I always heard moms talk about their school aged kids. School aged! My god they seemed so old.
Until today when I watched my 6 month old and his 3 year old sister get on a bus for school.
No, I swear. Isn’t he still 6 months old? Isn’t she still the feisty three year old that coined the term, “You think two was terrible, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
The thing is: You all think the same thing, don’t you. I know I do when I see your children climbing on to busses. “Wasn’t he just a preemie? Wasn’t her mom just pregnant with her? OHMYGOD where has the time gone?’
This is an occupational hazard of blogging for 7, no, NINE years? What the hell, people. Did we even have blogs in 2003? Oh, yes we did mothercrackers. We did.
Anyway, my needless reminiscing aside, you’ve been here through the pregnancy of my first, the postpartum depression, the miscarriages, the early birth of the second, the NICU, and the pleasantly dull but life-altering years after. And now? Now they are, what did you call it? School aged. Yes. That.
*She thought he was just another one of her dolls *
*I think just after this picture she pinched his nose to make sure he was still breathing. Or some other reason that I can’t remember that probably had to do with nothing about noses at all. *
*Of course I did.*
*The Bigger One starting pre-school. Just the first in a long line of “holycrap my baby is going to [fill in year here]” *
*Another shot of the two of them shortly before one of them began screaming for something or other. I forget. *
*This is what I saw looking out of the bus window at me. THIS KID. Gah. *
*Gravity is so last year. Incidentally, we do this a lot to our children. Apparently. *
*LB goes to Kindergarten. Gah. Gah. *
*LB goes to first and O goes to preschool. Tripple Gah.*
*Watching his sister get on the bus he asks, “do they have seatbelts?” He’s quite concerned about this.*
*portrait of a second-grader *
*WHO THE HELL ARE THESE CHILDREN?! See also: holycrap. See also: GAH GAH GAHHHH. See also: Kindergarten and Third. THIRD PEOPLE.*
I didn’t cry once, not a single tear, until the bus driver turned to me after my baby got on the bus and turns to be through the window with a thumbs up, “We got him.”
And then I bawled. Choking-type cries. The type that comes from the toes of your heart. The kind that you’d mock if it was anyone else but you.
So they went to school together. In the careful care of his older sister, my children took their first real step away from home today in a most literal and figurative sense. I saw my baby get on the bus with his sister, and the memories of photos and time and snapshots of life flashed before me. Didn’t we just bring them home a few days ago? I’m so cliche it hurts.
*Go forth, little dude. Go forth **
*Thanks to Greg for the analogy*
“Don’t let them see me!” “Does the door lock?” “Don’t let anyone in.”
My son has yelled this in anxiety during many many wardrobe changes. He wears a rash guard in the pool so nobody can see his “boobies.” He hides his tummy from close friends because, “They will laugh at me.”
I do not know where he gets this stuff.
We’re not overly sensitive about nudity at our house. The children have grown up talking to me while I get dressed, asking questions about my body and me willingly answering. I started the “private parts are yours” discussion so early on, it would just be part of their knowledge and never an actual subject to discuss. The children shower together, brother and sister, and we figure they’ll let us know when it’s too weird to do so. I realize this could be any day now. And I’m ready for it. I’m ok with it.
But why my son is so worried about people laughing at his body, I don’t know. We don’t laugh at him. I ask him who does and he says, “nobody but they might.”
Granted, as a middle-class-woman of white-skinny-bitches age, I have plenty of my own body issues. Sure, I obsess and count calories (sometimes) and workout (used to) and try to eat well (most days.) And sure I beat myself up about this as often as a 17 year old thinks about sex. But why on earth would my five year old son ask me if his legs are fat? I don’t say a single thing to him about my body. I try, purposefully, to shield the children from any negative body image talk. I’m hyper sensitive to this fact.
So why the troubled five year old boy wondering if people will think he’s legs are fat or his belly is big or laugh at him with his shirt off?
He. Is. FIVE.
And this has been going on for at least a year or more.
