An argument and some eye-rolling from the backseat of the car

Violet: “Mine naking! Mine naking! Mine naking, Noah! Mine naking! Mine–“

Noah: “No, you’re not naked, Vi. You still have pants on.”

Violet: “Yes, mine naking, Noah.”

Noah: “No.”

Violet: “Uh-HUNH.”

Noah: “Nuh-UNH.”

Violet: “Uh-HUNH, Noah. Mine NAKING.”

Me: <snort>

Violet: “What, Mama?”

Me: “You. You’re funny, Violet.”

Violet: “Yeah. Mine tunny. Mine tunny, too, Noah.”

 

But really, I liked that birdhouse.

I hear a child scream across the playground, and I feel my blood go cold. Immediately, I run toward the sound, scanning the busy play structure for a glimpse of my son. “Where is he where is he where…” goes my brain. There! I spot him. Head cocked, helmet on, straddling his bike, way over by the tennis courts, he is silently watching the players volley the ball back and forth through the chain-link fence. I stop mid-run and exhale the relief. I look over where the screaming child is now crying, his mother kneeling beside him. Noah wasn’t involved. It wasn’t Noah.

This time, it wasn’t Noah. A few weeks ago it was. Not the one hurt, but I wasn’t worried about that. I know his cry well by now, and I knew he wasn’t the wailing kid. I’m worried when I hear a child cry that it’s because of Noah. I never let my guard fully down, and even this day a few weeks ago I hadn’t, but I had turned my attention to a friend when I heard another mother yell, “No! Don’t hit back!” and saw her dash past me and right over… to Noah. Another little boy had a red nose and turned away, crying, having been warned not to retaliate. “What happened?” I asked Noah. “Nothing,” he said. I tried a different tactic. “It sounds like you hurt that little boy. Can you tell me what happened?” “I punched him in the nose,” Noah told me. Swallowing my shock, I asked him why in the world he did something so mean, and he responded, “I was being a superhero!”

God, I wanted the reason to be “because he hit me first” or “because he called my mother a whore,” but no. Noah hit another child on the playground because well, Noah doesn’t live in reality. He lives in Noah World. In Noah World, it’s perfectly acceptable to create injuries if Noah is pretending you are a “bad guy.” Pulling out finger guns, he’ll blast you into oblivion; pulling out a bow (fashioned by a piece of hollowed-out bamboo and a bungee cord), he’ll shoot you in the heart with an imaginary arrow. He’ll blow a whistle startlingly close to your ear because you’re walking past much too quickly to be considered safe. And, sinking to a new low, he will now punch you out, Batman style.

Not that he’s ever SEEN Batman, or any other superhero show, or that he even knows what a superhero IS. Lance and I, infinitely wise as parents obviously, opted to shelter him from shows and books about vigilante heroes, knowing that our hyper-imaginative little boy would decide he WAS Superman or Captain America or whoever and start punching the shit out of kids on the playground. Then Lance and I, infinitely wise as parents obviously, sent him to a multi-age preschool. My guess is some of the older boys in his class run around the playground pretending to be superheroes and being rowdy, and he thinks they’re cool. I know that’s how he learned about war toys (“Shen gave me a stick gun on the playground, Mom!! He’s my BEST FRIEND! You shoot a gun like THIS!”), because Lance and I, infinitely wise yada yada yada, never exposed him to toys that encouraged violence. You may recall, Reader, I have tried to be intentional about instilling a sense of non-violence into my boy.

Clearly, it hasn’t worked.

I forget we live in a world with other people, and that our children’s influences reach much farther than our little home with our little ideals. When I read those french parenting books about the culture of food and how to get your kids to eat well, they made so much sense to me that I drastically changed the way we approached food. No more snacks, no more eating on the run, food becomes fun and exciting, a way to reconnect with friends and family and experience new tastes and talk about those flavors and try new things, food is never a pacifier, we sit down together to eat each meal, blah blah blah… then we go to the library and all the other kids are cramming their faces with Goldfish crackers and suddenly my kids are “huuuuuungry Mama! Huuuuungry!” It’s like that with gun play, too. We all know that men are creating most of the domestic and global violence in the world. We can all read Huffington Post articles about how important it is to raise boys to be gentle. We can all talk about how we have to change rape culture so that society stops slut shaming and blaming girls for abuse and how we instead need to focus on raising non-violent BOYS and I’m sitting on this side of my computer screen screaming I AM TRYING!!! I can shelter Noah from violent shows and books all I want, can talk to him over and over again about being gentle and how hurting others is wrong, but when that’s not a priority or even an ideal for parents of kids in Noah’s world, my opinion is just a fart in the wind.

