You finally seem to have accepted your true age, and you tell people that you are “four.” It surprises me every time you aren’t 30, or 60-80-11… most of the time you are just four. You are no closer to accepting that your name is Noah, though, but I love that you’re someone different every day, if not every hour. “Can I be Officer Mike?” you ask in the morning. In the evening you don your skirt and tell me you’re a mommy rescue frog, or wolf, or butterfly. If I ask you what you did at school, you almost always tell me you played “family” with your friends. “June was a mommy rescue technician, and I was a daddy rescue technician,” you tell me matter-of-factly. Where the “technician” thing came from, I have no idea. Whatever or whoever you are, you have to add “rescue” to the title. I’m proud that you always want to be rescuing people; you always want to be the savior, the protector, the hero. Not the superhero, like many of your friends are into these days, but the average joe hero… the firefighter, the police officer, the rescue technician.
Despite my pride, the rescuing… well, I think you don’t quite understand how it works. One of my least favorite things you do is something you picked up on the playground at school. You hold your finger and thumb out like a gun and pretend to shoot us. Of course you have no idea what you’re doing. Daddy has made a game of it and pretends you’re catching him in a net whenever you do it, and since you have no context for a gun anyway you think a net really IS shooting out of your finger and you’re catching “bad guys.” EVERYONE is either a good guy or a bad guy. We currently have a library book about the human body and there’s a page on viruses and white blood cells, and you decided the viruses were bad guys and the white blood cells were good guys. A couple of rowdy boys on the playground are bad guys. You’re a good guy, so you have to shoot (your finger gun-net-thing) at them to trap them.
It’s funny though, because even though you WANT to be the hero, you spend half your time (if not more) being a complete asshole. Mommy and Daddy have had many long, exhausting conversations with you about what it means to be a hero, and how heros would never bash their sisters over the head with toy trucks. Or poke their sisters with markers. Or push their sisters over. Or snatch things and yell “MINE!”, or pout or sass or yell “NO! NEVER!” when their parents ask them politely to wash up for dinner. Or kick. Or bite. Or, or, or. Mommy has never felt so tired, Bubbs. When you were two and a half and doing asinine things, it seemed easy to believe it was a phase and you were testing your limits, and you’d quickly grow out of it. When you are four and doing asinine things, I get a thousand times more frustrated with you because I KNOW you know better. I know you understand that you’re causing pain. I have lost my temper with you more than I ever have before, more than I ever believed possible, because of the way you bully Violet.
You parrot my words back to me, unfortunately, with your own mean name-calling twist, and cause me emotional pain the way you cause Violet physical pain. “YOU are a bully!” you yelled at me last week. “Everyone thinks you’re a nice person, but you AREN’T!” you say absently, as you’re clipping my purse strap to your pants, then you immediately follow this stabbing statement up with “Can you help me with this safety harness?” Most of our fights are still over clothes, when we aren’t fighting about how you ought to treat people you love, specifically your baby sister. I can’t keep up with the laundry because there are only two pairs of pants you’ll wear, and they are filthy by the end of the day. You do NOT understand the importance of cleaning your clothes. You yell at me that you don’t care if they’re dirty, and that it’s your “choice” to wear the same stinky jeans all week. (Another thing you learned from me… “It’s MY choice, Mom. I’ll make my own choices.”)
This month you’ve also learned how to lie to us. “What happened to Violet?” I say as I come into the room to find her face and tummy and back covered with marker, and you standing over her holding a marker. “I don’t know,” you say. “Why is she crying? Did you hurt her?” “No,” you say, but then she sells you out. “NAH-NO!” she wails, pointing at her head where you’ve bonked her. “She says you hurt her, Noah. Did you?” “NO!” “Well can you tell me why she is hurt?” “Because I didn’t want her to take my fire truck!” Uh-huh.
