December 9, 2013
December 9, 2012
December 9, 2011
December 9, 2010
December 9, 2009
A few weeks ago, a guy I knew in high school died in a car accident. Facebook exploded with sentiments and condolences and memories of him, his warmth, his generosity, his kindness, his ability to make everyone feel welcome and well-loved. But this weird thing was happening inside of me, because this guy, the one everyone was mourning and remembering as this wonderful person, this guy T-O-R-T-U-R-E-D me.
Granted, I was an easy target. Tall, lanky, no fashion sense, big glasses, weird teeth, acne… all that would have been enough to go on even before adding in my propensity for over-emoting in the hallways between classes. This guy could make me cry in about 20 seconds, and then he’d make fun of me for crying.
He was the central character in a group of guys that found me hilarious, and he along with another nameless bully came up with a humiliating nickname for me that quickly spread throughout our small private school. Every time I passed any of these guys in the hall, they barked that nickname and the sound of sniggers echoed off the walls. Every time I sang a solo in choir, whenever I stepped up on any stage to do anything, it was always preceded with jeers and name-calling, and applause was always punctuated by that horrible, infamous nickname. Even things about myself I was proud of I became ashamed of because of these guys. As I’m sure is true for every outcast, I would have given almost anything to just disappear into a crowd, to be ignored, but I could never escape them. Once, during a choir concert, this guy and his partner in crime sat behind me and spit paper into my long, thick hair, shaking with their silent laughter. “Don’t cry,” they whispered into my ears. They knew I couldn’t do anything about it in the middle of a concert, so I just sat quietly and proudly as I could, wiping the spit wads out of my hair, refusing to let tears spill over onto my cheeks, knowing it would only fuel them and I’d get it worse in the end.
After this guy’s accident, Lance’s parents, who knew this guy and know his family, kept us informed of his progress (or lack thereof) during his brief time in the hospital, as did my Facebook news feed. I found myself feeling irrationally angry and biting back answers to well-intentioned texts, more than once getting halfway through a reply about how I still shake with fury and humiliation whenever this guy’s name is mentioned before deleting it and taking a few gulps of air. “Can I please tell everyone that he was my TORMENTER?” I asked Lance bitterly one day after receiving a barrage of information on this guy’s condition. “Um. Sure,” said my ever-calm, ever-rational counterpart. “But what good would that do?”
I have refrained from using this guy’s name, but not because I’m trying to spare his dignity. As my friend Lee wisely put it, “The truth of a dude’s life involves both the good and bad he did for and to others, and we always focus, laser-like on the good parts of a life when it ends.” I’m not withholding his name because I’m interested in preserving whatever good name he seemed to have amongst his friends. But neither am in interested in smearing it. Quite simply, the realization I’ve had as I’ve processed my conflicted emotions is that none of this is about him, so it doesn’t matter. Lance’s question “what good would that do?” rang out in my mind. What good would it do, indeed, to let everyone know this guy was a jerk who made me feel insecurities about myself that I still can’t shake away? Would it make me feel better somehow?
Those questions led to this one: why was I feeling anything other than sadness for this guy’s family? All that he did to me happened 15 years ago. Was I really so hung up on what some teenage boy did back when we were both just trying desperately to fit in that I felt bitter anger and cold pride upon news that he was not going to live? Don’t I know how much I have changed in the last 15 years enough to know that others have surely changed as well? Don’t I regret mistakes I made so long ago?
And in fact, a few years ago I opened up my laptop and saw that I had a friend request on Facebook. I sat stunned as I stared at this guy’s picture and name. “Is he SERIOUS!?” I thought, before deleting the request. I was infuriated. “FRIEND him?” I thought bitterly. “FRIEND? HIM?” Now I realize that reaching out to me in that way, the only way he could have possibly reached out to me, may even have been his version of extending to me an olive branch. But at the time the unforgiveness I harbored towards this guy prevented me from seeing any such thing.
So who am I, that I could hold a 15-year grudge against someone I barely knew? Seeing so many mourn his passing leads me to believe that even the part of him I did know was but a tiny piece of him. An immature piece, to be sure, an insecure and cruel piece. But what of my own life? Here I stand, a 30-year old woman with children of my own, mostly quite confident, certainly content and even happy. I’ve been reassured by others and most importantly, by myself that I am beautiful and talented, and there has been restoration to most (if not all) the places that were torn open by this guy’s teenage cruelty. Why, then, am I having a hard time hearing that this guy touched many lives in a positive way before he died, and many people will miss him for the person he was to them?
