Backhand spring

A week ago, I was performing the quintessentially Thunder Bay action of shoveling my front lawn — trying to even out the piles of snow so that we wouldn’t be stuck again in April with a fossilized mountain of ice and dirt in the northeast corner of the front yard. But today? It’s mid-March, and all the snow is already gone. I find myself feeling oddly unprepared, as though dinner guests have arrived early and the house is still a disaster, the oven still cool to the touch. The little feedback loop inside my brain is saying things like We don’t have spring jackets for the kids yet, and Rowan’s bike needs repairs, and I have not planted any seeds indoors yet, and these kind of things make me feel as though I am late, not that spring is freakishly early, literally sprung upon us, still sleepy-eyed and coming out of hibernation. In other words, the weather is my fault. How’s that for self-flagellation?

Not that I’m not enjoying it, the slipping on of sandals and following Rowan down the street on the season’s first ride on his mostly usable bicycle. And the kids, for them it’s like winter never happened. They don’t stop to marvel, like Rachel and I do, about the sudden greening of the grass in the backyard and the ability to kick around a soccer ball and the no snowsuits — NO SNOWSUITS! They just do it, in the moment, stripping off winter layers and letting them fall into the spring dirt.

Yesterday, after lunch, I met up with Rowan and Isaac and their babysitter at the park. It’s March break — spring break (and, to quote Rachel over at 6512 and Counting, “a good thing because gosh, those preschoolers have a rough schedule, what with snacktime and recess every two hours”). I met up with them at the park because we had signed Rowan up for gymnastics camp for four afternoons this week, on the assumption that since he loves his weekly gymnastics class and said “Yes” when we asked him, four weeks ago, if he would like to go to said camp, that this was a good idea.

You know where this is going, right? Should I just stop right here and not write any more? What about this: those of you who don’t really need to keep reading to know that, of course, when I showed up to bring him to gymnastics camp yesterday, when I showed up at the sunshiny park where he was merrily digging in the thawed sand with his brother, he didn’t want to go anywhere near gymnastics camp, you guys just go get a coffee or check your e-mail or something for a minute. And then the rest of you can hear about how he refused to get in the car even after I tried to bribe him with a yogurt tube, and so I left him with his babysitter and his brother and came home, defeated.

What was I going to do, I asked Rachel over the phone, short of physically forcing him into the vehicle and hurling him, screaming, onto a balance beam?

In truth, I wasn’t surprised. Since his initial embracing of the gymnastics camp idea, Rowan has steadily backpedaled. “I want to go to the babysitter's every day,” he kept telling us. “I only go to gymnastics on Thursdays. I don’t want to go to gymnastics CAMP — just gymnastics. On Thursdays.” Still, we persevered, hoping that he might have a sudden change of heart. Why we persevered, I don’t know. We’ve been here, with swimming lessons, with indoor soccer, and now with gymnastics camp: Rowan knows what he wants, and what he likes. As he said to us at the dinner table last night, more calmly than he had in the park yesterday afternoon, “I’m sorry, but that’s just how I do things.”

On Thursdays.

So, we’ve shelved gymnastics camp. And, for some period of time that I cannot quite specify just yet, I’m shelving the idea of signing him up for any prepaid, organized activity. Because, my kid? My kid does what he does, when he does it, and it’s not worth the heartache to try to force him to do things he doesn’t do, when he doesn’t want to do them.

Maybe I would be more worried if he spent all day watching TV, if he wasn’t thrilled to go to gymnastics (on Thursdays) and music classes (on Mondays), if he didn’t want to play soccer in the backyard with us (as opposed to on the Astroturf of the indoor gym) or ride his bike every possible chance he got, if he didn’t read dozens of books weekly. Maybe I would be more worried if I didn’t recognize so much of myself in him. Despite my mother’s exhortations for me to take up what she hilariously called a “social sport” (does pool count?) I never learned to play golf or tennis and I don’t regret that for a minute. I refused to go when she signed me up for baseball, although I managed to swim competitively for years and, like my sons, loved gymnastics. I did — and I do — things how I do things. Why? Because I’m not a joiner. Hi! Look at me! Working by myself in my home office! For the past dozen years!

Still, as much as I recognize myself in Rowan, part of me — and I’m working hard to get over this part — still gets so frustrated at his refusals, still feels as though if I were just a better parent, he’d play indoor soccer and skip off to swimming lessons and gleefully jump in the car to go to gymnastics. Part of me wishes we could spring new things on him — travel, for example? — and that he would rise, gracefully, to the challenge.

But that’s not my boy. My boy does things the way he does them, and, like the weather, he does them neither early nor late but right on his own schedule. It’s not my fault, or his — it’s just how things are. And I can fret about them, or I can revel in the sun on my bare arms, my feet in sandals, my son pedaling his bike down the street, training wheels hovering over the pavement.

 PS: That said, any stories of commiseration most welcome.