I needed to change, is the thing. Society isn’t going to change, and I can do nothing about that. So how am I going to weather this gigantic monsoon? I can’t shelter Noah from guns and swords just as I won’t be able to shelter Violet from princesses and pretty, and at some point I sort of/kind of/maybe realized that. While I never encouraged him to play with guns, I couldn’t stop him from finding a gun-shaped stick and pointing it at imaginary bad guys, but I made a half-assed rule that he not point a finger gun at people because it was rude. I non-consistently tried to get him to play guns outside only. If he excitedly showed me a stick he found in the yard that he decided was roughly shaped like a pistol (again… how did he know what a gun looked like, I found myself wondering), I gave a kind of non-committal grunt. And I found myself reminding him several times a day how killing people is bad, guns aren’t toys, “Yes, police officers CARRY guns but they try not to USE their guns” (imagine the WAH-WAH-WAH of the indistinct adult from Charlie Brown). That wasn’t working, and I knew it on some level, but it wasn’t until THIS happened that I truly had a moment of revelation.

THIS… used to be a birdhouse.

smithereens

THIS guy smashed it to smithereens.

thisguy

 

He pulverized the thing until it was literally splinters, and I was so speechless and dumbfounded that I started crying right in front of him. WHY IS MY SON THE HULK?! What frustration lies in him that he has the emotional need to reduce an innocent housing unit for robins to bits and pieces? WHERE WILL THE BIRDS LIVE NOW, NOAH!? My tears might seem irrational, as his need to DESTROY did to me, but I found myself finally admitting that I have no earthly idea what to do with a four-year-old boy. Up till now I’ve read books about positive discipline and how to help kids sleep at night and stuff, but no one prepared me for having a four-year-old boy, and I foolishly didn’t prepare myself. What kind of book would I even have looked for, anyway, How to Raise a Little Shit Without Losing Your Own Shit? What Every Parent Needs to Know When Your Son Turns Green and Tells You You Won’t Like Him When He’s Angry? I am ill-equipped to handle this phase of his life, y’all. So I did what everyone my age in my situation would have done.

I googled it.

It turns out boys experience a testosterone surge at the age of four, producing in them DOUBLE the testosterone they’ve known at ages one, two, and three. The need to destroy and wrestle and basically go completely apeshit is… normal! Normal! TOTALLY FUCKING NORMAL. (That is, if you can believe the internet.)

I called Lance and sloppy-wept into the phone while I watched through the window as Noah looked for things to smash in the backyard. “It’s not his fault,” I blubbered. “It’s not his fault and I’m always on his back about everything and I don’t know how to give him what he needs AT ALL.” All I know, Reader, is that I want to raise my little boy to be happy, and healthy, and to do good in this world. And to me good=no violence, you know? But I knew then that I was not accomplishing any of the above (well, maybe he’s still healthy) by constantly rolling my eyes and refusing to give ear to the thing he is most excited about right now. And after all, I had better get used to this. In his life he’ll be into LOTS of things I don’t particularly care for, but I still want him to talk to me about them, to always know that I love him no matter what and I’ll support him even if I don’t agree with him all the time. After I dried my eyes, I walked out to Noah and said, “Well, Noah… I guess I’ll have to get a stick-gun.”

Oh, lord, he lit up so brightly. “YEAH! I know the PERFECT gun for you, Mom! You be the bad guy, and I’LL be the good guy, ok!? Can we play??” And we did. I was the bad guy who sped too much (he wanted me to have killed someone, but I’m just easing myself into this, y’all), and he was the “pleece officer” who took me to jail (he cornered me and said “lemme just call my JAIL guys…”). Once I was in jail on the swing I asked him how I’d ever see my family again, and he said, “You can just get up.” Which was a relief.

I wrote this post because after Noah punched that kid right in the face at the playground, and we’d gathered up bikes and stray shoes as quickly as possible and I’d deposited him and poor unsuspecting Violet into the car, and I’d made profuse and humiliated apologies to the kid’s mother, I found myself wondering “what do you do when YOUR kid is the bully?” I was unnerved when I tried to illicit some remorse from him at dinner that night by telling him I couldn’t stop thinking about that poor boy at the playground and I hoped he was ok, to no response whatsoever.