I have no answers, yet, Reader. I remain in an odd place, caught between the knowledge that whatever way this guy brought me down has nothing, anymore, to do with him and everything to do with me, and the feelings of loneliness and smallness that have been resurfacing. But as I process, I am beginning to let go, and to feel closure. If nothing else, I am beginning to understand that his life had purpose even for me; I would not stand solidly on these two legs now if it weren’t for what I have come through, and to that end I believe this guy played a major role in my life.
I wish his family and friends all the peace in the world.
I’ve been so eager to write this month’s newsletter because I want to remember your budding language skills, which have exploded over the last two months. Here’s a sampling of the words you use on a daily basis: mama, me, Nah-no (Noah), no, pee-pee, nah (nurse, or done), bah (ball), beebee (baby), Bee-ooh (Bear, the name you’ve given a stuffed blue dog), dake yoo (thank you), mine, bye-bye, hello, hah (your Tennessee version of “hi”), nigh (night-night), Lie Lie (your playmate Eli, your Aunt Ellen, and yourself), and you can tell us what all animals say (easy because while the elephant makes a spitting sound and the kitty cat says “mew,” ALL OTHER ANIMALS say “ooo-ooo-ooo”). You also have a bunch of words that I still don’t understand but you say them confidently and get frustrated when I don’t interpret them correctly.
In fact, you get frustrated a lot these days. And I mean, who can blame you? We do a lot of frustrating things! We pull you away from the hot stove, we try to put your shoes on, we take plugs out of your grasp RIGHT as you’re about to plug something into the outlet, we change your diaper, we hold your hand while crossing the street, etc. These are all things we’ve done that have triggered tantrums (YES, TANTRUMS). You shriek and say no, and when that doesn’t work, you scream and cry and throw yourself onto the floor and kick your legs.
And once you’re worked up, forget about it. Evening = ruined. A few weeks ago you worked yourself into a sobbing, hiccuping mess because you wanted someone else’s toy and couldn’t have it, and I had to drive around with the windows open for 15 minutes just to chill you out again. Other times I’ve had to nurse you just to help you relax. I whisper to you and stroke your hair while you hiccup yourself into exhaustion.
You’re a little over 18 months and still going strong with nursing. I have been working hard to get you down to before nap time and before bedtime, and occasionally in the wee hours of the morning if you wake early, but you still bang on my chest any time you feel hungry or tired. You fight hard against a nursing schedule, and just when I think you may finally be on the same page with me your desire to nurse spikes and you’re asking me six times a day. Mama has started rehearsing for a musical a few times a week, and this hasn’t presented much of a problem for you. You rarely nurse to sleep anyway, and you’re used to Daddy bouncing and humming you to sleep, so I keep thinking this should be easier than it actually is. I confess I feel kind of ready to wean you completely… you’re such a sporadic nurser and you’re so demanding when you decide it’s time to nurse, and you’re SO big and independent already you don’t seem like a BABY to me anymore. You just seem like a big girl. But then there are days when you’re in such a bad mood or days when you’re not feeling well and I am so grateful to have the nursing trump card in my pocket still. I guess we’ll keep going for now; Mama’s goal was to make it till two. I suggest you quit acting like you own my chest if you want us to make it that long, Boo Boo.
Daddy and I think we’re in big trouble when we consider how stubborn you already are and we realize you’re not even two yet, let alone three. How are you already so opinionated? You have in your mind EXACTLY what you want, but you communication skills are still developing, so when we don’t do something right you have to scream us into submission. You have already decided which shoes you want and which jacket you want, so if we mess up and put the wrong ones on it’s an extra 10 minutes of chaos before we work out which items of clothing you prefer today. And it changes daily, if not hourly.
