Next up in the family introductions is Nathan. Just as Sophia had other blog names, Nate has been The Boy and The Actor.
I'm still amazed that this little guy who, when upset, would run across our old living room to throw himself on the floor, cover his face and be loudly inconsolable, is now in high school and learning to drive.
Even though we tend to associate intuition and compassion with the female of our species, Nate is probably our most intuitive child. Even when he was very young, he would pick up on the emotions of those around him. He was expert at reading body language and facial expressions.
"Mom, what's wrong? Why does your face look like that?" I can still hear his gravely voice asking me that question. He might not have been able to identify the emotion, but he could tell something was wrong - stress, frustration, anger, fear, exhaustion. It was hard to hide things from him.
That has not changed. Nor has his sense of compassion diminished. While he might not be willing to do anything about it or worse - he might be the cause of it - he's the child who will clue me in when someone else in the house (read: his sisters) is upset. It goes like this:
I'm working at my computer when Nate comes into the bedroom carrying our youngest cat. He puts her in my face.
"Don't aim that thing at me," I snap.
He puts the cat down and paces back and forth. Okay. What does he want?
I shift gears. "So, what's up?"
"There's a commercial." Do your kids do this? It's like having an annoying itch every 6.5 minutes.
He's also come to alert me to the fact that something is up with one of the girls, but he won't come right out and say it immediately.
"Sophie's writing you hate mail again." or "What's wrong with Chloe? She hasn't moved in three hours."
"Are you afraid she's going to fuse to the love seat again?" I ask.
"Well, yeah. And she's hogging the TV. I hate that stuff. I don't care what they say, I'm never going to say yes to the dress."
Of the three kids, Nate is the people person. The girls are loners like me. Nate has friends everywhere. His worst nightmare is to have nothing to do and no one with whom to do it. His father and I have learned that we don't have to punish Nate very much. He's so much harder on himself than we could ever be. The last time he and I had a blow out of epic proportions, we both ended up in tears, apologizing to the other. It was a moment of maturing for both of us.
Now we get to watch Nathan come into his own. He's taller than both MathMan and me. That's not so significant when you consider that we're both under 5'6", but for Nate, it's a huge source of pride and, in a society that values the taller person over the shorter one, a source of relief, as well.
He attends the school where MathMan teaches and is doing really well. He earned a spot on their baseball team and is applying to be part of their magnet program. Competitive by nature, he's determined to do better in school than his over-achiever sister Chloe did. That will be a hard climb, but he's got the brains to do it. Now our conversations revolve around applying oneself. My mother's voice comes from my mouth and I'm okay with it. I just hope he's a better listener than I was.
One of the hardest parts of being a parent to a kid like Nate is that he's not afraid to question authority, including ours. He's never going to be one who blindly follows. His mind is analytical and he can wear you down with logic.
I think sometimes I play favorites with Nate for two reasons. One, my inner twelve year old boy is thrilled to finally have an outlet; and two, his birth order is the same as mine. We're both the middle child.
Here's a crazy bit of trivia that means nothing, but I still think it's pretty cool - my siblings and I were born in 1961, 1965 an 1969. My kids were each born thirty years later - 1991, 1995 and 1999. And that is the extent of my mathiness. I can add by thirty. I'm a genius!
Nate offers me a glimpse into the world of being a boy that I would never have had otherwise. Even though I have a younger brother, I still wasn't privy to the boy culture like I've been as an observer and sometimes participant with my son and his friends.
Even so, Nate and MathMan form an alliance against the female dominated household sometimes. Because they're together at school, at baseball and during their commute there and back, they seem to have grown even closer. MathMan was only eighteen when his father died and I'm glad to see him have such a healthy relationship with our son. Although he rarely speaks of it, I know it's one of the greatest disappointments in his life that he didn't get to know his father as an adult.
While it doesn't happen as often anymore, Nate and I still get to hang out. We still talk smack and watch stupid TV. Our favorite line is "We have to stick to the plan. Someone is going to have to be buried alive." There's nothing like gallows humor over popcorn and root beer to draw a mom and her son together.
As I've worked on my manuscript, I've had the chance to work with Nate on some details and research. The kid knows his stuff about World War II and what he doesn't know, he's been helpful in steering me to find the information. I've also taken the opportunity to fictionalize him. That has been more fun and harder work than I first thought it would be. The characters in this first novel aren't even thinly disguised versions of my family. Come to think of it, the story was inspired by Nate and his quirky sense of humor.
At least I think he was kidding......