My children start school in a week.
I was never called “Mommy.” I’ve always been Mom. I heard someone say the other day that with one child it’s like a hobby, two kids and you’re in a little deeper but it’s still manageable. With three, you’re in deep: the minivan, the soccer, the classes and parties…
My oldest son, Thing 1, is a young man. He is starting his freshman year in high school. He is three inches taller than I am now. He weighs as much if not more than I do (if it’s less it’s only because he might possess less muscle than I do, RIGHT?!). He is almost 14 and a half. We used to call him our 12-year-old investment banker because he is so aware of everything around him and motivated by money.
My middle son, Thing 2, is in throes of puberty: closer to 12 than to 11; he’s still little but wants to be big; big but wants to play small. Wants to hide to be alone, wants to hide in my arms. He weighs about 80# and most of it is muscles. He thinks he’s fat, we play “George says hi” together which is when we grab our belly fat around the navel and make it talk with our strange voices. He can barely get to “Geo.”
My youngest son, Thing 3, is entering third grade. The last time we’ll have a third grader at this school unless he flunks, which is totally not an option. I want out of that school. I’m ready. He is almost 9. He has blondish hair, blue eyes and a faraway look in them that makes me want to go there too. I like the places he goes to in his head. He is our nutty professor.
It all began about 15 years ago when I met my oldest blood-related nephew, Weeno (that’s his nickname). I was pregnant at the time, but I didn’t know it. I just knew that after almost four years of marriage and the futility in trying to teach my dog to speak English that I was ready for the next chapter.
I was with a good friend yesterday who’s going through some challenges and we talked about marriage and parenthood.
I was never the type to write my name with someone’s last name beside the one I had, except for maybe David Cassidy. I don’t know if it’s because I never thought I would be pursued that way or that I was interested in marriage and family life. My family life was pretty screwed up and although I didn’t know the difference between it all: normal v. very screwed up, I don’t think I liked the way things were going down at my house.
I dated a lot of men. I liked the idea of being pursued. I liked the idea of being interesting to and interested in someone else. But I don’t think I was ready for the Gigantic Plunge into Marriage that is so sacred and serious until I hit my early to mid 20s. I did have a pact with myself: if I wasn’t married by 26 (we married three months shy of 26) I wasn’t going to get married.
When I met my husband, within six weeks I knew that I wanted to marry him. I’ve said this stuff before in other posts so I’m not gonna bore you to tears with it now. The thing is that I’m going to bore you to tears with however is that this life stuff goes fast. I just got a note in my e-mail, “Get into Your Skinny Jeans by Halloween”; what if I’m not ready for Hallowe’en? I don’t like skinny jeans. I think they don’t help anyone’s fashion silhouette.
I will be 45 in a month. I won’t blather and bloviate about what that means. But I will say this: it’s a myth. I’m actually ending my 45th year and the next day, September 26, will be the first day of my 46th year. I’ve already “been” 45. See? I just lost a year.
Back to the kids: they are my blessing and my curse. My trial and my joy. They are loud and they are soft. They are tough and they are tender. They are real and they make me glad I stretched out my uterus three times to push them out like a pot roast passing through a nostril.
I remember when I peed on the stick for Thing 1. We had returned from a visit to meet Weeno. I cried happy scared ready unsure tears. It was a good moment. We didn’t plan to find out his gender until he was born but he flashed us, like a baby sitting on a glass coffee table, as I’ve said over the years. There he was. He was a lovely little in-utero baby; we took him to a Sarah McLachlan concert. When I was at 34 weeks, one of my dear friends’ babies was stillborn at his wife’s 32nd week. We were about a week apart. I can still remember when he called me to tell me the news. I remember feeling so torn up by it all: will my son survive? What happened? What now? How is my friend? I felt guilty for my son surviving.