I think it’s because you’re the most excellent mimic I’ve ever seen. “I do!” you tell us. Mama puts on my own shoes, so you can too. Brother climbs dangerous ladders at the playground, so you can too. Daddy shaves his face, so will you. Mama puts on makeup, so will you put on Mama’s makeup. So will you climb up onto the stool by the sink, pick up my toothbrush, pretend to squeeze toothpaste on it, and begin brushing your teeth. So will you turn on the oven. So will you climb up on the kitchen stool and reach for the knife block. So will you do the laundry by putting a single article of clean clothing into the washer and pushing those shiny buttons. So will you set the table, get water, wipe your mouth with a napkin, try putting my hair into a ponytail, sit on the potty, take off your own clothes, put on your own clothes, open the door, buckle your carseat, drive, nurse your baby doll while humming to him and patting his back, so will you, so will you, so will you. It’s amazing, AMAZING, to watch you replay the things we do.
Even though you throw fits occasionally, you’re really such a calm, content, happy girl. You’re quiet and still when we go out in public, watching other people with unabashed fascination. You stick a finger in your mouth and pass entire mornings at the library or the coffee shop, just watching what everyone else is up to. You don’t seem scared of strangers, merely curious as long as someone you know is within arm’s reach. Other parents have been surprised how close you stay to me when we’re out, and you do tend to cling to me when we go somewhere new, but I think my closeness makes you unafraid. At your 18-month checkup the pediatrician was amazed that you didn’t cry; you just watched him cautiously as he checked your heartbeat and looked inside your mouth. And when we went trick-or-treating last week, you ran right up to new houses once you got the hang of it, accepting candy from strangers like it was no big deal. So that’s good. (Yeah.)
Sometimes I marvel at how different you are from Big Brother. Trick-or-treating for him was an experience to be handled quite cautiously. While I know you were following his lead to learn what to do, I also know he was following yours when it came to interacting with new people. While Noah is able to entertain himself, you require attention. He could probably watch an entire day’s worth of movies, but you won’t sit still even for five minutes of a Sprout show. He could read on the couch with me for hours when he was your age, but you won’t let me get through a book. He doesn’t much care for art; you can’t get enough of paint and crayons and markers. Noah loved being left alone to play with cars or blocks or wires; you love being held and being in on whatever action I’m doing (mostly cooking which is the hardest thing EVER to do one-handed). Noah used to fall asleep in overstimulating environments, but you’ve never been able to do that. You need complete quiet and darkness to be able to turn your brain off. He’s a heavy sleeper; you’re a light sleeper. The two of you share a room now, and we have to put him down in a different bedroom and carry him in after he’s totally out because otherwise you’d never fall asleep. But if you wake and cry in the middle of the night I’m not worried about him being disturbed but if it were the other way around the whole family would be awake at 3am.
The two of you are growing each month in closeness, and this month is no exception. The other day when he grumpily woke from his nap (he naps in the guest room so he doesn’t keep you up), Noah’s first words to me were “I want Violet!” When you woke up a few minutes later and I went to get you from your crib, you groggily pointed to the door and croaked “Nah-no!” “You want to go get Noah?” I asked, and you nodded firmly and reached for me. I took you down to see him and you both just laid in the big bed and snuggled for a while, giggling with your arms around each other. The two of you are learning to play so well together, so it’s actually more work when Noah goes to school and you’re alone with just me. You ask after him constantly. Today we went to do some art at a studio and when we got there you pointed, looked up at me, and asked, “Nah-no?” “He’s not here, Boo, he’s at school, remember?” You seemed dejected at my answer. But when he’s here he’s usually driving you crazy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve threatened to remove a toy or separate the two of you if I hear you shriek and whine one more time. He’s usually trying to fasten a strap to something you’re playing with, or you’re trying to take something he’s trying to fasten a strap to. Regardless, you miss him like crazy when he’s not around, and you sit up and sing “HAH!” when he wakes you up, and you hug and kiss him more eagerly than you do anyone else.
Not that you don’t hug and kiss everyone else, because you do. Your favorite way to greet your playmates is to walk right up, put your arms around them, and give them a few pats on the back. You have quite a few friends already, which is another difference between your brother and you. While he had only a few playmates at your age, you have many, some of whom you ask for by name. He always wanted to stay home, and still is hard to urge out the door no matter where we’re going, but you are raring to go at all times of the day. Sometimes you just bring me your shoes, grab my hand, and lead me to the door. Then you throw a fit if I tell you we’re not going anywhere. (I have, more than a few times, chosen peace by grabbing my coat and purse and leaving the house, even if I have to make up someplace to go after we’re in the car or stroller.) And you don’t just “parallel play.” Most of the time you really interact with your friends. You have a few playmates who are pretty rough with you, but you seem to take it in your stride, getting angry for a minute but then happily continuing play without retaliating and eagerly greeting them and hugging them again the next time you meet.