Despite everything we have done, all the ways we have tried to raise Noah to be kind, be gentle, use words, check on someone who is hurt even if it was an accident, even if you didn’t do it… the truth is he is a physical, apparently testosterone-filled preschooler, and he is in what I hope is a boisterous (and slightly non-empathic) PHASE. I am no longer surprised when I hear a kid cry and look over to find Noah fleeing the scene suspiciously fast, or when an offended little girl in a tutu runs over, frowning, to say “Um, Megan? Noah HIT me!”

I am not surprised he did. I am weary that he did. I am angry that he did. I will fume and lecture him and try to get it into his thick head that he MAY NOT HIT, NO IT IS NOT A GAME, YOUR FRIENDS DON’T THINK IT’S FUN. But I don’t believe he is a bully. I know him better than anyone, and I know his HEART, even if not his hands right now, is gentle and kind. He protects his sister; he gives her secret kisses and puts his arms around her. He cries when he thinks about a world with no parents, or reads a book about a sad puppy, or when I tell him that one of his friends won’t be riding with him to class anymore because he wouldn’t stop slapping at her and pestering her. He wakes me with a kiss and looks at me with his wide brown eyes sparkling to tell me he has a surprise for me on Mother’s Day, and then he hands me a present he’s wrapped: a handmade card from school that he already gave me three days ago. He excitedly announces that he can’t wait to homeschool and he wants all his friends to come over when he does. Without anyone ever asking, he always shares a bite of cheese I give him or a cookie he steals off the counter with Violet.

I think what you do when your kid is the one making others cry is… you just keep loving him. Maybe you lose a few friends along the way, maybe HE does when other parents don’t want their kids around yours, but your arms are the ones he needs at the end of the day. I think the only way to get through to Noah is for Lance and I to nurture him in an environment without fear of rebuke or retribution, without violence, and without any conditions whatsoever on the love we show him. And you trust that he’s as good as you know him to be; you trust that he has a good and precious heart and it will be that that slowly blossoms as he grows. I could be wrong about this; I don’t know what I’m doing as I mentioned, but it’s the only thing I have to give, and, as I wave my stick-gun around over my head and try my hardest to join him in the world he’s in, I’m gonna give it everything I have.

Here’s hoping so hard that one day I’ll be standing on the playground, chatting with a friend, and I’ll hear a child cry in the distance with no fear that my son was involved. Bonus points if I glance over and see him bending down to help.

Month 24

Dear Violet,

Last week you turned (drumroll please) Two. Years. Old. Mommy may or may not have just spent an hour looking at your baby photos and pinching my nose to keep from crying. Why is it that meeting you is something that feels like only months ago, yet you’re two years old now? Well, according to us, at least. According to YOU, you’re “two half.” Where you got the half from, I truly do not know, but you refused to ever say “one,” always saying you were two back at 18 months, so my guess is you think you’re six months older than you actually are.

IMG_5716

Lord knows you ACT six months older than you actually are. A few weeks ago I was pushing you on the swing, and I noticed you leaning back and forward in perfect rhythm. You’ve already learned to push yourself! I’ve been telling Noah to watch you for tips! And you are talkative and active enough to fool everyone into thinking you’re older, too. I wish I could keep track of all the new things you say and how articulate you are, but you’re way too fast for Mommy. You’ve been speaking in full sentences around here (“Iwan eat Daddy lunch, too, Mama. Noah? Wan eat Daddy lunch, too?”), helping cook dinner, helping bake, mopping, gardening, washing windows, letting the dog outside to pee, calling Noah to come inside, crawling up the playground ladder all by yourself (even that curved one!) and sliding down, helping buckle your own car seat, opening and closing the car doors, putting on your own clothes and shoes, sitting on the potty (although rarely does anything come out), wiping yourself, washing your own hands, brushing your own teeth… I could keep going. In fact, I’m just looking around here in the kitchen for a single thing you haven’t tried to do all by yourself.

vi3

“I DO!” is your mantra. Everything from dousing seasoning your plate with salt and pepper to opening and closing the door gets a “No, I do!” We have to let you try everything by yourself first, and only when you ask “hup, Mama!” can we step in. It’s very important WHO helps you too. If you want Daddy to get you down from your high chair but Noah tries to help, we will all suffer your wrath.

