They have spent hours—days even—building their tree fort. They have worked together, usually nicely. They’ve recruited neighbor kids to help them. And even though I cringe every time I look at it, I think of how much they love it and how many hours of joy it has given them, and I can’t help but like it despite itself.
“Can you believe that we made that all by ourselves?” they ask. Yes. Yes I can. But I reply, “No! It is amazing!”
I have a problem, which is that my fantasy of raising children doesn’t align with the reality. My phantom children really aren’t much like the flesh and blood and bones, the real little people that stand before me every day. The family trip to the cabin in the woods doesn’t involve the cartoon network in my head. Video games never figured prominently in my imagined family life. We didn’t eat so damned much plain pasta.
But here it is. I have these three little boys right in front of me, and they are three people with thoughts in their own heads. One loves video games. One loves meat. One hates meat. All three wrestle with one another every time I turn my back. There is a little blood most days. There is a lot of blood some days. They say bad words. But, too, they tell me they love me soooooo much. I couldn’t feel the spine tingling joy of that in my fantasies.
So maybe it's not a problem after all.
We have plans to cut the tree down. That is why we told them they could do whatever they wanted to it in the first place. But once the tree is gone, that is one more part of these little boys that is gone as they lurch toward adulthood. I think we’ll keep it around for a while longer.
1 month ago