The anxiety manifested in me with panic attacks and fear. I called my OB a week after I learned about my friend and he insisted I come in for an appointment immediately. He listened to everything I said, took my vitals and held my hand. He said to me in his broken yet brilliant Ghana-English, “Mamma, dese tings happen. Dis is a sad story. I see it many time. We pay tackzes, we go to chuch, we obaydelaws. But God is in chage. He decide. You know dis. You bebe is fine. You ah not; you blood pressha is high now; highah dan eet has evah been. Dis is not good. You wandu meed you son now? Keep feeling sahd and guildy. You wanna meedhim when ids time? You cahm down. Take walkz. Led id go. Not you fawt.” So I got my shit together and calmed down. A year later my friend had a baby girl and then two more. They are all happy and healthy and fine. Maybe they will marry my sons. *sniff.*
When T1 was born I thought something was “wrong” with him. He was very quiet, but his eyes were wide open. He was taking it all in. Observing before engaging and that’s how he’s always been. When we brought him home, we were greeted by my longtime friend, her husband and their toddler son. Jack was T1’s first friend.
I remember that first night home as being fraught with terror. Would he die? Would I starve him? He was so quiet, what if I didn’t hear him? Why are my breasts the size of watermelons and hot like new bread and hard like bricks? I was very fearful of him. I wasn’t truly “attached” to him instantly in the hospital the way the Johnson & Johnson ads portray because he was so mellow… I thought, “Where’s the voice on this kid? Where’s the needing of me?” Why don’t I feel this yearning for holding him? And again, why doesn’t he need me? But tiny teacher that they all are; this particular baby taught me that silence doesn’t mean indifference and that screaming doesn’t mean love.
In a day I loved him, his smell, his strange goat-like cries and gigantic head. He was beautiful with green eyes, long lashes and creamy soft skin that smelled like heaven. I remember when he was in the bedside bassinet I would be terrified to move because he was asleep or that he would smell me and wake. I was so tired. I didn’t feel human, but I knew I had a “job” to do. When he cried, my milk never “let down” as they say it did in the books. I dedicated myself to nursing them until they kicked me off; the first of many not so much rejections, but stakes for independence. The first sign I guess, that I was doing things right. When he did smell me or wake because he was hungry, I went to him and it was like a little party every time. When he began smiling it was all I could do to keep from sprouting wings and flitting about the house like a butterfly. He started walking at 14 months, preferring to perfect his elocution and words from “Fire Fuck” to “Fire Truck.” And “hatchu a mama a makame papakes” which is “Thank you momma for making me pancakes.” I like the way little kids talk, hence the name of my blog.
Today T1 is a true (snarky) gentleman, a mini-father to his unsoliciting younger brothers. He plays guitar very well and learns new lessons quickly. He has found a love of rowing like his mama and likes to go on
runs jogs with me. He is ready for high school — I said to him, “You know, you’re going to see classmates do everything they can to conceive a child with their clothes still on in the halls… it’s pretty gross, all that PDA,” and without missing a beat he said, “Right; that’s because they can’t conceive that way.” When we were a very young family of three, I used to call T1 the morality police because he would bust me on playing a song that had “ass” in it or taking a bite of his ice cream without asking or saying I had to get off the phone because he needed a new diaper. He still doesn’t hold the door open correctly for me; he forgets… But he keeps me honest… I’m not so sure I’m ready to hand him off in four years to college even though he is more emotionally grounded and prepared than many post-graduate students.
When he was 2, I went off the pill and within three months I peed on a stick (a different one) and the BreadWinner and I were expecting T2. If pregnancy is any indication of how the child will … manifest, I was given a shot across the bow.
We had no idea that T2 would be a boy until he was born. On his ultrasound, we did see his muscle tone however of one of his calves and I thought, “well, that explains a lot” for T2 was active, kicky and downright hungry almost constantly. This kid was gonna teach me about “need.” If he were a girl, he would have been Julia, after a relative. About three months before he was born we moved into the house we’re in now.
He was due early February but about a week earlier, as I learned with my first pregnancy, I tend to go into “false labor” (which is a damned good impression of what real labor feels like). After spending twenty hours in the hospital and then being sent home with his older brother, this time when my contractions consistently slowed, my OB said, “Oh no, Mammy, no no no… we not waiding all de night again. We gonna havdisbebe today.” And he broke my water, induced and two hours later, T2 literally flew out of me screaming and armed with a voice that can fracture masonry. When he was born he howled like a wolf and I grabbed him from the nurses and held him close saying, “Happy birthday little man. Shhhh Shhhh… I get you. I understand you. I do,” and I’ve always understood him. He might disagree, but I get him.