vi6

Ah, your wrath. Our family knows it well. Your tortured scream-cry when you don’t get your way, accompanied by hitting and throwing yourself on the floor has become almost boring. You make the BEST angry faces; we actually think it’s sort of funny now. You’ve been trying to improve your game, so this month you started grabbing fistfuls of Noah’s hair whenever his head is low enough to reach and just yanking the hell out of it. It’s funny because you truly are the gentlest, sweetest child I know. And I can tell there’s no real malice in you when you pull Noah’s hair; you just think it’s an interesting reaction out of all of us as we yell “ow!” and “stop!” and rush over to untangle your fingers from his hair, respectively.

vi7

Your big brother is still your favorite person, really. (Well, you are QUITE fond of your playmates Edie and Eli, and ask for them by name on a DAILY basis. And recently you ask for the whole family by name “I wan see Edie aaan Li-Li aaan Wachel aaaan Wuh!”) But your brother is the person you dance with joy to see upon waking up in the morning, the person you ask about constantly when he’s at school, the person you ask about as soon as you wake from your nap. When he’s gone you want to sit in his car seat, play with his toys, put on his clothes, do the things he does. In fact you want to do everything he does ALL the time. He has taught you (much to Daddy’s and Mommy’s displeasure) how to shoot finger guns, how to jump off of high surfaces, how to play all kinds of games, how to get your own water, how to pretend a hanger is a bow and arrow, and a whole bunch of words and sounds. He drives you CAH-RAY-ZEE still, mostly when he has something you want or he tries to show you how to properly work something or “help” you with something that you want to do by yourself. I hear a lot of frustrated screams coming from your direction, and it wears on Mommy and Daddy. But when you’re getting along… oh joy and bliss!

vi5

My favorite thing in all the world is seeing you play and communicate with your brother. At dinner you ask him if he wants more “bled” (bread). You ask him “Why, Noah?” when he tells you something you don’t understand, and he patiently explains (“That’s just the way the world works, Vi.”), and you say, “Kay.” “Wait! Tiss, Noah!” you yell from the kitchen as Noah heads out the door for school. He comes back in for a kiss and the two of you embrace. “Good day, Noah!” you tell him. Last week Noah got hurt and cried pretty hard. I held him for a while, and you ran over, chanting “kay, Noah? Kay, Noah? Kay, Noah?” and tried to break the two of us up so you could get your own hug in there. “Kay, Noah?” you asked as you frantically pushed your way between us and put your arms around his waist. You asked so many times he finally stopped crying, sniffed into your hair, and mumbled “I’m okay, Violet.” “Shawy, Noah,” you said as you pulled away.

vi4

It was the best. Thing. Ever.

vi9

It’s actually harder when Noah is at school than when you’re both at home, because you get so bored without him. You’re so social and you LOVE to be around your friends, and no toys are very entertaining for you so there’s not really anything exciting to do at home. You put your shoes on right after breakfast and tell me that you’re “weady doe, Mama!” I have to figure out something to do quick because by 9:30am you start losing your shit. You love to eat but I think you might be eating out of boredom when we’re home, because if we’re at the library or park you don’t bug me about food. At home, though, you’re always asking me for a “nack!” I admit it, Boo… Mommy hates how often you want to snack. You used to ask me to nurse all the time though, and I’m glad you’re starting to realize when you’re hungry you need to eat and not nurse, so I comply. “Would you like a banana?” I ask, still trying to limit snacks to fruit. “No, nack!” “An apple?” “No, NACK!” “Strawberries? Pears?” “NO! NO! NACK!” I sigh and ask in a tiny voice, “cashews?” “YEAH! TATTEW! I wan ahmin milk too, Mommy.”

vi8

Despite all the ways you’re “two half,” you are DEFINITELY still my bebe girl. You would live on my hip if you could. Wherever we are, no matter who else is around (even if NO one else is around), you want me to be holding you. You want to be on my level, doing whatever I’m doing: cooking, folding laundry, sending a text, checking email, talking to other adults. A few times lately I’ve even gotten out the Ergo, just because you refuse to let me put you down. And Boo-Boo, let me tell ya. You are HEAVY. People comment on Mommy’s arms looking strong and all I can say is, with as much as I am holding you, THEY SHOULD.