I know it’s at least partly just your age, but it makes Mama proud to see you enjoying everyone, even those (like Brother) who drive you crazy. You seem to really love people. We’ve had a few house guests over the last few months, and once you warm to them you gladly bring them books and toys and crawl right up into their laps, accepting them into your world and your family. You love adults and children equally. Daddy and I have been jokingly guessing what your Myers-Briggs letters are, and we definitely agree that you’re an E for Extrovert. You hate when people are not around (i.e. when you’re facing backwards in your car seat); you love when people are around. I love that about you so so much, and I love watching you learn to love the people in our lives. Your happiness is infectious, Baby Girl. I love you.
Preschool! Ah the things you don’t expect when you send your kid away from your supervision to play three days a week. Here’s an example of some of the fun we’ve been having. Last week at the playground Noah shouted at his playmate’s mother: “Hey, Griffin’s mom! Listen to this!” Then he turned and pointed at Griffin and yelled proudly, “You’re a BUTTHOLE!” I know he didn’t get this from us, because if it had been us he was mimicking, he would have said “asshole” or maybe “fucker,” words we sneakily use after he’s gone to bed and we’ve watched like four back-episodes of Jon Stewart on Hulu. (Both Noah and his playmate thought this was hilarious. Ok, so did I. But I still corrected him with a stern face. I knew all those acting classes in college would come in handy someday, I just didn’t know why. Thanks, Auburn!) So if he didn’t get it from us, he must have picked it up at school, right? That’s really the only time he’s not with me, and picking up new FUN words on the playground is like the quintessential kid thing, so that’s like, normal and stuff. A pain in the ass, but normal nevertheless, kind of funny, and certainly quite easy to talk through and correct.
Well, mostly. Until he’s screaming things like “You’re dead!” while he chases his sister around the house, or yelling “I’m gonna hurt you!” when we ask him politely to wash his hands before dinner. “Where did you hear that?” is my new most-uttered phrase. He answers me simply enough: “From Cole.” “From George.” “From Aleasha.” “I didn’t hear it from anyone; I just made it up.”
But I’m not even TRULY worried about all that stuff. A few weeks ago at the park, Noah wasn’t letting someone have a turn or was being obnoxious or something, I don’t even remember, and when Lance tried to correct him he lashed out with his hands. I picked him up and he was quite aggressive with me too, so I took his ass out to the car to sit for a sec while we gathered up Violet and the bikes. I was sure he’d be crying by the time we got back but he wasn’t… he was just sitting calmly, staring out the window. It was um… weird.
Since then he’s had two more outbursts like that where he reacts violently to something fairly innocuous, we freak out, he reacts even stronger, and we all feel like hell. My parenting go-to is to lecture him for the complete remainder of the day, which he dearly loves. He’d probably really enjoy a time-out chair like normal families have, but too bad! We read hippie parenting books, so instead he has to sit still and listen to me ramble about feelings for about an eternity.
He’s used to this though, so now he starts interrupting me right when I feel like I’m getting somewhere. “And that’s why she was crying, because the mulch you threw hurt her eyes–” “Hey, who messed up the train tracks?! I need to fix that.” “Noah! Pay attention please.” “But, the tracks!” “We’ll fix it in a minute. Now do you understand what I’m saying? When you threw that mulch you hurt someone. And–” “I’m hungry.” And on and on it goes until I’m so exhausted and annoyed that I’m playing out scenes of driving him to the nearest playground and throwing fucking mulch into HIS eyes to see how HE likes it!
Yes. In my desperation to teach my son empathy, my parenting has reached an all-time low. A few weeks ago I caught him shining a flashlight into Violet’s eyes while she smiled vaguely, as if wondering what this new game might be, and I was so furious with him I snatched the flashlight and shined it into his own eyes. We just stood there silently staring at each other for like 10 seconds, and then I switched the flashlight off and walked away. It was a real parenting win and I think I really taught him the lesson I intended him to learn.
