Patience Eludes Me

photo-83

I’ve never had much talent for patience. Having children has brought this into blindingly sharp focus. I have some hope that patience can be built, in the way of muscle, but I don’t have much in the way of personal results to stand as evidence. The worst part of my patience problem is that I spend every last bit of what I’ve got on the boys. And…. I have a three year old and an almost two year old. So, yeah. There’s not going to be a surplus. Ever.

Where does that leave everyone else I encounter? In trouble. That’s where. I’m the worst on myself, although my wife runs a close second. It’s awful really.

The last two weeks have been an adventure. We’ve had some high-highs and some low-lows. Mostly highs really. Nana and Pops came to visit, followed by a quick trip from Grandpa and then our oldest, bestest friends came to town with their two girls. We have zoo-d and blown bubbles and kicked balls in the yard and had many of those (much needed) “you really get me” kinds of conversations. All of that has been lovely and affirming and just in time. Unfortunately an extremely disgusting stomach bug has been woven through every last bit of the good stuff. This means that there has also been oh.so.much vomit and laundry and scrubbing and pedialyte and applesauce and anticipatory nausea and even more actual nausea. Of the 11 people who have been in my house recently, only 4 have been spared.

I’m sharing all of this because it struck me that a more well-adjusted person might allow themselves a moment to recover. I am clearly not that person. All I could do yesterday was maniacally clean my house and berate myself for the too-much-mimosa-and-monkey-bread state I found myself in after a neighborhood egg hunt. That and a looping question related to how a person could have a stomach bug and not lose weight?  It’s obvious to me that a little self-gentleness is in order, but I can’t seem to find it. At least not for myself. It’s ridiculous really and I’m getting too old for this.

I do however have new glasses! Rose colored glasses. I probably need to put those on!

This Moment

Thanks for your sharing in the excitement of my last post! I really enjoyed the comments. However, there are things going on around here that have nothing to do with the third baby question. Here are a few of those things:

Dinosaurs. As part of Yogi’s ever-growing fascination with power (how it works, who’s got it, how he can get some) he’s got dinosaurs on the brain. Every library book is a dinosaur story (a really great one is Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct (Mo Willems)) and most of his imaginary play features growling, crushing houses with his huge feet and telling everyone that he is a dinosaur who eats other dinosaurs. His favorite? T-Rex.

Sesame Street. This winter we started having some family TV time after dinner and the boys fell in love with Sesame Street. Now that we have more daylight and can get outside we’re trying to remind them of how fabulous the post-dinner family walk used to be. It’s a work in progress. Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventure, Super Grover 2.0 and Elmo’s World are hard to resist.

Repetition. Every word that anyone says is guaranteed to be repeated by the Monk. Not only will he repeat your words, but that repetition will echo. His little voice might be the sweetest sound I have ever heard, but there is such a thing as too much sweetness.

Yogi’s New Closet. He’s been choosing between two shirts every day since he was old enough to point, but until recently we called the shots on all the rest of his clothes. A while back it occurred to me that giving him a little more say might smooth out some of our getting-ready friction, so we rearranged his closet. Now everything is within his reach. He can choose shirts, pants, and socks. At night he picks out his pi’s. He looks a little eccentric much of the time, but he takes pride in his selections.

Evolving Values. I’ve been flirting with veganism for years. It’s the cheese that really stands in my way. I would miss fish and ice cream, but I could handle it. But cheese? Man would I miss cheese. And then last week I read this. I’m a long time Zen Habits reader and I’ve certainly read his ideas about living vegan before, but this piece really connected with me. The flirting continues.

Baffling Boys. The sibling dynamic is incomprehensible. I don’t think I will ever understand it. At 4:28 they can be shrieking and using every ounce of their strength to crush one another and then suddenly it’s 4:29 and they are belly laughing. I wasn’t aware that such radical mood shifts were possible outside of psychiatric facilities. Or maybe…… never mind. ;)

Another Big Boy Bed?! Grandpa has made it and brought it to our house, but I am NOT ready to set the Monk free. He, of course, feels differently. He spends much of his time trying to dismantle the crib himself. I guess we should be glad that we don’t have climbers, but climbing out of a crib might be safer than shaking the bars and jumping with such force that the whole thing crumbles beneath you. Ugh. We’ve got to do it soon.

