My first clue came yesterday morning, when I woke up to a bedroom that can best be described as "cluttered."
Then I descended downstairs to find one boy taking apart a remote-controlled car (yes, another one) and another anxiously waiting for me to write the words to his latest science fiction story.
In that moment, the chaos and clutter of my life here was worth far more than the luxury and ease of my New York existence. My daily life may be unpredictable and overwhelming, but here I have the priviege of watching boys blossom.
I have no idea where this interest in deconstructing vehicles will take Boy #3. Maybe he'll become a mechanic, or an inventor. Maybe he'll lose interest next week. In the meantime, I see a little boy developing confidence in his own capabilites, a boy who is learning to use a screwdriver with skill, who's developing fine motor control while learning his left from his right.
Boy #2, meanwhile, is coming into his own. For years, he's preferred to play with small action figures and plastic toys over looking at books. He loves TV and has spent hours watching cartoons of all kinds. He's a fan of Harry Potter, Iron Man, Star Wars and the X-Men. And now, for the first time, I can see where it's all been leading: my eight-year-old son wrote his first science-fiction story while I was in New York.
Actually, he drew the pictures and crafted the story in his head; I transcribed the words for him on my first day back. That was two days ago. He now has three more stories.
My life in New York was neat, orderly and predictable. My life here, uh, is not. The world of boys is messy, experimental and full of surprises.
And that's perfectly OK with me.