Then last week, Noah was goofing off and he pushed a friend at school so hard he knocked down an entire line in front of the bathroom like the kids were dominoes. (I got a note home about that one.) “Noah is so sweet,” they remind me every time they’re also telling me, “But he swatted another boy with a stick today.” So which is it? Is he just a sweet boy who doesn’t know his own strength? Or is he on the path to becoming the kind of jocky teenage dude that I used to loathe in high school?
Because I’m not ok with that. I am not ok with my son being a brute. I don’t agree with the sentiment that boys can be violently physical just because they have penises. Look at domestic and global violence statistics to find out if the “boys will be boys” mentality is working for us. I’ll fight that shit till Noah grows up and moves out, and then I’ll fight it some more. Noah Linden Roggendorff, you may NOT be rough. You may NOT use your hands instead of your words. And when we’re done with this half of the lecture, I’ll move on to why it’s necessary to explore those emotions, son.
I think what really gets me, worse by far than name-calling, worse even than the actual act of hurting someone, is his newfound inability to express remorse. I’m not the kind of parent that forces her kid to say “sorry,” like a perfunctory word makes it all better, but I’m trying to get him to figure out a way to right wrongs. “Go check on her; she’s very sad,” I told him on Sunday, when he accidentally broke a playmate’s toy. He squirmed out of my grasp and ran away. “Why did you push your friend?” I might ask him. “Because I wanted to,” he’ll say casually. “Noah, you hurt me. Look, you left a scratch.” I get nothing, not even a frown. Just an impassive blank stare. It’s not been typical for him, but lately he has been showing a complete lack of empathy. And that scares the living shit out of me. Lance and I are trying not to freak totally out as we furiously Google “Asperger’s Syndrome symptoms.”
My fear is that maybe we put him in preschool too early. I feel like maybe I need a little more time to teach him gentleness, and kindness, before throwing him into this culture of boys being violent just because that’s how BOYS should be. I need to combat that sentiment so he sees how wrong it is before he sees how accepted it is. And I need a little more time to show him it’s ok to feel feelings and together we’ll find a healthy way to express them.
Not as a BOY, but as a human being.
I made these today.
I think I’ve expressed on here before my love for all things pumpkin, and I’m constantly experimenting to find the perfect pumpkin muffin. I think I’ve created it, y’all. THIS IS MY YEAR!
These are healthy and not ridiculously sweet and straight up delicious. I made them today with spelt flour, because I had some, which I highly recommend as it gives them a sort of nutty taste and texture. My kids and I devoured them at tea time today, and I’m looking forward to having more tomorrow morning at breakfast.
Make these. Tell me what you think. Unless you don’t like them. In which case don’t tell me; tell your therapist. (Because, you know. You need some help if you don’t like these. Just sayin’.)
1 and 1/2 cups (192 grams) all-purpose or spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup pure pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter (or vegetable oil or coconut oil)
1. Whisk together the flour and the baking powder in a small bowl.
2. Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, spices, sugar, soda, and salt.
3. Whisk in the melted butter. (If you’re using vegetable oil, just add it in with the other things in step 2 and whisk them all in one easy step. If you’ve heated up butter or coconut oil though, they have to have their own annoying, needy step.)
4. Fold the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, being careful not to over-mix. This is important, because if you over-mix you’ll over-stimulate the gluten in the flour and the muffins won’t rise properly. Or something. Blah blah blah chemistry. Just do what I say, Noah Roggendorff, I know more than you. I mean… what? Sorry… I must have blacked out for a minute.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I saved this step till now because if you had preheated your oven to 350 first, it would have been wasting a crap-ton of energy while you finished steps 1-3. You’re welcome.
6. Divide the batter into a 12-muffin greased tin.
7. Bake ‘em for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed up and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. You know the drill.
8. After they’ve cooled, split one in half and spread some butter on that sucker. Pour yourself some coffee. Grab a good book. Eat. Enjoy your life.
Oh sweet relief. Fall is officially here and there is a lovely crisp breeze cutting through the 80 degree weather. At least in the morning, but hey, when you live in the south you take what you can get, amirite? I’m not fully immersed in the Fall food season YET, mostly because I’m waiting for October before going insane and rolling through the baked goods aisle with my arm outstretched so it sweeps cans of Libby’s Pumpkin Puree into my awaiting cart. (Soon, though. Soon.)
