Not Exactly Breakfast at Tiffany’s

As anyone with more than one child will attest, it is hard finding that much-coveted one-on-one time; but when one child rises particularly early and the other two sleep in, an occasional breakfast with said early-riser happens.

However, breakfast conversation with a soon-to-be seven-year-old boy is an experience unto itself:

“Mom, your egg looks interesting.  And by ‘interesting’ I don’t mean I’d eat it or anything.  What I mean is that if I was trapped somewhere and my only choice was eating my own leg or an egg, I’d probably go with the egg.”

“Mom, did you hear that?  I think I figured out how to throw up in my mouth!”

“Oh, sorry, Mom.  That was probably a burp I should have done in the bathroom.” 

Quality time with my son . . . Though he challenges every aspect of decorum not to mention my own digestion, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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Just Be Yourself

For the last two weeks my father has been our constant companion, and for the last two weeks I have been trying desperately to figure out what it means to be a daughter.  For those who have grown or are growing up with one or both parents, that statement may seem illogical if not disingenuous.  But I promise you, it’s not–on either count.  My mother, because of extreme mental health issues, was not able to be a mother; and my father, for reasons that are too complicated to go into here, was not present for my childhood.  So, while I understand and am comfortable in my roles as wife, mother, friend, sister, teacher, I am not in my role as daughter. 

Meanwhile, while I was busy during this time silently brooding about and analyzing my situation, my children–as always–were every inch themselves.  It didn’t matter one iota to them if my father was in the room–if they felt like fighting (often), complaining (vociferously), or doing their own thing (regularly), that’s precisely what they did.  They were secure enough in who they were as Pop Pop’s grandsons that they felt free to be themselves. 

So, once again I find myself having learned more from my children than I ever could have imagined–even while they were fighting, complaining, and doing their own thing.  They weren’t worried about trying to be a certain way, or even questioning how or what they should be–they were simply being Oscar, Edgar, and August in all their glory, completely at ease with themselves. 

It is clear that my three sons will teach me how to be my father’s daughter; and when I finally figure all this out, I will have them–not to mention a very reasonable and patient parent–to thank.

Leave His Switch Alone

For the last ten days, as his seventh birthday is more-than-imminent, I have been joking that whatever switch had turned Oscar from a sweet, mostly cooperative little boy into a questioning and occasionally sassy bigger boy needed to be flipped.  I inquired of parents of older boys what exactly happens when boys turn seven.  I looked to magazine articles and internet resources.  And everyone came to the same conclusion: Something happens. 

Some say hormones, some say it’s the media, others concluded that it’s just part of growing up.  And they’re probably all correct.

But as much as I wanted my little boy back this week–the one that didn’t contradict nearly every statement I made, the one that wasn’t pushing the boundaries of my patience, I think I’ve changed my mind.  Because what all these resources neglected to tell me is that there is, when you clear out the muck and mire, a colossal benefit to this switch.

Last night we had dinner at my aunt’s home–a home with gardens and paths so meandering and enticing that it was all Edgar could do to have one or two bites of his dinner so he could get back to exploring and stick-collecting.  The rule at the table was, however, that Edgar needed to stay until someone was finished so that he/she could accompany him to be sure he was safe.  Oscar had finished, looked at his parents’ two nearly full plates, and said, “If you want, I can go with Edgar and keep an eye on things so you can eat.” 

And so he did–this time instead of showing off his new-found independence offering it to be helpful and kind.

And so we’re going to leave his switch alone, and I’m going to stop pining for the little boy who would at one time jump on my lap, throw his arms around my neck, and look at me as if I knew all the answers.  Those days are behind us–but today I got a glimpse of what is ahead.  And in the meantime I’m going to stay right here in the present.  Transformations are seldom smooth and often messy–but if you pay attention, you will see what waits for you on the other side.

Separate and Not Equal

Long before there was August, there was Oscar and Edgar–and, really, their names should be italicized since they were as much a team as Laverne and Shirley or spaghetti and meatballs.  When they were little, they were often mistaken for twins; and as they got older, one seldom went anywhere without the other. 