All Heart

IMG_1905

There is a canyon as deep as it is wide that separates the land of two children from the dizzying expanse of three or more. A family with one or two children is lovely and mostly manageable and can be contained at almost any table and within any vehicle. When you start adding more than that, words like lovely and manageable take on a different kind of meaning. In every conversation I’ve had with parents of larger families (and there have been many bc if I see you with three or more kids I’m talking to you, full stop) the third child is the tipping point. The game changer. Once you’re outnumbered, adding a few more players to their team matters little. You have a big family.

And that is where I have been for the entirety of the year thus far. Wandering around blindly within that divide. Trying to see my family  more clearly. Grappling with the question of whether we are a family or a BIG family. While my wife has been certain of her desire to live in the land of the big family I’ve not been so sure. This has been an interesting experience for us, this being on separate pages. We’ve been united in our feeling that we’ve got another one in us, however in a (for me) unsettling role switch, my wife has been able to leap right into “Let’s do it!” while I’ve been paralyzed in “But how?”. I’m not talking here of the mechanics of baby-making, but rather the daily concerns of maintaining some level of sanity (how much is enough really?) and fostering a sense of safety and well-being for everyone under our roof. Most of the time I just can’t see it. These are challenging goals in our current configuration as a foursome, so what could that possibly look like should we become five?

We don’t know. We have absolutely no idea.

Of course we don’t.

We didn’t know when we had Yogi and we still didn’t really know when we had the Monk. We’ve been entirely clueless about the whole thing because there IS no way to know. I can’t say that I approve of this particular law of the universe but that matters not at all. It is just true. This family business isn’t rational. It’s all heart.

I can wander around forever and I’m never going to figure it out, so I’ve decided to stop wandering. (See, there are certain decisions that can be made rationally!) I’m finally sitting down. Snuggling in right beside my wife who has been waiting here for me, knowing I would find my way eventually. We’re going to do it. As it happens, our family is a big one.

He Keeps Sneaking Up on Me

IMG_2133

My boys are growing up. This is alternately heart-breaking and the best news ever. Somehow our little Monkey is almost two. Two?! He was just born. The whole walking, running, talking fact of his little boy-ness is frequently more than I can take. While all of Yogi’s changes have been similarly world-shifting, they’ve also been more anticipated. When he took his first steps it was a moment we had been waiting for. His babbling and eventual talking felt the same way. There was a sense that this thing that we had been imagining was actually happening now and oh, the excitement! No so with the Monk.

When he started walking, my first thought was “Wait a second! What are you doing?! Babies don’t walk!?”. The same shock accompanied his first everything. It’s strange how deeply I have not seen any of it coming. Of course none of that matters to the Monk. He has had his own thing going from the beginning and  I’m certain he relishes each surprise.

At not-quite two he wants to do everything “self!”. He drinks out of a top-less cup, clears his place at the table,  throws away all of his own trash and pours a (mostly) responsible capful of bubble bath in the tub each night. He also wipes and diapers his baby with great care, runs almost as fast as his brother, gives huge, wide-armed bear hugs, and eats no fewer than two apples each day.

I’ve never meet a more gentle soul. Lucky is what we are.

Seasons Change

IMG_4751

This is happening outside my window. Every glance at those petals melts a bit more of the quiet chill of winter and for that I am oh so grateful. The last season has been a long one. The cold and the darkness have been the too-perfect companions for my (obsessive?) ruminations. My quiet inwardness. Perfect for holding me in that space, not at all perfect for forcing me out.

Happily, seasons change. Even more happily, this new season is spring. Everywhere I look something lovely is in bloom. Walking to the park with the boys this afternoon I had to acknowledge that our neighborhood is in the throes of a beauty riot. It’s fairly impossible to remain unmoved in a situation like this. So, I’m not. I’m moving. I’m making my way out of my head and back out into the world.

Thanks for putting up with my long silences. I’ve missed you.