This week’s menu is a sort of blend between summer and fall, which is what the weather’s beginning to do also.
Monday: Coq au Reisling with mushrooms and peas, crusty bread (I am WAY excited about this meal. As soon as I pick Noah up from school we’re going to the grocery store. I know he’ll love that.) (Also I don’t eat bacon so I’ll be skipping that step, much to Lance’s dismay, but if you cook it with bacon let me know how it turns out!)
Tuesday: Eggplant parmesan (I’m going to make this up as I go. If it turns out well I’ll post the recipe and pictures later this week.) over thin spaghetti, roasted broccoli
Thursday: Vegetable enchiladas (I’ll use this recipe but use whatever veggies sound good/are left over in my fridge instead of chicken), guacamole, refried beans
Friday: Carrot soup, grilled Brie and spinach sandwiches
What are y’all making this week? Any good recipes to share?
This week you turned forty-five months old, and it was your ninth day of school. Maybe you knew it was your 45th month birthday, because you walked into that school of your own volition, without crying. So I guess you’re officially a big boy. Not that you like being identified as such. You don’t think of yourself as a “big boy,” because you assume you’re a grown man. You’ve been Fireman Sam for a while now, several months, and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, although it’s the second day since you first got your firefighter rain boots that you’ve opted for sneakers instead, which I never thought would happen again. People ask you all the time (upon seeing you appear in full costume) if you’d like to be a firefighter when you grow up. This question seems to baffle you. “I AM a grownup… and I’m already a firefighter,” you answer, head cocked, palms upturned. “I’m Fireman Sam.” (I can’t tell you the number of times someone has come up to me and said, “You must be Sam’s mom,” or “Sam is so smart!”) (Yes. Sam is so smart.)
You usually need to have your gear with you at all times. You’re decked out everywhere we go in your hat, your boots, a prison-orange vest that’s part of a construction worker costume from back in your Bob the Builder days, but it’s been repurposed as a firefighter’s jacket, an Elmo backpack which you call your oxygen tank (only you pronounce oxygen like “oxy-ghin”), the strap from my diaper bag which is your hose, and the piece that cleans all the spit out of a recorder, which you attach to the strap and use as a hose nozzle. Sometimes you also have other pieces of string or cloth sort of draped around your neck, and I guess that’s your rope, although I’m not exactly sure. And SOMEtimes you also bring along a toy broom that you call your beater. I believe this is used to beat brush that’s smoking. We’ve had many loud fights in the parking lot of playgrounds because it’s 900 degrees outside and you want to wear all this stuff to slide down the fire pole. The argument that you’re going to get overheated doesn’t phase you; a firefighter is used to being hot DUH. Your years of training have prepped you for intense heat or whatever. We usually end up negotiating. (Me: “It’s not a brush fire; you don’t need the beater. And since you’re not going INTO a burning building, you’re just spraying on the OUTside, you can leave your oxygen tank in the car, too. And I’m going to give you two minutes to wear your hat before you have to take it off, so put the fire out in under two minutes because I can already see sweat beginning to drip down your cheeks.”)
People must think I’m crazy. Add to that you hollering across the playground, “PENNY! PENNNNNY!” after I’ve just introduced myself to someone as “Megan,” and they probably think we’re totally bonkers. “Penny’s just my alter-ego,” I explain, grinning sheepishly and dashing away. *Cue moms all around me gathering up their children and leaving.* Just kidding, Bubbs. Actually most people I talk to think you’re awesome. They can’t BELIEVE your imagination. And while I wish you’d be “Fireman Noah,” I do have to admire you constantly staying in character despite all the opposition you face from teachers, friends, other parents, and of course, us. “I don’t WANT TO BE PENNY!” I yelled at you one day, after you had been trying my patience all afternoon. (Yes. Mommy can sometimes be a belligerent five-year-old.) You stared at me for a few seconds, then slowly and dramatically sighed, smirked, looked me in the eye and said, “Mom.”
And then I felt bad. A demotion! After all my years of service fighting fires and rescuing treed cats.
