Regarding Dominic, one of our friends recently said, “Man, I can’t wait to see how that kids turns out.” It is a comment that encapsulates both his adorability and his … quirkiness. No doubt, he is earnest and affectionate, and, let’s face it, downright cute, so he is able to charm people somewhat effortlessly. But it’s good that it doesn’t take effort, because he is far too oblivious to the fact that he can be charming to actually make something of it.
In fact, “oblivious” might be the best word to sum him up these days. He can be into his book, or into his LEGOs, or lost in his own imagination, and you can say his name, over and over again, louder and louder, and get no response from him. At first I mistook it for selective hearing, but no, he really doesn’t hear you. He’s that lost in his own head.
Dominic geeks out like no one else. And he’s always eager to share. Whether it’s about his latest discovery in Minecraft, or something to do with his imaginary video game, Whip, or superheroes (he’s mostly a Marvel guy, but nevertheless adores Batman), he will be happy keep talking, at length, oblivious to whatever social cues you might throw his way that you’ve heard enough. As someone prone to a bit of geeking out myself, and someone familiar with most of the things he’s into, and someone who’s his father, even I sometimes get a little weary of all his carrying-on.
He sometimes seems like a bit of a loner. When we had actual (barely) sleddable amounts of snow a couple days ago, he expressed no interest whatsoever in going outside and playing in it. He’s often fine playing alone, and when he does crave company he’ll drift into a situation with a single other playmate, if possible. And yet, for his birthday party he had no trouble listing off the classmates he wanted to have over, and playing ringleader to all their antics at the party itself.
School-wise: I’m not sure he’ll ever be able to keep track of his own homework (see “oblivious,” above), but everything is coming pretty easily to him. His reading continues to improve at an alarming rate. He’s taking on short chapter books with ease now, albeit sometimes complaining at their relative lack of pictures. His handwriting is still pretty atrocious. His Spanish-language teacher, the one he has for math and science, was a little concerned about his behavior and ability to “focus” early in the school year. That all seems to have cleared up, though — I suspect it had more to do with her than with him — and now he’s one of her favorites.
He’s doing a Tae Kwon Do after school club at the moment, and recently announced that in the spring he’d like to take a class at Grand Master Yang’s dojo instead of doing soccer. Suanna and I breathed a sigh of relief at this, because, much as he enjoys soccer, he is a classic Ferdinand on the field, darting up and down, oblivious (there is it again!) to the actual location of the ball. Who knows how it will turn out with Tae Kwon Do, but he enjoys it, and is devastatingly cute when he does his stances. (I realize that that is probably not the desired effect, but there it is.)
He’s the kid with allergies, poor guy. With winter here it seems like he’s always sniffling. Humidifier in the room at night, Flovent, Nasonex, even with all that it never seems like quite enough, and it’s easy — too easy — for him to get short of breath running around. In the past, it all meant he got sick more often, colds and ear infections and the like. But he rarely gets sick these days. It may have something to do with the constant stream of fruit he takes into his body, all day, every day. Mostly apples, but bananas will do if we’re out of apples. He’s not great at remembering to throw the cores away, and so we are always finding them lying around the house or in the car.
Looking back over what I wrote about him last year, I see that a lot of things — the apples, the geeking out, the reading — are all continuations, and nothing new. But it would be wrong to think of him as largely unchanged this past year. Everybody comments on how much older he looks — taller, a little more thinned out. A little more … mature? That word doesn’t quite seem to fit someone who is still capable of full-on, kicking-on-the-floor temper tantrums. But there’s something to it. The two of us are always sitting down cross-legged across from each other on the floor to play a board game, but while that’s always been fun, I think it’s crossed over from fun-because-you’re-teaching-your-kid-to-do-something to fun-because-it’s-just-fun. It’s the difference between doing something for him and doing something with.
Finally, I made a conscious choice to write all of the preceding without any reference to his big sister, Ella. That was really, really hard to do. Inevitably, I frame his traits in comparison to hers, and so much of his behavior is driven by his relationship with her. So, to end, one sibling anecdote:
Every morning it’s a struggle to get him out the door in time for school. Our adorable space cadet can easily lose track of the task at hand (putting clothes on, eating breakfast). Task-minded Ella is always ready to head out the door right on time, and now that she’s old enough to walk to school herself, she doesn’t hesitate to leave without her brother, leaving me to rush him through getting his shoes and coat on and escorting him to school. But he really, really likes walking to school alongside his sister. They both are kind of eager for the moment when I don’t even come along at all, when they do the whole walk by themselves, but not so much for Ella to leave a single minute late on account of her brother, and not so much for Dominic that he will actually eat his breakfast in a timely fashion. (It may also be the case that their father doesn’t quite want to give up the daily ritual of walking them to school …) Anyway, almost every morning, Dominic leaves a minute or two behind Ella, and once out the door, he breaks into a run to catch up to her. He’ll dash ahead of me to the corner, eager to catch a glimpse of her further down Commonwealth Avenue, and then he’ll glance back at me, still trotting behind, for the nod for him to cross the street and keep heading after her. And here’s the thing: Ella, for all her punctuality, for all her exasperation at her brother not being ready to leave on time, she lingers. She really doesn’t want to walk to school alone any more than he does, and so she’ll hurry out the door only to slow her stride halfway there and give him a chance to catch up. By the time they reach the light with the crossing guard across from school, they’ve been walking together for a block, Dominic trying to talk to Ella about something, Ella trying to maintain her aura of impatience, but actually happy to have him there. If I walk fast enough I can give them each a kiss on the head before the light turns and they dash across the street into school together.