T2 is a lot like I am. This can be good news. He is preferentially impulsive. He likes what he likes and he wants it when he sees it. I have learned that is now how life goes. I am trying to teach him, much sooner than I was ever taught or figured it out, that life is all about the wait, the “journey” and patience. I have a friend who is dealing with impulse, choices and self-destructive behavior that hurts those around my friend and because “scratching that itch” never really works, we need to slow down, look inside and wonder why we have the itch in the first place… like all cravings: give it 14 minutes and it will dissipate. We are working on it.
I remember when he was seven months old we had dropped off his big brother to his first day of preschool. I had just dropped him off in his classroom and plopped T2 in his car seat carrier and put the car in reverse. I remember hearing on the radio from the announcer that a jet had crashed in New York, that the details were sketchy, but that it seemed like a small plane had crashed somewhere near the World Trade Center. These were the days before five-year-olds with iPhones, so I remember shifting into drive and saying a silent prayer. When I got home, I turned on the TV and saw Katie Couric talking about the accident and then I watched as the second jet flew into the second tower which immediately burst into a ball of flame.
I remember looking at T2 who was perched in his bassinet by the window because he loved the light and it was a crystal clear sky that day and then calling my husband to get T1 and bring him home immediately. T2 centered me. I didn’t know what was going on. No one did, but all I know is that I wanted him home; all of us home, NOW. One day I will go into my recollections of that day, as I have a brother who was crawling through the atomized detritus on the island of Manhattan the morning of September 11, 2001.
A lesson from that day is that little sisters aren’t supposed to worry about big brothers; it’s supposed to be the other way around.
T2 is physically beautiful: espresso hair that smells like wood, deep copper eyes the glimmer with impish thoughts and a silent charism that will suit him well. My maternal wish is that he learn to not rely on that charisma but what holds it up instead: his smarts. He is very bright, quick witted, fleet-footed, athletically gifted, eager to please yet eager to defy. His sense of humor is almost British — wacky, pratfall-ish, obtuse but it works. T2 does not subscribe to subtlety and his honesty can sting like a pit viper’s bite. While he loves his family with a ferocity that I would expect in a much older and sagacious adult, he is also self-oriented, which I think is important. He is a cheerleader and the tenderest of huggers. He tans easier than his brothers which is to say that he tans. He also has a physical form that will simply need him to get up, walk and reach overhead every once in a while to maintain its tone. His freckles follow the family pattern: all over the cheeks and bridge of the nose.
Is T2 ready for his next year of school? I dunno… is the next year of school ready for him? Right now it’s raining with a vengeance outside, the bands of
Hurricane Tropical Storm Isaac showing themselves with vicious downpours every ten minutes and he’s in a black t-shirt, red soccer shorts and crocs having the time of his life laughing at the rain.
I cut his hair this morning. We have a flo-bie knockoff. He didn’t want me to because he likes the Justin Bieber flippability that his hair has shown a talent for and I said to him, “That’s why I’m cutting it — that flippability connotes assholic tendencies.” After suffering through 20 minutes on the barstool, the hair looks fine and he’s still a goofball. Mission accomplished.
He shares a birthday with his cosmic twin who was born 14 years before he was and who used to live next door. When T2 was two, he’d march over to this illegitimate big brother’s house and demand that this 16-year-old, testosterone-charged man-child play tag with him and you know what? He did. “Dadieu” – our nickname for him, learned that saying “No” to T2 resulted in folly and missing out on fun. Because they are Aquarians, they are both nuts and they get each other; T2 is blessed to have Dadieu even though he’s a thousand miles south of us. We see Dadieu when he comes home on holidays to see his parents, but he’s grown too fast as well. I see this hulking man, who is almost 25, and remember that when we moved into this house, he was entering eighth grade, riding his rollerblades (remember those?), with his Adidas tennis visor backwards and upside down, a tootsie pop in his hands and zipping down the street with an preternatural athleticism and silent grace you see in professional running backs. Now he’s living in Florida and I hope he’s behaving himself. One day, I will bounce one of his eventual red-headed children on my shoulder…. it all goes too fast. Where is the justice?