Of course, going to school set them up to have their own experiences–field trips, birthday parties and the like.  They learned and understood that sometimes one would be invited to a classmate’s birthday party and not the other, and that sometimes one got to go on a field trip while the other stayed in school.   They learned fairly young, too, that “fair” is not everyone always getting the same thing but everyone getting what they need. 

But today Oscar was invited to go out for ice cream with our new neighbor and his new best buddy.  He skipped into the house to get his shoes and some money, and for a split-second I thought I might write today about how this marks yet another milestone for Oscar–the “Can I have some money?” years (which, I assume, won’t end for a very long time).

But everything changed when Edgar bounded in–like an excited puppy at the mention of the words “ice cream.”  He said with eager eyes and an equally eager tone, “Can I go, too?”  And in unison, the two older boys let him know that he wasn’t invited.

And while it’s perfectly reasonable that our entire family (or most of it) would not be invited to every outing every time and that Oscar should have some of his own experiences without his brother(s), there was a part of my heart that broke for my middle son today.  He looked so dejected; and when he asked in rapid-fire succession, “Why don’t they want me?  Why can’t I have a friend?  Why did my best friend move away?” it took everything in me not to give in the emotion of it all. 

Oscar will have ice cream with his friend today, and next week Edgar might meet someone new and go to the movies with him or her while Oscar stays home.  There will be a balance; and at the end of the day–for now–they will come home to each other. 

In the meantime, I hope you’ll excuse me if I take this boy out myself–just the two of us–for the biggest, most delectable dessert we can find–because fair is everyone getting what they need–both him and me.

The Next Phase

Last week a seven-year-old boy moved onto our street.  This qualifies as big news around here because our street is comprised of approximately eight houses, and we haven’t had another similarly-aged child on our street in many, many years.  We have never really had the experience of sending our children “out to play” with other kids in the neighborhood because, quite frankly, there haven’t been any. 

But that all changed with the arrival of Alex.  He lives two houses down, and he and Oscar have become fast friends, bonding over snacks, LEGO, and Tom and Jerry

Alex’s arrival, though, has coincided also with a burgeoning and burning need for independence that Oscar has been recently expressing; and with Alex by his side, Oscar left our house yesterday and walked over to his friend’s house–moving down the street on his own, chatting with his friend, and having experiences outside our four walls.  And while Oscar’s experience as a student and at school have provided similar opportunities, it’s just a little different when it’s in your own neighborhood. 

I am sensing rather strongly that we are moving into a new phase with Oscar–no longer a little boy, but a boy–not just a boy, but a growing boy who is pushing past the comfort of his home to others’, ready to move on but still knowing that we’re only two doors down.

Bravery Comes in Many Forms

Last Saturday we were enjoying a leisurely afternoon in the backyard–the children playing in fraternal bliss in a scene cut right from some largely unrealistic 1960’s sitcom.  I went in the house to get–of course–lemonade.  And when I returned Don looked at me and said, “Umm . . . You probably need to see this.” 

Never good.

He brought me over to the south side of our house and pointed up.  There it was–precariously balanced on a pipe–a 50-pound wooden gutter, with two dozen or more very long, very rusty nails protruding out. 

Definitely not good–and more than a little dangerous.

Fast-forward a few days and two gentleman–brothers–were up on ladders rectifying the situation with a temporary repair.  During their lunch break we had occasion to talk, and they shared with me, after we compared notes on where we went to school and what year we graduated, the story of their tortured childhood.  It was a tale that was truly heartbreaking.  And I shared with them the fact that Don and I were lucky enough to have adopted our three sons. 

One of the brothers looked at me, tilted and then shook his head as if he were contemplating and yet couldn’t believe the full weight of what he was about to express, and said, “Man, I wish our mother had done something like that for us–maybe we would have had a shot . . .”

On this Fourth of July weekend, as we honor the bravery of those who have fought for our country’s independence and those who continue to fight, I would also like to salute those birthmothers who, when they realized they would not be able to parent in the way that they would wish, sacrificed and fought for their children’s futures by creating an adoption plan.

Bravery comes in  many forms, and sometimes the beneficiary is not an entire country but a single child. 

Happy Fourth of July!