When I was picking the boys up from the CDC today, I was briefly chatting with a longtime CDC staffer who's just announced he's leaving. I could see the boys as they were supposed to be gathering their things, and then noticed Julian standing and crying. Then I saw Gabriel laughing with three friends.
Turns out, Gabriel had whirled his jacket around and the zipper had smacked Julian right in the back. There was a nasty welt and swollen spot where impact had occurred. To make matters worse, Gabriel was laughing.
Other kids calm down very quickly and listen with fascination when another kid is being scolded. I was moderately stern with Gabriel while his friends stood staring wide-eyed -- not nearly representing how furious I was with him. I informed him he was spending the whole evening at home in his room. I've told them all many many many times not to swing jackets around; the zippers can really hurt.
Gabriel told me later he was laughing because he thought the welt on Julian's back was in the shape of an 'e'. As if that made it any better. I was so angry at him I just didn't even want to be around him. Then I get upset at that too: I want so so much to be near him and talk to him in our precious short evening time together, in the precious short few years we have left together -- why does he do these awful things that poisons our time together?
Increasingly, the working-parent guilt creeps in. I think Gabriel needs more home downtime. He needs great projects he can sink himself into, to dive into, to be in his favorite and best mode. He's always been great at self-entertaining, but the bar is higher now that he's older. And in fact, his life at the CDC after school prevents him from exercising that self-entertainment, because he has no quiet time alone to just....do. Left to his own devices, Gabriel spends hours working on something, happily humming away to himself. There's just not enough of that in his life.
Meantime, I'm slowly settling into work. As I expected, the learning is the best pull there...I'm loving learning about new technology. Every day, something comes up in which I have to go scour a dense technical specification to go find a tiny fact. That's really great. I'd thought that part of my life was over, but it's still very much a part of me. I like learning, I really like my coworkers, I love my immediate manager, my confidence is being restored every day.
And I like being around men again -- the mom world is dominated by women, which I also loved, but so much of my adult life has been spent primarily around men that when the only man I had a meaningful conversation with for weeks was Dave, I felt something was missing. It's a different style of conversation, but one I'd grown to know well from years and years of working and riding motorcycles around almost all men. There are plenty of women to chat with at work too too, but the atmosphere is male-dominated, and that's a comfort zone for me.
Still, much is expected of an engineer of my level -- can I do that and still be a good mother to my slightly-unusual firstborn son? He needs so little from me on the surface, but what he does need, he needs intensely. Nowadays we don't have the luxury of shrugging our shoulders like parents of yore and saying "well that's life." Just because he's bored doesn't mean he can physically abuse Julian and laugh, of course. But what can I do -- what should I do?