vi2

It’s just like when you were a baby. From the first time I held you on my chest and you were content as can be and the nurses and midwife were amazed that you didn’t cry, to the days I wrapped you up in the Moby, to the nights I slept with you in my arms, to right now, at the dining room table, where you rejected the FIVE CHAIRS in favor of my lap, you just want to be next to me. “I wanna hold yoooou,” you croon, and I tell you “I wanna hold you toooo,” and it’s true, even though I do wish you would give me a break from time to time, just sayin’.

vi10

One more story, because I think it sums you up so perfectly right now, and I hope you never lose this. I play a game with your brother and you, where I ask you both “Who loves you?” or “Who loves you the most?” The answer, of course, is “Mommy.” I would also accept a finger point. Noah always used to say “you do,” or he’d pat me on the back, or sometimes he’d say “nobody,” like freakin’ Eeyore. When I ask you, however, you go: “Mommy!” And I’m all, “Yeah! That’s righ–” but you cut me off. “Aaan Daddy. Noah. Mammaw. June. Edie. Wachel. Wuh. Li-Li. Ellen….” and on and on it goes until you run out of names, which takes a surprisingly long time. And I just stand there, watching you think of all the people who love you the most, and when you’re done I tell you, “That’s right, Buddy!” It is right. To know you is to love you.

IMG_3158

I love you, Boo. Happy Birthday, and may TWO be the best year of your life so far (that wouldn’t be hard I guess).

Love,

Mommy

vi11

Illness

It’s so funny, the way we decide to procreate. The desire to have a baby is so basic, so animalistic. That’s what we say, and that’s what we mean! “I want to have a baby.” “Let’s have a baby.” “We’re going to have a baby!” It’s never “Let’s have a child that will eventually be a teenager who we have to keep from getting a girl pregnant!” or “Let’s raise humans to be contributing members of society!” or “Let’s have a toddler who will have multiple, daily meltdowns and cling to my legs when I’m trying to cook healthy food to feed it!”

IMG_5888

And it’s CERTAINLY not “Let’s bring an innocent child into the world and expose it to a whole bunch of sickness and disease! We’ll be AMAZING parents, taking our kids to the playground and sending them to playschool where they’ll pick up croupy coughs and stomach bugs, infecting themselves and us with disgusting germs that will make our lives miserable and keep us housebound for at lease a full week out of each month as it filters through our entire family! Wheeee!”

Ugh. You never think, when you’re contemplating having a family with the one you love, that you’ll be up all night with sick kids, cleaning crusty vomit out of your hair, administering cough syrup, applying cool cloths to keep fevers down. I completely get why people who have chronic illness are prone to depression. Sickness doesn’t just make me feel bad; it makes me feel BAD. Like, emotionally bad. I want to be interacting with other adult humans, but sickness forces me to stay away from people. The only thing worse than getting hit with a day-robbing bug is when my kids are sick. I can power through most of the time, but when it hits my kids, we’re just all down, and not just for a day. Usually for more like a week. And even though they feel like crap, they don’t understand why we’re not out playing with friends and running around like monkeys, so we’re trapped at home, everyone feeling miserable, them showing me how miserable they are by emitting a constant, soul-crushing scream-whine-cry combo.

IMG_5885

This year has been tough on us. Violet’s been vomiting a lot for the past month and a half, always at night. I’m so tired of doing laundry, I can’t even tell you. The doctor thinks she might have developed lactose intolerance after one of her multiple stomach bugs, so we’ve put her off dairy to see if that helps at all. We’re not super hopeful about that, since I’m still breastfeeding her and breast milk has a shit-ton of lactose in it. (That’s “shit-ton.” It’s a medical measurement. Look it up.)

IMG_5882

Currently, Noah’s sick with his second stomach bug in two months. He woke up sick around midnight Friday, and I was up with him ALLLLL night. Like, till 5:30am, when Lance took over while I caught up on some sleep. He was sick all Saturday and I was bitter because, worst Saturday ever! (And also he felt terrible, yada yada yada.) He began crying, hard, about half an hour after he vomited on Saturday afternoon, because I was trying to convince him to lie down for a much-needed sleep. “But we haven’t even had breakfast!” I explained that he couldn’t eat anything yet, because his stomach was still rejecting even water. “But I’m hungry, Mom! Please, let me just have a bite to see if I can eat!” He said this while big crocodile tears ran down his flushed, fevery cheeks.

IMG_5883

I held him close and cried too as I realized the meaning of true parental heartbreak: not being able to feed your child when he asks for food. It reminded me how truly fortunate we are.

