June 21, 2006

Oedipus and Electra

While we were walking into town for ice cream the other day, Nathaniel asked his mother to hold his hand. Camille did. He said, “No, like Daddy holds it,” and carefully put her arm through his.

Then he added “Now we're married.”

These moments are precious. At six and seven, the kids seem so often to push us away, to assert their independence, to establish their distance, that we really cherish the moments when they want to be close.

Pretending to be married to Mom is a paradox of independence.

On the one hand, Nathaniel is envisioning his adulthood. He's recognizing that someday he will be a man, possibly a husband. On the other hand, he's craving intimacy with his mother, a little jealous of her bond with Dad.

Jessica has recently learned how to wink. She hasn't mastered the subtleties yet. Her winks involve turning her head sideways and painstakingly scrunching the right side of her face while she stretches her eye open on the left, maintaining a furrow of concentration on her forehead all the while. But she's proud of the skill, and in her weaker moments even teases her big brother. “When are you going to learn to wink, Nathaniel? It's not hard. All you have to do is this. See? Mom, I wonder why Nathaniel can't wink. . . .”

At the table last week, Jessica winked at me. I winked back.

“Don't you wink at my husband,” Camille teased.

“Why not?”

“Because girls shouldn't wink at married men.”

Forbidden fruit is succulent, indeed. At every meal since, whenever there's been a moment of quiet, Jessica has remembered to wink at me.

“Look, Mom,” she says impishly, through a carefully contorted face. “Look! I'm winking at a married husband.”

(When I want to read about other children's antics, I check out the 25th Carnival of Homeschooling.)

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