Brendan the Beautiful is sweeping the floor while belting out Singing in the Rain for the nine millionth time. He pops in to ask if sweeping can be rewarded with cash, and I say “no, but it needs to be done.” Like me, he is not consistent with cleaning, but once he’s thought of a project, he will complete it. Besides, sweeping will provide a backdrop to singing and tap-dancing. He pops in with a second idea and a third to garner him more allowance money: nope. He takes my response cheerfully, and offers to clean the kitty litter box anyway.
This is the third day it’s been just Brendan and me, while Madeleine is at Arts Camp. Monday he was utterly lost, though this “quiet summer” was his idea. He lounged upside down on the couch, begged me to go get things for him, glanced at book after book without getting involved in any of them, complained when I “forced” him to eat breakfast and lunch. He interrupted my work and complained for a day. Yesterday we completed some errands and he agreed to sort baseball cards at the Tea Shoppe, so I could attend my writing group. When we returned home, he constructed an elaborate city on the floor, made of blocks and train tracks. He didn’t want to leave it, hours later. Then miraculously, while I was reading my homework, he reported he’d cleaned it all up “because I didn’t really want to play with it anymore.” Am I dreaming? No, he's still being very pester-y for too much of the day. But not now. Right now he's a dream.
He needs these hours to be in charge of himself and his own imagination. He knows that. But it’s taken this many days for him to grasp hold of it for himself. He slowly unwinds in the quiet hours, each day a little more. He wanted to try cooking, today, so he grilled kielbasa rounds while I did my magazine work at the kitchen table. He wants to make a little money: I’ve devised a few chores he can complete, folding socks and towels. We need to figure out picnic options for a dinner at Madeleine’s camp. We might go to the beach when the tide is right. Meanwhile, he is humming and wielding the broom, self-motivated, and I am reading the second book of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Now he’s put on a CD of salsa music to clean by— I know I said “no” to paying him. But I will devise some reward to surprise him, later today, because I'm madly in love with his concentration and contentment, and because he's letting me get my work done. For now I stay out of his way and let him follow his cleaning and dancing muse.
For now I am very, very lucky. Off to my books.