The Potty Story

It started with a letter. As the kind of parent whose good intentions never really translate into a careful reading of the school handbook, it was a body blow of a letter. I feel certain the school administrators imagined it to be a friendly reminder to all of us handbook-conversant parents that 3 year olds don’t wear diapers to school and their classrooms do not have diaper changing areas, but the friendly was lost on me. In the space of maybe a minute on a hot July afternoon I had to accept the fact that the gig was up. My son would not be potty training himself. My efforts (such as they were) were required. It seemed unlikely that in the not-quite three months that stood between us and the start of the school year the boy would singlehandedly don a pair of underwear and ascend the throne. Not a chance.

You may be wondering how I could have made it almost all the way to the third birthday of my first born without giving any real consideration to the matter of the potty. All I can tell you is that I had heard lots of parents say something along the lines of, “You know, the best advice we ever got was just to wait until little Johnny was ready. Once he was ready, it was smooth sailing.” The moment I heard that, I was on board. This wait-and-see approach was appealing to me for all sorts of reasons. For one, it made sense. Toddlers are willful creatures and who wants a war zone in their bathroom? And then there’s the matter of my academic training. As every psychologist can tell you, all roads to therapy are paved with potty trauma. This last isn’t exactly true, but I can’t help but cling to a lingering fear that it might be. But perhaps the best part of the whole (ok-non) strategy was that it took me off the hook. No use getting all crazy about potty training until the little guy is ready. We’ll just take our time. Follow his lead. Of course we would.

And then, I got the letter. By the time I made it back to the house I was furious with all those “just wait until he’s ready” people. Who did they think they were anyway? Going through life handing out advice without even defining their terms. They said “ready” as if that word had any objectively identifiable meaning. What is READY and how had I never though to wonder about this before? How (barring ESP) could I ever have known when his potty-ready switch was thrown? Had I thought it would just come up in conversation one day? “Mom I’m thinking it’s potty time. Let’s do this thing!” Hardly. If he wasn’t going to actually tell me (so painfully obvious in retrospect) what exactly had I been waiting for? 

In the days that followed I interrogated every post-potty training friend I had. With a handful of exceptions I got little more than further fuel for my simmering irritation. Somehow none of these people could really remember how they had done it. What? Your child left the land of the diaper only months before and you don’t really know how it happened? Sure there was repeated mention of things like M&M’s and sticker charts, but I had been counting on something a little more specific. Something that seemed like an actual plan. Nothing of the sort was forthcoming.

So that left me with my wife and my son. The three of us were going to have to figure this thing out. Having no better ideas of our own we bought a bag of gummy worms, tossed the diapers and got to work. After what seemed (to me) to be entirely too much time, observable progress was made. There was actual pee in the actual potty. In spite of how much I had been sure it should be happening right.this.second, I don’t think I believed it actually would. The prospect of an underwear clad child had been entirely theoretical. However, with that small win I just knew it was time for all that smooth sailing the “wait till he’s ready” people had been going on about. Ahh, we had arrived.

We began venturing out into the world diaper-less and (mostly) unafraid. For days on end, everything was going well. And then (of course) it wasn’t. There were accidents and days of potty stand-offs and much collective gnashing of the teeth. We would have a good day or maybe a whole string of them and I would tell myself that we had done it. Go us! Mission accomplished. And then there would be the inevitable accident and I was suddenly sure that we should just give up now. Stop while we were behind. This was obviously never going to happen and all we were generating was conflict. Back and forth it went. Success followed by backslide followed by breakthrough and then the crash of yet another accident.

It was in the accumulation of brief, defeated spaces that followed each accident that I finally came to understand what all of those not-at-all-helpful advice givers had been getting at. As I scoured the internet for how to effectively launder pillows one morning (thanks for that one buddy) all of my irritation and disappointment finally added up to something true. It was a thing that came to me in a flash. Not a one of those parents could tell me how they potty trained their child because they didn’t know. Because there wasn’t one grand moment in which it happened. Because potty training is not a step-by-step/consistent progress kind of a thing. Maybe there is nothing that actually is that kind of thing. There will be poop and pee in all sorts of inappropriate places at every manner of inappropriate time. Not because you and your child just can’t seem to get the hang of it, but because there’s supposed to be poop and pee. Because that’s how we learn.