Also, it was funny in the wee hours of Saturday morning, when Noah was so delirious that he started saying weird things after a puke session. “Why does it scare me!?” he demanded loudly, giving “it” absolutely zero context. In his sleep, he said, “I wonder what the balls are for.” He also told me solemnly “I’m angry at the frow up, Mom. I’m so angry.”

He felt a little bit better on Sunday, though not much, so we opted to stay home again. Thank God it was beautiful weather and we were able to play outside in what is becoming a nice backyard oasis (before the heat and mosquitos start, that is).

IMG_5902

Do you believe in curses? Because I totally don’t, but I’m starting to change my mind. If this string of illness (which started at Christmas, you may recall) doesn’t end soon, I’m going to have to get on some anti-depression meds. Cause y’all. There is not enough wine in the world.

IMG_5894

Think healing thoughts for us, would you, Reader?

IMG_5915

IMG_5917

IMG_5910

IMG_5908

 

Backyard bliss

Thank God it finally feels like Spring outside, amirite?! The kids and I spent literally our entire day (minus nap time) outdoors in our backyard. Our dear neighbors and friends moved yesterday, and we will miss them so terribly. They gifted us with their backyard play set, even helping Lance haul it over here, and we surprised the kids with it on Sunday after Lance had put it all back together. They’ve been pretty much nonstop playing on it ever since.

IMG_3141

In between swinging and sliding and climbing, we worked on building a fire pit. When we were finished, we three decided Daddy should pick up some hotdogs and marshmallows on the way home so we could celebrate our accomplishment, and we didn’t really have to twist his arm.

IMG_5771

It was such a lovely day, playing and working together in our backyard, and enjoying the fruits of our labor afterwards. We didn’t return inside until well after dark. I’m looking forward to many more days like these!

IMG_5768 IMG_5777 IMG_5774

IMG_5772

IMG_5773

IMG_5769

Concerning friendship

You know what I’m like, really good at? Self-analyzing. OVER self-analyzing. Seriously. If self-analysis were a Nobel Peace Prize category, I’d totally win that shit. I’m so freaking awesome at figuring myself out that I even figured out why I’m so good at figuring. I’ll tell you. But first, a sad sack coming-of-age story.

When I was younger I was accused of being “over-emotional” and “overly sensitive” and “dramatic” at LEAST daily. These words were hurled at me like insults across the dinner table, so I grew up believing my propensity to over-emote was some sort of relationally lethal character flaw. I know better now. I am proud of who I am. I’m emotional. Karl Jung thinks it’s because I’m an ENFJ. We’re like 2% of the population, we care deeply for our friends, we’re overly empathic, we can be accidentally manipulative, and we tend to feel lonely in a crowd. So I have all these emotions because of my personality type or maybe because I’m nuts, whichever you think, Reader, but regardless of why they exist so much stronger for me there they are. In a perfect world I would turn those emotions into raw poetry or use them in some killer method-style acting. And I do sometimes, when I’m being super healthy. When I’m not being super healthy I just cry a lot and scare my family. Regardless of how I deal, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my almost 31 years of being a drama queen, it’s that I can’t stamp out the emotions. I can’t try to pretend they don’t exist, that I don’t feel all the feelings, all the feelings, all the feelings. But neither can I let them run my whole life. It’s too intense and too much to just let myself go all the time, like when I was a teenager and sat in my candle-lit bedroom weeping and listening to the Cranberries. That’s why I NEED to be good at self-analyzation. I have to constantly compartmentalize and figure out why I’m feeling what I’m feeling so I don’t snap and Lance doesn’t have to find me downstairs at 3am, drooling and sitting in a puddle of melted ice cream.

So lately, I’ve been over-analyzing. (I know, I know, you’re shocked. Please, join me in staring intently at my navel.) I’ve been doing this show for the past month and a half. Being in a show is an intense and amazing experience, because I get to meet a bunch of beautiful new people and that’s something I really love. It’s like I suddenly have 15 new family members, and we have to be emotionally naked with each other on stage in order to make good theater. We spend a month rehearsing almost every day, then the audience arrives and we nervously sit backstage, getting into costumes and makeup and wondering how many people will fill the house, then we begin. We walk onto the stage and we spend the next hour and a half laughing and whispering and rushing rushing rushing around backstage, crashing into each other as we change costumes and pick up props. And all the while there’s this underlying sense that we’re doing something real, that someone out there is being changed or being touched, that someone won’t leave the same as they came. And yes, I know I sound like a freaking hippie, but that connection is so unique, and priceless, and moving, and it makes me realize that we are all one, we are all in this together, and GOD I know, I know, let’s go roll a joint together and discuss life’s tragedies on a grassy knoll in college, I know.

