It feels like it’s been forever since I last wrote. But it hasn’t. Not really.
Yesterday was Ryder’s first day at school. I expected more trouble from him, based on his past attitude about it, but he seemed resigned to the fact that he had to go. He certainly didn’t make a fuss about it, just quietly ate breakfast and gathered his schoolbooks and left to catch the bus. I barely even got to wave goodbye before he was gone, it was that fast.
I puttered around the house all morning, trying to find something to interest me.. but for a change, nothing was broken, nothing needed cleaning.. and the garden was waiting for Caleb’s help when he gets home from school.With nothing better to do, I talked with Jared for a while, then decided to go out collecting, even though we didn’t need the money.
By the time the boys got home from school, I was sweaty and dirty and really just wanted a nap.. but mothering waits for no-one. Ryder had apparently had too much fun on the playground, and came home wanting nothing more than a long soak in the bathtub, and Caleb just wanted to watch a movie. I needed him to work in the garden, but I agreed to let him watch one before he and I went outside.
While Ryder danced with Jared, Caleb and I finally headed outside to care for the unruly garden. Waiting until later to deal with the weeds and the bugs always seemed to make it take more time, but I tried to be okay with it. Despite being bored stiff (apparently the movie hadn’t been very good), Caleb soldiered on, learning to be a gardener in case that was what was in his future. He seemed to be picking up the skill fairly well under my tutelage, and I couldn’t be prouder.
But that was before he dropped a bit of a bombshell.
“Mom?” he asked tentatively while we gardened.
Surprised, I stopped for a moment, then answered, “What..? Should I be worried?”
“No!” He insisted.. but took a rather long pause before saying, “At least, I don’t think so.”
Now I really was worried. “What’s up?”
“Nothing big, really.” he paused again. “Or at least, nothing too big.”
Trying to be patient, I waited for him to continue. It was another two plants of weeding on his part before he felt ready to continue.
“Mom, this lady visited our Simlish class this afternoon. She was talking about this new project that has been set up, trying to get some kids to join.” He looked at me tentatively. “I’d really like to join.”
“Don’t you already have enough on your plate with the government contract?” I asked worriedly. “What kind of “project” is this?”
He took a deep breath, weeded a couple more plants then blurted out, “It’s a pen pal project.”
“A what?” I asked, surprised.
“Well, when you moved in, you said the only thing you had was a mailbox.. so.. I figured that mailbox had to be working, right?” He stopped gardening and looked at me, his face all hopeful.
“Of course it worked. How do you think I sell all the things I collect and harvest?” I replied, confused.
“Then I could use my mailbox to send letters!” He said, smiling. Then his face fell. “But we need parental permission to sign up…”
“Okay. Stop. What exactly are you asking?” I said, trying to wrap my head around his disjointed questions.
“Well, here’s how it works. There’s sims in other towns, other cities, some are kids, some are adults.. some might even be different races or kinds of sims… and they’re interested in writing to other sims. Like me. I would write letters to whichever sim I’m paired with, and they would write back. We would be pen pals. At least, that’s how the lady described it.”
“So you’d just be writing letters, not meeting them? You know we have restrictions placed on our travel with the contract, right?” I replied, still concerned.
“Of course, mom. I’d only meet them if it could be worked out within the restrictions, and not until I’m older. Right now I would just be writing letters to another sim.”
He looked so very hopeful, but tried to play it off. I hated to feel so negative about it, but the fact that it might be another adult sim made me worried. What if they were a bad influence? What if they wanted more than a few letters? I watered a couple of plants, then said, “So you could be writing to an adult or a child? Is there a way to pick one or the other? How do you get matched up?”
“That I’m not sure about. I know they use our profiles to pair us up. I don’t know if I could request another child. But I don’t think it should matter. Why would it? I’m just writing about my life and they write about theirs. Getting to know each other, like. I like meeting new people, and meeting someone from far away would be so exciting. Please say I can sign up? I have to put in my application next week if I’m going to do it.” His sentences almost ran together, he was so excited about it.
“Give me this weekend to think about it, then. And talk to your father about it, too. I’ll let you know Monday before school, okay? Now can we finish gardening, or what?” I laughed as lightly as possible, trying to bring back the companionable silence we had been gardening in before this came up.
His face fell, almost like he knew I was going to say no. “Alright, Mom. Monday, then.”
We went back to gardening, but now there was so much tension between us. I tried to relax, but thoughts and worries about his future and getting mixed up in this pen pal project kept intruding into my thoughts.
All day, it was all I could think about. While Caleb and I watched TV.
While I cooked dinner.
While the boys chatted excitedly about Ryder’s first day at school.
While we sat down to a lively family dinner.
While I read a story to Ryder before bed.
While I helped Caleb with his homework.
I tried to think about other things, but it seemed like it was impossible. Finally, the boys were asleep. I woke up Jared so I could talk to him about it. See what he thought of Caleb’s new idea.
I explained as best I could why I was worried about it.
Jared listened, and I could tell he was trying hard to be properly horrified by the possibility. But he just couldn’t do it.
“I think it’s a good thing, Keira. Let him meet new people. You know he’s always been drawn to strangers, ever since he was just a tot. It doesn’t mean he will be in any danger. Since the program is approved by the school, it must be safe for them. And we’ll be here to monitor things, make sure everything’s okay. We should let him do it.” He said decisively.
And then he went back to bed. Leaving me up, unable to sleep with my worries. My hopefully needless worries.
Eventually, I was able to sleep. It was going to be a long weekend.