And almost as predictable as the late afternoon August weather in Northern Virginia (cloudy, chance of isolated thunderstorms coming from the west), when T2 was 2 I went off the pill again and five months later I peed on the next stick and tah-dah, we were off to the races. T2 was not happy. I was 34 at the time. Because of a CVS-test scare with T1, I decided against any sort of testing with T2 and T3. I was in these pregnancies and parenthood for the long haul. I’m far from perfect, how dare I demand my child to be?
T3’s pregnancy was bittersweet because I knew it was likely my last one. I loved being pregnant with each son. I learned more about trusting my body and its limitations with each subsequent gestation. With T3’s I kept running and working out as much as I could. At 34 weeks, I had a friend who insisted I stop because of her own fears about her third child’s pregnancy. I listened to her, I shouldna listened, I was and T3 was born just fine. I was waiting with bated breath for the 20th week of pregnancy to see if we could determine T3’s gender during the ultrasound. The BreadWinner wasn’t so sure; in fact, I had to tell him a year beforehand that I wanted one more kid and he was into the idea, but I think T2’s intensity had thrown him for a loop because T1 was and still is so mellow. I am guessing he’dve liked to have waited a few more months. During that ultrasound, T3 displayed his manhood and I screached, “YESSS! Another boy!” and my husband said, “Yay.” He was thrilled that we were having a healthy baby boy, but I know that he would love a daughter. I would’ve loved a daughter as well, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to the man’s little swimmers. Nonetheless, my enthusiasm was contagious and he got pretty psyched.
At this point, Dadieu was our babysitter as well as illegitimate child and he was with T1 and T2 during the ultrasound appointment and I recall vividly when I walked through the door, he was in our family room holding T2 upside down by his Nikes. T1 was watching Elmo and he said, “Well, Mama? What’s the story? We got another MAN coming in or are we dealing with pink and Barbies?” and I said, “Boy numba three, bay-bee” and I stroked and patted my bulbous belly with the eager affection of a person who’d just won a pie-eating contest. Blueberry.
“Ahh! Thank god! I wouldna known what to do with a girl… yikes… Phew,” said Dadieu. If he is reading this (and the only reason he would be is if I tell him I’m writing about him) I think he got away with babysitting my boys for what, five years, without ever changing a single diaper. Indeed, he wouldna known what to do with a girl. I wouldna known… I guess I would have figured it out, but I know that God gave me sons because … all I have are brothers. He knows that’s what I work best with. We were happy with two boys, but having a third around here just made it seem like it was destined.
T3 was born almost as silently as T1. He was so sweet and instantly, because T1 trained me to not fear calm and normal people, he was my boyfriend. He had some very odd yet cool as heck blonde tips on his half-inch long hairs and I wonder if any of my working out and then abrupt stopping of it had anything to do with it. The nurses loved his hair immediately; his skin was peachy and a little jaundiced so we had to put him in the blue light for most of the time we were in the hospital, but when he wasn’t in the blue box, he was with me in my room. I remember when my local sisters in law came by the hospital they asked me what they could bring me and all I wanted was a chocolate milkshake. I took in all the pampering I could get.
Because I knew the home I was going back to was going to be chaos, I elected to exhaust my insurance’s allowance for 48 contiguous hours in the hospital. I let the nurses get me anything… I have a great picture of the day T3’s brothers came to meet him at the hospital. T1 was all proud and happy to see me and T2 wanted me all to himself. He didn’t want to look at T3 or touch him. It was all fairly predictable. A day later, I did go home and the craziness around the house kicked up several notches with T3. Despite his initial dissatisfaction with his little brother’s arrival, the BreadWinner and I say the best thing we could have ever given T2 was T3.
But seeing as how one’s about to go into high school, the other is starting 6th grade and the last is still in the primary grades, their individuating has never been clearer. It’s a little hard to see them grow up so fast.
So school starts in a week.