with that conversation, and he grinned and said "Yeah. I actually had something to say that Max felt was worth listening to." As most younger siblings do, Tuck has always compared himself to his big brother, and in his estimation, has often come up short. Not this time. I could see how empowering those few minutes were for him, and I silently celebrated the milestone. And for the rest of the evening, Max treated Tuck more like a friend and less like a nuisance; he recognized what happened, too. For those few minutes, Tuck was a peer.

Anyone who has more than one child realizes that scenes like the one I just described are blessings. The kids put aside their differences and get caught up in whatever it is that's brought them together, even if only for a short time. I'll take that sort of thing anywhere I can get it. I imagine teachers experience this now and then, too. It's got to be one of the definite perks of the job.

His whole life, Tuck has been the child of mine who never seems to age. In my mind's eye, he's still a small child with a bowl haircut and a face that wrinkles up with glee. That perception was shattered Tuesday night, as I listened to him confidently debate with his big brother which explorer would be more interesting to research for a social studies project.

It's hard, in a way, to let go of the visual of Tuck as a toddler. But it's nothing short of divine to embrace the preadolescent he's become. And that he recognizes his own progress and claims ownership of just doesn't get any better than that.


Judith K. Witherow said...

Wonderful--as usual. Keep up the great stories about your children. We now live precariously through our grandchildren. Then again--when the adult guys get together they turn back into children. It must be something mystical about this house.
Till later, Judith

Mary A. Shafer said...

This was so cool to read, like I was there. Thanks. :)

Judith K. Witherow said...

Tuck sounds just like my middle son Stacey. He has always been different from the womb onward.
We always try to treat our children the same way where love is concerned, but a mother can spot the uniqueness that isn't there in the others. It starts in the womb and doesn't diminish though the years. I wish it did. Stacey is my twin in almost every way. There's the hope that both boys thrive a lot longer then any of us believe. Especially them.