Monday, September 03, 2007

Being the Oldest

My oldest child, Geeky Boy, is a great kid. He's kind and funny and smart. He seems to be well-liked by his peers. But he's not perfect, of course. Sometimes, because he is such a good kid, we have really high expectations and we're hard on him. We have higher expectations of him sometimes than we do of ourselves. For example, we ask him to keep his room clean when our own house is pretty unkempt.

Our oldest has had to live through the leanest years, has changed schools three times and left behind friends. When we moved here, he cried for days, usually when I was giving him a bath, begging to go back home. It was like a knife in the heart for me, especially since I, too, wanted to return. I had to put on a happy face and tell him everything was going to be okay even though I wasn't sure myself.

When we moved to this house, we actually let Geeky Boy guide us. As we drove up to what is now our house, there was a group of kids across the street huddled in a circle. "They're playing with Yu-Gi-Oh cards," he exclaimed from the back seat. "Can we move here?" And so we did. But our house is small, especially the kids' rooms and Geeky Boy is now starting to feel the squeeze. There's not much we can do about it, though. We do hope to add on to the house soon, but we don't know if we'll be able to improve the sizes of the bedrooms or add a new bedroom.

Sometimes I sense that Geeky Boy is disappointed or bitter or something. This doesn't happen often as he's a very cheerful person most of the time. Yesterday, for example, as we were discussing how to set up his room and get it organized for the school year and what we might buy to make the room better (a new bed or new dresser), he seemed disappointed that we couldn't do more. And he wasn't being a typical teenager who already has too much stuff complaining about the brand new clothes he/she'd just gotten. He didn't say anything really. It was just a look. A look of resignation. I suspect he has friends whose rooms are much larger and filled with video games and tvs. I suspect he knows we're doing our best, but somehow feels that's not good enough, but won't say anything.

I worry about him more than I probably should. I want him to be happy. I want him to be successful. And I want to provide him the support--emotional and otherwise--to help him be those things. But sometimes I feel I've let him down somehow. Maybe it's just that as he's gotten older, he rarely shows any emotion or response to much of anything, so it's hard to tell if something I've said or done has even registered. Maybe this gets worse as he heads to teenagehood. My own parents didn't figure very large in my own pre-teen and teen years and I suspect I'm just a blip on the radar screen for him. Important as a constant, perhaps, but not much more. I honestly don't know whether to be sad about this. He seems, as I said, to be doing just fine for the most part, and he hasn't totally cut me off yet. And it is part of life to begin to separate from your parents. But I remember a time not that long ago when we were best friends, living through the tough times together. I'll admit it hurts to not be that friend anymore.