We focus so often on our daughters. We worry about their body image. We try to tell them to be healthy and not worry about their body. “You can be so many sizes and still be ok,” I’ve always said to my young daughter. She’s tall, lanky, skinny, and ridiculously pretty. (And I’m not just being biased here.) She’s blessed with the features of “where the hell did you come from” and “you resemble Jennifer Anniston but your hair isn’t colored.” In the summer she is a golden brown, healthy, happy, thin, strong, blonde hair blue eyed girl.
I envy her some days. Ok, most days. Also, though, I am proud of my body for producing something so lovely because I know I’ve spent ages wondering what it was doing to me.
But my son, my wonderfully strong, agile, healthy, golden son is asking if his legs are fat? My brain wasn’t ready for that.
Suddenly it’s not just our daughters but also our sons. Suddenly I am telling them both how to have a healthy life: eat well and move your body and you won’t have to worry. Take care of your body because it’s the only one you’ll have. Treat yourself kindly because you have to haul yourself around for the rest of your life.
Sometimes I take my own advice.
I hope they take my advice so much more often.
This is the focus now. My children tell me how many grams of sugar is in their decision and they tell me if they haven’t moved enough today. My son is stupidly talented at ball sports (also: not from my genes) and runs faster than most children in his school. One day we’ll have a hard conversation about not being the most agile. One day we’ll have a hard discussion about not begin the fastest basketball player. One day we’ll talk about the missed pitches, the tackle, the fumble, the missed three point shot.
But for now, I do what I can, and that is this: Move. Eat Well. Love your family and friends. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Tell those whom you love that you do so and treat yourself well. And one day, no, every day, you will be thankful you did.
“Mamma, will you play with me?” There are three other children at school outside playing under the careful eye of their pre-school teacher. I briefly consider the deadlines, the emails, the phone calls. “Yes, Buddy, I will.” His face lights up and he runs to select a ball from the bin. We play “kick the ball” which could also be called soccer if we were a little more agile.
At first we are tame, kicking softly, rolling the light red ball across the cement in the covered area back and forth from my large feet to his tiny ones. One of us kicks it a bit too hard and the other laughs as the ball bounces off the divider and the wall. We kick with a twirl. We kick with both feet after jumping. We kick until the ball flies over our heads and we giggle. I am there, at the preschool, in the crisp autumn air with my son laughing while the inbox sits and the clock relents.
Finally it is time for me to leave. I hug, I kiss, I smother with so much love I hope he holds on to me forever. I pull away in my car and I see his small familiar face peering out from the fence. He waves, I wave, he blows a kiss and I blow one back. He signs I love you and as I sign it back my eyes fill with tears of gratitude and thanksgiving. Sometimes fifteen minutes can heal even the most busy of todo lists.
Last night as you were falling asleep, you could barely keep your eyes open (much like your mother after 9pm on two glasses of wine) and you asked for your story. “You want to know about the day you were born?”
Your eyes lit up and you stuck your tongue out in that way you do when you get excited and I think you’re sort of proving evolution isn’t just a theory.
“It was a sunny day a lot like today was,” you don’t get the irony in my voice but I chuckle. “I took your sister to soccer and then to get a hair cut.” I look at your scraggly hair and feel terrible that you’ve had two real hair cuts in your life. “Grandma and Grandpa came up to visit and we all went out to dinner. While we were at dinner, it was becoming apparent you weren’t going to wait the last four weeks before coming out to play with us. That night we went to the hospital and you were born early.”
“The doctors helped you learn how to breathe and eat and you got strong and grew. We got to go home a little while later.”
Your breathing got heavier and your eyes closed. I stroked your hair as you fell asleep next to me like you do nearly every night. As I got up to leave, you turned to me to do your goodbye routine. You always wave, blow a kiss, and say I love you in sign language. You’ll remind me, loudly, if I ever forget the routine before I leave you. I wave, blow a kiss and show the I love you back as I close the door to your bedroom and your third year. Kiddo: Here’s to four.
“Actually, I don’t wear boobies right now because I’m a little kid. You wear boobies because you’re a mommy. When I grow up and are a Mommy I will wear boobies, too, right? And OH LOOK my race cars just crashed that was funny. Whoever gets to the side of the closet first wines. Are you still getting dressed? Oh, you’re wearing a red shirt like I am! Look I’m wearing red, too! Did you see? Now can you see? I’m wearing red, too! SEE? IT IS RED? DID YOU SEE IT? RED. RED. Oh, can we do pizza tonight. Now can you play race cars with me? Why are you still getting dressed. It takes FOR EVER TO GET DRESSED, hu. Why are you brushing your hair? I brush my hair, too. See? Now can we do race cars?”