Oh, Bubba. You drive me NUTS sometimes. You’re obstinate to the point of being straight ridiculous. You argue with EVERYTHING I SAY. If you ask me a question and I answer you, you find some way to contradict me. You stubbornly choose new names for everything and refuse to call them by their actual names. It’s MADDENING. The amount of inane conversations we have each day is out of control, man.
But I miss you so much when you go to school. I think about you all day long. I try to imagine what you must be doing, what “works” are occupying your time. Little by little, I get snippets of your day but most of the time I have no idea what they mean. “George wore an orange shirt.” “The gril with the belt. I don’t remember her name.” “We celebrated a birthday today and we got to eat cookies.” “I climbed on the geo dome.” “There’s a gril there named Violet!” “I played with Edie and June on the playground.” “At lunchtime you have to take out all your food and set it on your food napkin and then we say we’re thankful and then we say ‘Don’t have a teet, now you can eat!’” “I did the airplane work today. It was boring.” “I played with the blocks and I made a tower.” “There’s not fire pole at school.” “I only get to read books if I’m sad.” “You can’t move once you’re on your sleep mat.” “I love my teachers.” “There’s a mailman teacher who lives at the school. She stays in the glass room.” You grind coffee for us almost every day, and this morning when I mentioned we needed to get some more beans you reminded me that you JUST ground some for us YESTERDAY. (I should mention we have approximately nine baggies of super stale coffee grounds that you’ve brought home, only they are like 1/8 of a teaspoon each. I’m thinking to celebrate you being in school for one full year next May, we’ll take all the grounds from the whole year and make a single cup for us all to sip.)
You do seem to be enjoying school much better lately, thank God. Your second week was horrible; we thought we were going to have to pull you out. You screamed and cried every morning, you cried at the end of the day, you cried yourself to sleep, you cried all through breakfast. You begged me not to take you; you begged me not to leave you there; you begged me to get your lunch basket and “head on home” with you. A little piece of my soul died each and every time I walked away with you screaming for me from inside the school. It went against everything I believed to leave you like that, and it went against all my instincts. But today you asked if you were going to school tomorrow and actually sounded not horrified at the notion, so I think we’re making progress!
I was worried about how Violet would react to you going to school, but it turns out she’s quite calm while you’re away. I think she still feels a bit out of her element; she’s calm but seems in another world almost. Of course I think she misses you. She’s never run to help anyone else up when they’ve fallen. She’s never rubbed anyone else’s back when they’re crying. Just the way you two greet each other every morning and when you’ve been separated for a time assures me that there is a piece of her that’s just empty, waiting for you to come back. (But there’s another piece of her that’s super content to get the train table all to herself with no brother to push her away, I’m sure.) You and Violet are still the best of friends, even when you’re annoying the hell out of her and she’s melting your skin off with her screams. Last week we went to the zoo and Violet wanted to go into the petting zoo part. You were way not into this, but she was running around, petting all the goats while you tried to protect her from each of them by standing between her and the goat. She was furious of course, and you were furious with her for not complying, but I recognized it for what it was: you were shielding her from harm (albeit perceived and not actual harm) by using your own body. Later, at home, you snatched something from her and then laughed maniacally as she cried. You are already the epitome of big brothers. I feel sorry for her future boyfriends.
Having a three-year-old is like riding a roller coaster that has missing track pieces but you’re already almost to the broken part when you see the broken part, so you just have to close your eyes and pray you make it through alive. Sometimes you’re talking to me like you’re 30 years old, and 20 seconds later you’re fake whining and 20 seconds after that you’re tickling Violet just to hear her giggle and 20 seconds after that you’re yelling at me that you WON’T wash your hands and 20 seconds later you’re having such a meltdown that I can see storm clouds gathering right outside the windows and 20 seconds after that you’re hugging me and crying and telling me you feel sad that you didn’t let me hug you goodnight earlier and you love me.
And then you told us a story over dinner last night that went like this: “Elvis (translation: Daddy)! Earlier this thing happened. We had friends over, and we were eating a snack. And then Jehan poured me some milk, but there was a… (dramatic pause) DEAD FLY in the milk!” And you threw your head back and laughed. And I thought, that’s my boy. Ever wanting to be the center of attention, ever wanting to tell a funny story to make people laugh, ever stepping into a theatrical role to prove a point. I love you, my little Drama King.