Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Emily is Turning One!

Emily is turning one on Friday!  This is where I lament the speedy passing of time, as I utter aloud a disbelief in the time space continuum.  Her birthday follows Andy's last day of kindergarten and Alex's last day of three year old preschool.  It's going to be an emotional 48 hours (followed by a long summer of splitting up fighting children).

Who is this Emily girl at twelve months old?  Well, her likes include Italian food, wood chips, banging at my computer keyboard, patty-cake, and waving hello and good-bye backwards. She walked earlier than her two brothers, starting off her 11 month birthday by taking a few tentative steps and almost running just under a month later.  She is attracted to danger and will eagerly climb the stairs and express an ill-placed confidence in being able to navigate going down the stairs (or up the bunk bed ladder).

Emily adores her big brothers.  She is perfectly content just to be near them, and she seems to save her biggest smiles just for them.  When Andy gets off the bus at the end of the day, she squeals in delight and initiates the backwards hello wave.  Whatever they are doing, she wants to be part of it. She digs eagerly in the sand next to them at the park and hovers around them in the family room when they're getting in their screen time.  She giggles at pretty much everything they do and gets upset when they leave the room.  At night, when I give her a bottle, she cranes her neck to look back towards the door, and I know she is wondering what they are up to, where they have been, if there's maybe another little baby in their life that she needs to be concerned about.

Emily is emotional.  Perhaps that's the girl baby part that I didn't get with the boys, but she cries so much more easily and seems to take things more personally than the boys ever did as babies.  If you raise your voice, she cries.  If she needs you and you do not come quickly, the cry is a soulful song of loss and sorrow.  Her face wrinkles up into sadness very quickly if things do not go her away.  If she had the language and physical capability to pen deep dark poetry, I believe she would.  It definitely would not rhyme.

Emily is beautiful.  Perhaps I am biased.  Unfortunately, we've spent half the year battling an unsightly eczema patch on her cheek, for which the doctor half-heartedly prescribed time and some lotion.  Of course, even with her little strawberry kiss of irritation, she is gorgeous, with hazel eyes, wheat colored hair, an infectious smile, and perfectly proportioned features.  If she does not pursue the writing of deep dark poetry, perhaps she can take up modeling.  I don't think one usually does both.

Emily completes this family, filling in the puzzle as a piece that we didn't know was missing.  Of course, I had an inkling that we weren't yet a finished picture, which is why she's ultimately here.  But, truly, she provides balance to this family and is the perfect little sister to two big brothers who need her.  She is every beautiful cliche of a baby girl.  Daddy's little princess.  Mommy's little sweetheart.  The pink- tinted shadow that follows around the boys.  I love you so much, Emily, and while I'm so profoundly sad that my last baby is turning one, my heart is so full with the happiness you've given me.  Happy birthday, sweet girl.  I apologize in advance that the gift I bought you was five dollars at Dollar General.  I promise this is not the beginning of you always getting short-changed.  I hope.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

When He's Wiggling!

"When I'm wiggling, I'm happy."  If Alex had a car, this would be his bumper sticker.  He'd probably have a lot of bumper stickers, actually, all carefully but crookedly affixed.  "I Brake For Egg Videos," perhaps.  "My Monkey Is On The Honor Roll at Bunk Bed University."  "Honk If You Love Fruit Snacks."  And then "John Kerry For President" because obviously Alex couldn't afford a brand new car. We're not made of money over here.

But what does "When I'm wiggling, I'm happy" mean?  Well, that's Alex's go to reply when I see him writhing and shaking and jumping and squirming all over the place.  These jerky motions are a clear indication to the casual observer that Alex desperately needs to pee.  That his bladder has gone past the point of being comfortably full and is now completely stretched out like a water balloon ready to explode and soak everything within a five yard radius.  Grab your umbrella.  Most people, when they get to this point, make it a priority to get to a bathroom for some relief. Yet both of my boys- especially Alex these days- act like stopping to pee means that they have failed.  Like at some point in the near future, somebody's going to be handing out marshmallows and Iron Man toys but only to the boys that were able to hold their pee for no less than twelve episodes of Caillou, including the Caillou Christmas special, which I believe was subtitled "Parents, Don't Make The Mistake of DVRing This."

So, here's how it goes.

Intense wriggling, movement, a little boy twisting all over the couch, clearly in agony.

Me:  Alex, go pee.

Alex (by way of excuse and explanation):  I don't need to go pee!  When I'm wiggling, I'm happy!

Me:  So you don't have to pee.  You're just displaying your joy by wiggling all around like a lunatic?

Alex:  Correct.

There's a lot of back and forth about Alex having to pee.  There's the complete and outright denial, the sentiment of just being happy and wiggling, and then, ultimately, I start begging.  Please go pee. For me.  I simply cannot rest until your bladder has been emptied.  Cut to Alex in the bathroom and it's like the Tom Hanks urinal scene in "A League of Their Own," except louder and longer.

Lately, I've been making an effort to nag my children less. Of course, all mothers can attest that most of mothering is just bossing a small, incompetent person around.  They have no idea what they are doing, how to do it, and the urgency with which it needs to be done.  They play too rough, too hard, too outdoorsy when indoors, too much in the sand and deep into raccoon and tick infested bushes when outdoors.  They eat, say, touch the wrong things. Every action is a potential disruption of the very universe, and it's my job as a mother to make sure that these children are as perfect, efficient, pleasant, attentive, and neat as possible.

Which is impossible.

I try to remind myself to lay off a little, that all of my relentless nagging is tearing holes into the fabric of their happy childhood.  Back off, Jackie, I whisper to myself when the eighth sentence out of my mouth is a stern directive or a mean what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you type statement.  Back off.  Two more hours and you can drink an entire bottle of wine and relax with a stressful time management food game on the iPad.

The other day, I told myself to back off right before I noticed Alex starting to do the pee pee wiggle. He was all over the couch, rolling and clenching and shaking and in obvious, deep discomfort. Whatever.  This kid clearly knows he has to pee.  Why go through the whole back and forth rigmarole?  I bit my tongue, and watched.  After a few minutes, the gears, already turning in his bladder, started turning in his brain.  He was having a conversation with himself, but the other voice in his mind was me.  And, aloud, he finally said, "I'm wiggling because I'm happy!  Okay, I'll go pee for you, Mommy!"  And he was off like a race horse.  Into the bathroom... like a race horse.

He'd self-nagged himself into the bathroom.  I hadn't had to say a word.  Our pee conversation was embedded in him.  All of my nagging, I realized- the kids already knew.  I've nagged a Mom-shaped hole into each of them- even if I don't boss them around aloud, they can have our whole conversation by themselves, alone.

My work here, as a mother, is mostly done.