I had managed (somehow) to make it 35 years without truly learning that lesson and in low moments I wonder how much it has cost me. Luckily, there’s no answer to that particular question. At least not one that I’m likely to ever know. What I do know is that I’m learning. I know that today I have a been more gentle with myself than I was yesterday. I’m making space in my life for more accidents and I’m hoping that space is wide and safe enough for my boys. I hope they will allow themselves the grace to make all kinds of mistakes and I hope that they (eventually) make their way to the lesson. I also hope that they call me when their letter comes. I hope that when I tell them that I have no idea what they should do but that I’m certain they should stock up on stain remover, they will know just what I mean. Maybe they’ll even laugh.

It’s Been a “No Third Kid” Kind of Week

My wife knows that things are getting dicey at home when she gets texts that say simply:

“No Third Kid. No way.”

It’s not so much a threat or a statement of intent as it is a release valve. A way of saying to the universe (and my wife) that I’ve had enough thankyouverymuch. I’m all full up and the very idea of even one extra thing makes me want to sit down and cry. Preferably with no one sitting  in my lap or trying to “brush” my hair.

So, it’s been that kind of week. The lowlights include:

  • Two trips to the pediatrician.
  • One night in the ER.
  • Cancelled date night.
  • Yogi’s first trip to the dentist.
  • A night of intermittent tornado sirens requiring wee hours family togetherness in our (creepy) basement

Yeah. My wife and I had both been sick the previous week, so this week began with an extended game of family charades. We had both lost our voices and since nobody else around here can read we were left with a sad, frustrated kind of gesturing as our sole means of communication. Think charades with people who don’t have any idea how to play charades. Clearly we were off to a great start.

The Monk took an early week dive into the yuck when he spent so much of one day and night coughing and his breathing was so labored we decided he needed to be checked out. This decision was made on Monday at dinner time with an early morning peds call planned for the next day. With about 10 minutes left until bedtime Mr. Sick Boy took a header into the CD player. With all of his (not insubstantial) body weight. This guy has managed to injure himself in so many varied ways without even seeming to notice that I barely looked his way at first. But then….there was the blood. A lot of blood. And my wife saying “He needs a stitch” and both of them heading off to the emergency room. Leaving Yogi and I home to stew.

To be truthful, Yogi didn’t seem too concerned. In fact, he was mostly just excited that he could shine his flashlight directly on Monkey’s crib while he read his post-bedtime books. I had no idea that “don’t shine light in your brothers face while he is trying to sleep” expectation had been so limiting for him. I, of course, was another matter. Not only was my baby in a hospital being sewn back together, but I was also mentally preparing for the morning when Yogi would be meeting the dentist. The dentist!!!! For a normal person I’m thinking this might be a 3-4 on the anxiety jangle-meter. For me, it was a solid 12.

Blood, hospitals, needles in my baby’s head, the dentist, blood, unfamiliar hands/tools in Yogi’s mouth, stitches!!!

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you, but the boys were just fine. Both of them. The Monk was drunk on baby Versaid by the time he returned with his new non-bleeding, stitched with four stitches forehead. He was feeling no pain. Yogi at the dentist did this Mama heart good. He wasn’t thrilled to be there, but he tolerated the various indignities that came his way. He was cool as a cucumber actually which is very far from what I expected. I came very near to over-hugging the entire staff on our way out. We had survived and they had helped us! In a supreme act of “knowing your partner”, my wife got away from the hospital and met us at the office so we made it a family affair. No one was entering into that fray alone.

After all of that, we FINALLY made it in to see about Monkey’s original ailment. The verdict? RSV, double ear infections and bronchiolitis. In regular people-speak, the kid was a mess. According to the doctor, Yogi would be right behind him. This bug was sparing no one. By Friday it was apparent that the doctor was right. Yogi was coughing and hacking and refusing anything like nourishment. I could convince them only of popsicles and even that took some tap dancing.

And then last night we got to hang out together in the basement. In the dark. With very loud and very scary sirens screaming outside. And wind. And coughing that makes its way into gagging. And fever. And accumulated fatigue from a long, hard week. And the most unexpected sweep of gratitude. Gratitude that these snotty, clammy, fussy people were mine. That if I have to have another week like that one, I hope I get to have it with them. There’s no rush though. Let’s not do it anytime real soon.