“Violence is never the answer,” is my mantra these days, which I can tell really sinks in. When you hit, or push, or punch, I repeat my phrase, and even to me it sounds meaningless. “WHY DID YOU HIT ME!?” I yell at you, and of course I know the real answer is “Because I’m four,” but I’m so tired of this same thing over and over again that I lose my sense of reason sometimes. “I was frustrated with you for turning off the iPad!” you say. And then I’m like “IF YOU KNEW THE REASON WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST USE WORDS TO BEGIN WITH!?” Again, I know the answer is “Because I’m freakin’ four.” So I breathe. And breathe. And then I repeat myself for the hundred millionth time. “Violence is never the answer, Noah. Violence is not the answer.”
Of course the rough patches are only a tiny bit of the story of you, as always, Bubba. You’re still every bit as sensitive as you ever were. The other day you asked if dogs could eat chocolate, and I told you no, because chocolate could hurt or even kill dogs. What a rookie mistake THAT was, and I knew it instantly, because you looked sharply up at me, tears already swimming in your eyes. “But,” you started, speaking slowly to control your emotions, “If Lucy dies we won’t have a dog anymore.” I had to backpedal and explain that Lucy is a big dog, so a few chocolate chips that fall won’t hurt her. GOOD GRIEF! A few weeks ago I heard you crying in earnest from the top of a jungle gym. At first I thought you’d hurt yourself, but when I asked you what was wrong you wailed that a friend didn’t want to play with you. You were crying because your feelings were hurt! Oh, my heart.
You tell me you hate me (by the way, I don’t believe you when you say it absently in a sing-songy voice, just to let you know), but then you block the door when I try to leave for rehearsal, and once I’m on the other side of it I hear you wailing “DON’T LEAVE! MAMA, STAYYY!” You tell me you love me more than I love you. You tell me you love Violet more than you love anybody. You use the book Guess How Much I Love You to measure your love in distances: “I love you all the way to my cousins’ house, past Grandmommy and Granddaddy’s house, right to the ocean.” “I love you past the ocean and all the way around the world to Europe!” I say back to you. “Yeah, me too!” you laugh. You give me hugs and kisses and you excitedly push a stool up to help me in the kitchen and you tell me how much you love cooking with me, and you wrap your legs around Daddy’s waist like a koala and you announce that you want to sit next to DADDY at lunch! And you help Violet down from the table without anyone asking, then she says thank you (Dee-doo!), then you say “You’re welcome, Vi,” in this surly man-voice.
You and Violet’s dynamic is so stereotypical already. You spend 95% of your time annoying the hell out of her, and she you, and you fight and yell at each other, but if I threaten to separate the two of you it’s the worst thing I could suggest. It doesn’t work anyway, because if I convince you to play in another room she comes to find you. Then begins the other 5% of your relationship, which is intense, extreme, no-one-else-will-ever-come-between, crazy brother-sister love. When you’re not pummeling her, you’re hugging and kissing and fiercely protecting her against anyone you think might hurt her. “Don’t be mean to my sister!” I’ve heard you say to many a rough kid on the playground. “Find Violet!” I holler to you from the ground floor at the scary, multi-tiered indoor playground, when I lose sight of her. “She’s right here, Mom!” you assure me. Of course she is. You never left her side. Last week Daddy and I woke early in the morning to the sound of Violet puking, and when we went to get her she was sitting up in your bed. Barely awake but sick, she hadn’t cried for us or knocked on the door. She had merely crawled in bed with you. When she’s napping and you’re awake, you just whine and whine and whine, begging me to let you wake her up. Every morning, I wake up to the two of you running into our bedroom. Violet crawls up next to me and nurses, and no matter how many times I beg you to go pee, go play, just freaking GO, you won’t do a single thing until Violet is ready to come, too. You just lie down right next to her, spooning her from behind, kissing her hair, repeatedly whispering “Are you done yet, Violet?” “You wanna do art, Violet?” “You wanna play cars with me, Violet?” It’s so special, what you two have. I’m never happier, never prouder, never feel my heart bursting within my chest more than when I see the way you two love one another.
I love you, Love Bug.
p.s. But seriously, stop being an asshole.