Tonight feels . . . strange.
My children are in bed and, presumably, sleeping.
James has gone to a friend's house seeking publishing advice and offering food.
The house is quiet, and maybe that is strange. Maybe it feels strange because after having two months off work, I went back for a week and then had a week off because of Labor Day. Maybe I've been listening to too much public radio in the car. I heard from both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. I've had enough of politics for a while.
But that's just me avoiding the issue.
Boo has a friend who comes to our house after school three days a week. Boo's friend brought over a friend today. We had never met the little boy who came over, and he wasn't even sure where he lives because he's new to the area. He was a polite boy, according to James. (I was at work and only met him briefly when I came home after 7:00 tonight.) But bringing home a child we'd never before met, whose parents we don't know, without prior arrangement was quite stressful. Especially because the boy's mother said she was on her way an hour and a half before she arrived at our house.
A few things stood out to James, though. The boy has two older brothers. One is in prison. When a child tells you that, how do you react? He was eager to meet Boo's "baby brother" who was napping when the children came home from school. He was excited when he heard Ji stirring. So excited that Boo ran into the room and woke Ji from his nap too early. The boy was amazed that a prayer was said before dinner. He praised James's pasta, saying it was so good. He seemed unconcerned by his mother's delay in coming to get him. After all, he was having a lovely time playing with Boo's dolls.
But how do address this situation emotionally? Obviously, this child felt a sense of comfort from the stability and routine of our home. He was happy here. But James was surprised at how stressful the situation felt. And I was more than surprised to see an unknown child at our house after seven o'clock at night. Not really upset but definitely confused.
I don't know what to think about this situation. James may have briefly met his mother in the car when she came to pick him up. He spent four hours here, so he's no longer a stranger. But the situation is strange. It makes a pit in your gut that you can't shake. It's not that his mother must be irresponsible or that his home must be unhappy; it's that you aren't sure how to feel.
Even though Boo didn't bring him over, we told her that we need to make arrangements before children come over to play, especially right after school. She seemed to understand, but she couldn't take responsibility, obviously.
But maybe he needed to come over today.
Maybe he needed to hear a prayer over dinner.
Maybe he needed to eat James's delicious pasta sauce.
I don't know.
When I was a teenager, my parents let a couple of my brothers' friends live at our house. There were problems. These young men had been involved in some trouble. My parents wanted to help them. My dad told me recently that he realizes now that he was "naive enough" to think our family could influence them for the better and give them some stability. After one of the young men introduced some bad habits to some of my siblings, my dad realized that the influence had gone wrong. Maybe that's why I feel skeptical. Boo is only eight, and a little boy who plays with dolls is certainly no threat.
But it feels . . . strange. It feels strange in the familiar way that I felt strange when one of the young men would try flirting with me, even though he was eighteen or nineteen and I was only thirteen. Nothing ever happened, but I felt uneasy. I felt uneasy in my own home because we had opened our door to him.
But we can't close our door. It doesn't seem right.
So how do you manage your feelings in such a situation?