Love List

My voice is gone and I really should be addressing Christmas cards, but .rlg. at .breaking into blossom. had a great idea with her love list. So, yeah…. my this moment loves:

unravelling550px

  • This awesome (and free!!) workbook. If you’re the journaling sort who likes to ponder the year gone by and the year to come you’ve got to give this a look. I downloaded the workbook and am using my own notebook (damn my printer), but this would be perfect for printing, scribbling in and filing away for next year. I love looking back.
  • Yogi’s highly detailed 3rd person narration. He is imagining pretty much all the time and overhearing his (not-at-all-internal) dialogue is hysterical. “The fireman is racing up the ladder. The ladder is very, very, very tall. The other fireman (always the Monk) is holding the ladder steady. Very, very steady. The cat is rescued!! The fireman rescued the cat from the very, very, very, very tall tree.” And no, I have absolutely no idea where he gets his tendency toward hyperbolic language.

IMG_1667

  • Cooperative play. These boys are playing. Together. This is not always peaceful, conflict-free play but I’m finally beginning to grasp that those were never the goals of play in the first place. At least not all the time. What they are doing is cracking each other up and running into one another at top speed and building anything and everything and holding hands and roaring like lions and sharing snacks in the backseat and hugging each other good night. I’ve never been so close to this kind of sweetness.

51QEXSAXMYL

  • This book. John Updike isn’t exactly known for his poetry for children, but A Child’s Calendar is just wonderful. The illustrations are lovely and each month of the year has it’s own poem. Our library has created a puppet play based on the poems and just this morning we saw it for the second time.
  • Days when Yogi naps. Dropping a nap is not for the feint of heart. And yes, he is getting older and his sleep needs are not as great, but he does still have them. He gets tired and a tired three-year-old drunk on his own non-napping power is a person you do not want to deal with. Ever. He is loud and uncoordinated and entirely void of logic and wholly incapable of managing himself in the world. He also tends to shout things (on a loop) that make no sense. Unfortunately he hangs out at my house two to three afternoons a week. However, the point of this is that sometimes that guy is nowhere to be found. There are days when Yogi naps and I marvel at what a wonderful child I have. He says interesting things and listens when I speak and can walk across the room without falling down and launching himself into a histrionic fit. It makes me wonder how much of the “crazy behavior” you see in kids can be attributed to lack of sleep. A sad thought.
  • Scholastic book orders!!! Yogi’s class got their first Scholastic Reading Club flyer a few weeks back and I was beside myself. I gave the boy a pencil and told him to circle all the books that looked good to him.  Oh, the memories. I LOVED marking the books I wanted as a kid. When my wife got home we went over it together, made our selections and sent the forms back to school. Well yesterday the books came in and Yogi shot out his class with the news. We immediately sat ourselves down on the floor and opened every one. Who needs to go home when you’ve got new books?!!

Happy (almost) December!

IMG_1636

In the morning our countdown to Christmas begins and I can hardly wait! I guess the picture makes that fairly obvious though doesn’t it? I mean, I’m so enthusiastic that I’m connecting with my (small and quiet) crafty side. It’s been quite some time since I’ve used a stamp and I must say that I’ve missed it.  But…. the important thing is that inside every one of those little bags is an invitation to fun. It’s no longer possible to spend the entire day outside (thanks winter) and my three year old is incapable of sleeping when the sun is shining (have I mentioned that?), but dammit we have things to do around here.

Here are a few of things we’ll be up to this month:

  • Making ornaments for our tree (Yogi is enamored with glitter)
  • Building and decorating Rice Krispy treat houses (seems more durable than gingerbread)
  • Creating a menorah using handprints + blue paint with our Hanukkah celebrating friends
  • Holding our own Christmas music themed dance party
  • Caroling with friends
  • Touring Christmas lights after dinner
  • Making cranberry suet cake to show the birds how much we love them on the Solstice
  • Decorating Santa bags (pillowcases) and filling them with toys we can share with other families
  • Baking lots of cookies and delivering them to friends (getting the boys Santa hats for this one)
  • Drinking hot chocolate and reading stories under the Christmas tree
  • Building snowmen (white play-doh + silver glitter)
  • Making simple gifts for friends

I hope the boys enjoy this as much as I’m thinking they will. This is a tradition that I’ve always wanted to build with my family and I can’t wait to see how it evolves throughout the years.