To my son, my only son, my second born.
First, please know I don’t love you less than your sister, I love you later. Just because I realized yesterday, that I hadn’t invited anyone to your birthday party for tomorrow, doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means I’m entirely over taxed and very, very tired which I only blame you for 40% of.
It’s pretty tough to believe it’s been three years. That’s the same amount of time the “The Indian Remote Sensing Satellite” or, IRS-1D orbited the earth taking pictures. (yea, I know things) In dog years, you’d be entering your teen-age angst.
Sometimes I think you live in Dog Years.
*Nothing says love like a choke-hold
You are really coming in to your own, Buddy. You are striving to be “the funny one” and regularly crack us up at the dinner table.
You push your chair over to help me make breakfast/lunch/dinner yelling, “I HELP YOU! I HELP YOU!”
If I bump my toe, you kiss it. “Better, Mommy?”
I pretty much am a goddess in your eyes. I don’t mind so much but your dad says you might never leave home until your mid-forties and that’s just sort of creepy.
Don’t listen to your dad.
You challenge me. Daily. Multi-daily, really. You teach me as much as I teach you. Yesterday you begged to play my guitar. “You HAFFTO play your guitar, Mommy! You HAFFTO.” I was too busy to play. So you took matters in to your own hands. “I play your guitar, Mommy? I PLAY?” I said no a few times. You insisted. I realized I was saying no out of habit and, besides, haven’t I always told you to learn acoustic and go to medial school? (The Ladies will be all over you and you can pick a lovely wife to mother my grandchildren.)
So I gave in.
This transition to the new house has been difficult for you. You have never slept alone in your entire life until two months ago. You lived in our room for 9 months and then in with your sister. I thought it would be a good time to teach you to sleep alone, you know, so you don’t seek bad relationships in a co-dependent type of way as an adult? (I think ahead.) But you and your sister tend to take matters in to your own hands and nearly every night end up sleeping together.
It’s cute and annoying and adorable at the same time.
You love taking three hour naps with me. This is proof you truly did come out of my belly. I think it’s the only gift I gave you, (your father has extremely strong face-genes) the ability to nap.
I understand now how parents connect on different levels with their children. I will always love you both. I will always be here for you both. But your sister has chosen your dad as her go-to comfort and you have chosen me. This is ok. I think it’s natural. You have so much of your dad in you, it was bound to happen that we’d connect. And your sister has so much of me in her, she’s the Yin to your dad’s Yang. Just don’t tell that to your sister when she’s older. She won’t want to hear how like me she truly is.
We loved you before you were here and now I can’t imagine our lives without you. Three years, Buddy. You’re three years old now. You know what that means?
Welcome to owning choke-able toys now, son. You’re a big kid now.
Tomorrow my son, little baby “O” is due for tubes. TUBES. Internet, I have to tell you, this is possibly the best day of his life.
Or is it?
I’m scared. He has no clue. We’re set to be at the hospital at 6:30 AM. Nothing to eat or drink from midnight on.
But, he’s sick. He has another cold. He is snot and coughing and… well…. what d’ya know? He’s digging at his ears again. Just like he always does when he gets a cold. Those damn ears.
Apparently my sister was a tube baby. She was one handful before tubes. Tubes changed her life! Tubes let her hear! Tubes set her free from anti-biotics!
I know I know.
But y’all? My son? Is about to get put “under”.
Scared is an understatement.
My son. My baby boy. My mister man. The one that goes, “ooohhhh!” when I show him.. well.. anything really. He’s just so full of zest and life. Of love. Of joy. Without really any good reason, he can make me laugh.
I love him to bits over and back again.
So tomorrow, if the doctors think it’s safe enough, they’ll put him under and give his ears a break. If he can breath under the medicine. Under sleep. Under unconsciousnesses.
And if it’s not safe enough? Well, I’m hoping and praying they make the right decision and send us home. Even if we wake the whole family at five AM. Even if we miss work a day for no reason.
