We are coming up on a month together, and Peter Pan has become much more comfortable with us.
And sometimes that is really annoying.
He is obsessed with the song “Hello” by Adele, and whenever we drive anywhere, I hear it over and over ad nauseum. On our road trips, he puts Adele’s CD on and then falls asleep. But if I try to change it, somehow he magically wakes up and insists we keep the CD in. If I ask him to change it up, he will pull out my phone and bring up songs he likes on YouTube.
He usually plays Conor Maynard’s cover of “Hello.”
And there are other things, too. He tells me he has no dirty clothes, so I do all the laundry, and then he tells me he needs his favorite pants washed. He says he isn’t hungry, so I start dinner a little later, and then twenty minutes before we are ready to eat, he is dying of starvation and wants a sandwich. Getting him up every morning is a battle, even if he is excited for the day’s activities.
They are little things, but day by day, they can become maddening. Having him come into the kitchen every day like some magical hungry bug wondering why he can’t eat a sandwich immediately…over and over and over… it makes me feel like I am going insane. At least I have Adele to keep me company, I often wryly tell myself. She’s always so nice to say hello and ask how I am.
But there are reasons that he does what he does. Adele makes him happy. It’s relaxing because it’s familiar. It’s hard work to be immersed in another language, so a familiar song is like a little island of safety. When we do listen to the radio, we stop on ones he knows well.
And I know that part of it is because it’s the CD he found in my player when he got here, and I think on some level, he knew everything was going to fine with a lady who enjoys Adele, too. It’s become our song, our first musical connection. And I try to think about that as I listen and he snores.
The other things have reasons too. His clothing is precious. And food can be tricky—there’s always the fear that he won’t like what I’m making, so pre-gaming with a sandwich is a way to save face. As for getting out of bed, well, he’s a teen boy. I suppose that comes with the territory.
But just because there’s a logical explanation doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly frustrating. It takes a lot of grace to die to my own musical choices, or to repeatedly reassure him that it’s okay to not like my food and the sandwich can come after he tries the meal first. It’s slow going to build the trust that the clothes will be returned in good condition and that there will always, always be a sandwich.
It’s also easy to forget that I am annoying, too.
I think that we as adults can create a martyr complex within ourselves: we are forever seeing the flaws our children, correcting their behavior, teaching them the character truths they need. We forget that we, too, are flawed people. We forget that we can be maddening to those who are entrusted to us.
So I count out the ways that Peter Pan extends grace to me. I take an eternally long time to pick a movie. I don’t fold laundry very quickly. I don’t always understand what he is trying to say. I ask for his opinion more than once when he really doesn’t care, or has already made his selection. It takes me far too long to get a picture I like and I don’t understand how to compose a cool Instagram shot of a teen standing in an intersection without serious coaching. I say it’s time to go, and then I am the one dallying.
And there is grace for Little Man, too. While he loves Peter Pan and is a darling, sweet one, I am under no illusions at how frustrating he might be to a teenager. He finds the most annoying noises a body can make, and then makes them over, and over, and over. He pouts in a manner that can stop the activity we were all enjoying. He fights and bickers and is selfish and childish.
But even though these things bother Peter Pan, he quietly accepts them. He tells me patiently that any of the movie choices are fine with him—several times. Or he gently teases me to let me know I need to stop the madness before he goes crazy. He rolls his eyes at Little Man but says nothing. Sometimes there are critical words that sting, but they are almost always said with a heart to help improve our family. The thing I find most amazing is that he grows in affection toward us even as he gets to know all the insane pieces of who we are. And I can say the same about him.
This is how family is created.
It’s not in the Disney moments or the epic adventures. It’s in the everyday overlooking and loving anyway. It’s in the choosing of laughter instead of irritation. It’s in the learning about the not so pretty parts and digging in despite them.
It’s in the way that the very things that annoy us become the endearing quirks of a loved one well-known.
And that’s how I know that next week, as I drive away from the airport, I will be listening to that terribly annoying Adele CD on repeat with tears in my eyes.