Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Home Life

I was talking recently with someone who theorized that a possible explanation for the disjointed relationship of the adult siblings in the family was that growing up, the front rooms and the furniture had to be kept just so, which wasn't very conducive to bringing friends into the house. Consequently, the kids formed separate friendships and pursued separate interests outside the home, and sibling bonds seemed to be weaker as a result.

This was on my mind today as a neighborhood game of Mary and Laura was raging in my backyard. It's pretty free and easy at the Darwin household, and I'm a lenient mother and neighbor in many ways, but I did have to draw the line at seeing the neighbor girl tramping around dressed up in my boots (which were in my daughter's room because she took them over when I couldn't wear them during pregnancy). Sometimes I wonder if I've set the standards too low and if we'll ever have nice things again, or, more accurately, if nice things will ever be respected. Darwin bought a nice leather chair off of Craigslist, and several times a day I swat a cat or a boy off the back of it. The cat claws, the boy tumbles; a leather hide draped over the back deters the cat, but not much deters the boy in his excess of energy. One of the neighbor girls (we have a lot of girls in the neighborhood) will go into my bedroom and pick up the baby when he starts crying and bring him to me. I appreciate that, actually, and my bedroom is not a sacred parental retreat, but it is the repository of laundry in the house, and I'm aware that my room reflects the fact that I'm about the only person on the street who doesn't have a cleaning lady.

So we're not a showcase house by any means, and the furniture is, by and large, castoffs from the common rooms of the school of hard knocks, but on the other hand, I like having the action at my house because I can keep tabs on friendships and the temperature of neighborhood relations, and the neighbor kids like coming here because we have three times the kids of most families on the street, so even if the particular kid you're looking for isn't home, there's always someone to play with. And I'm glad to be a welcoming house, somewhere kids feel safe coming. A few years ago, the kids on the corner ran over here as the paramedics helped their mom into the ambulance while she was in labor. Recently the ten-year-old with fairly severe autism wandered off from the group walking a neighbor's dog, rang my doorbell, and then headed up to attic to dance a few steps before her sister ran over to fetch her. And that was okay, because it was good to know that she would choose to come to this house.

The various kids are closer to one friend or another, but all friendships are held in common here, as are most possessions and even the beds (though not my bed; I do draw the line there). Will it foster adult sibling relationships? I don't know, but I hope that we're forging bonds now that will hold later in life. Maybe by that time we'll get to have a nice couch.

The living room all cleaned up -- see the toys put away in our sophisticated storage system on our beautiful window seats. That's the bad couch on the right.


Jenny said...

I have always thought that I would like my children to have their siblings as their primary playmates, and while I would say this has happened so far, it isn't working out quite as I envisioned. Every time mine want to play outside, but a neighbor isn't home, there is much moaning over how there is nothing to do and no one to play with. The built-in playgroup of their siblings does not seem to count in their minds. Maybe we haven't hit the critical mass of children necessary.

I also thought that our house would be a place for kids to come and play, but mostly our kids beg to go to somewhere else. I think that attitude comes from two places. 1) The other houses on the street seem to have all cartoons all the time and we don't. 2) The truth is that there really is no where for them to play in our house. There is almost no open floor space. :/

BettyDuffy said...

That room would be beautiful no matter what, with those windows, and that wood mantle.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I wish our neighborhood had hordes of kids for mine to play with. But as it is I guess I'm just glad my kids have each other. But I'm pretty sure, based on my observations of how they act when in groups with other kids, that if they weren't homeschooled, Bella and Sophie would pretty quickly drift apart. Bella ditches her sister as soon as other interesting kids are around to play with.

And what Betty Duffy said about those windows and that mantle.

Emily J. said...

I always kind of admired my aunt and uncle for putting a pool table and a big screen tv in their basement as a way of providing a space for their teenagers and friends to hang out. We don't have a basement or the desire for a big TV, and I find myself frequently uttering my mother's old refrain when yet another item crashes/burns/tears/disintegrates: "Why can't I have nice things?" But the neighbor kids do like to wander over. I agree with you that I'd rather have them here than my kids there.