I’m just begging that they do the right thing by my son.
My little tiny mister man.
Today was not supposed to be your birthday. I was focused on June 15th but you had a different plan. Instead, today, and every May 20th will be a celebration for us. We’ll celebrate your early arrival, your strength, your loving spirit and your joyful soul.
Today we’ll celebrate you.
You are the baby that took away my words. You are the son that we hoped for. You are the child that laughs easily making everyone smile around you.
You are joy.
You are happiness.
You are very very busy and sometimes you make me so very very tired.
You have this habit of wanting to be held while simultaneously wanting to run from our house to California and back before bed time. It’s comical to everyone else watching. It’s a workout for my biceps. I’m thinking of trying out for the UFC before you turn two. I know your dad will watch. He’d probably bet on the Other Guy, though.
It’s ok. I still love you for it.
You keep me on my toes. You bring me to my knees. You create games out of Tupperware, tampons and recycling. You’re perfectly happy to crawl butt naked around the wood floor and drag your penis from the living room to the kitchen. Don’t worry, you don’t have worms. We checked.
You do, however, have an ear for music. When a song comes on your face lights up and you jiggle your legs until you fall. You find this so completely hilarious you have a hard time getting back up.
You giggle at everything your sister does.
She does a lot of things for you. And to you. She likes to pretend you’re a princess.
You don’t mind too much.
We enjoy you fully, our little Man Baby, the one who completed our family. We need nothing else, our snuggles are warm, our arms are full, our hearts are complete and we all adore you more than you’ll ever know.
Thank you for being you even if you still don’t sleep through the night. (I’m telling myself it’s because I’m so super cool and you’d rather be with me at 3AM then by yourself because it’s the single time each day we sit and snuggle in the quiet. And I love it, too.) Thank you for being early. Thank you for being amazing. Thank you for choosing us as your family.
We love you.
And, to the Inernet, thank you. Thank you to our friends who held him and let me poop. Thank you to my family. Thank you to Jack Daniels. Thank you for watching him come early, go to the NICU, grow, come home, crawl, giggle, walk. Thank you for sharing this year with us.
There are a few standard Saturday Morning experiences Mr. Flinger and I tend to dwell on: “Remember when we didn’t wake up at 6am on a weekend?” “Remember when we used to go out on Friday nights?” “Remember spending money on ourselves?” “Did we used to go hiking on the weekends?” “Didn’t we use to have sex /go to dinner / see a movie / shower every weekend?”
Then we usually laugh, “Buhahaha. No, I don’t remember.”
Perspective changes as often as the months of each year. Very few experiences in life truly and profoundly have the impact to change the steadfast ways of your rutted thoughts. Some days come in and out of memory blurred with every other and change is slow and gradual while other days grab you like the baby fist reaching up from your arms.
Reading through Jessica’s account of her flashback, reminded me of something I’ve become a little more aware of lately. I am a mother. I know this should’ve hit me three and a half years ago, with the birth of my first child. I know this should’ve occured to me before her first birthday, before my second and third pregnancy, before the birth of Baby O. But it’s something that occurs to me in bits and pieces. It occurs most to me when I read of tragedy and realize I immediately flock in my mind to protect my children. I identify more with the parents. I picture their loss. I picture my own life without my children and I crumble from a depth of myself that did not exist until I had them.
Perspective shifts through life, it’s true. From knees at eye level to empathy for strangers. From crib bars to the open road. From teenage self perception to forgetting to eat after caring for your children all day.
Now when I go work for a day at the local coffee shop, I pause and take in my atmosphere a little more deeply. The children, their mothers, the bustle, the families. That I’m not alone in my harried constant being. That it’s not just my family wondering what happened to sleeping in, to weekly date nights, to self preservation.
Instead, I take in the world just a little bit more like my children do now. From their perspective. And it’s a powerful shift that I hope never fades.
Guess who learned to clap?
It’s like having my own personal audience all day long. And boy, I’m really impressive with cherrios in my teeth. And banging my forehead on the table. And barking like a dog. And…
*it’s only 20 seconds of this because, seriously, it’s only cute for about 23 seconds if he’s not your own kid. Maybe 32 seconds for Grandma.
*Also, one day I’ll write in complete sentences.
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