The downside of it is, it’s all temporary. The show closed last night, and these new friends will float slowly away, melting back into their own lives, and I into mine. I KNOW this happens. So why am I so sad about it, I kept wondering as we sang together too loudly in the dressing rooms backstage? Why do I feel lonely amongst of all these people? This is happy; this is fun… why can I not just enjoy it?

One of the guys in the show said something once that I can’t stop thinking about. He was just telling me a story about another time, another cast, and he said the words “My best friend.” This guy is definitely my age: early to mid 30’s, and without pretense he just said something about his “best friend.” I was so surprised, and when I got home I told Lance about it. “I have friends, dear friends,” I said, “but I can’t imagine ever calling anyone ‘my best friend.'” I guess I felt like we were too old to have a “best” friend. Anyway, if I did have one, it would be Lance and even though I’m glad he’s my best friend or whatever, that is just kind of anti-climactic, isn’t it?

The thing is, there are only a few people in your life, if you’re lucky, that you get to really connect with. You may have 900 “friends” on Facebook, but how many people know you, really KNOW you? How many people know the lines on your face? Know what you’re thinking before you say anything? I can think of a handful of people that I have been totally open with, and that have been totally open with me, in my entire life. And there it is, Reader, there is my problem. I find myself wanting that kind of intimacy with everyone I meet. I want to connect on a deep level with people as soon we are introduced, and I guess that could be ok, if I weren’t so impatient. It takes time to form a deep friendship, and I lack the ability to wait for a good thing. I know it sounds crazy and exhausting, and it is. In my search for authenticity I throw all self-respect to the wind and I open up way too soon, over share, and end up frightening all the normal people. Most people don’t WANT to hug for just a few seconds too long. Most don’t want to share their innermost secrets upon a third encounter with a practical stranger. Most don’t want to hear someone else’s, either. So they retreat.

And then I throw up my hands and think, this person isn’t worth it. Connect with me emotionally RIGHT NOW or I can’t be bothered with you. That’s the other side of the die; the cold and slightly insane side of me. I fight it, I swear I do, but I have a hard time making friends at all because I know if I like someone I will dig in and try to get too much out of people before they are ready. As much as I love meeting new people, I weirdly find myself simultaneously resisting new people. It took me almost two years to join the Mom’s group after Noah was born, because the thought of making new friends, ones with kids, was actually exhausting for me. My roommate in college, and one of my closest friends to this day, told me when she first met me she thought I was a snob. It’s a defense mechanism, I guess. I put off a “don’t get to know me” vibe accidentally even though I desperately want to get to know every single thing about every single person I encounter. Why is it so stressful? Why isn’t it ok to have 50 casual friends and only three really close friends? I honestly don’t know. I’m blaming Jung again.

Or…maybe it’s not just me. Another dear friend said the older you get, the harder to make friends, because there’s so much more of you to share. In college, you meet people with only 18 years behind you. You’re like a fresh person, a nearly blank slate. Then a decade goes by and you’ve grown and changed and your worldview has shifted. Then another, and another, and how on earth do you make friends when you have 50 years of you to catch someone up on? It feels impossible. Sometimes I think, screw this, I can’t have any more friends. I just want to live within 20 miles of everyone I love and never meet anyone new.

It’s weird, I know. Unlike being freakin’ emotional, this really is a character flaw. I don’t know how to fix it yet. I’m just now realizing it about myself. Hopefully the people I’ve met in the last 10 years haven’t noticed anything amiss. Amazingly, there are people in my life that have put up with me for many years. (Mostly introverts. Go figure.) If there’s a gem to be found in the madness of me, it’s that I have no commitment issues. I am loyal; I will cherish my friends and family until the bitter end. I worry that I might seem a bit needy sometimes, but somehow there are a few people who have been ok with that, and who have pushed back and been solid in the ongoing waves of emotion I bring to our relationship, and for that I am truly grateful.

I suck at blog post endings, so here’s a funny and somewhat relevant tale instead. When I auditioned for the aforementioned show I just closed, the director asked me to try singing my audition song (“The Dark I Know Well” from Spring Awakening in case you want to know… I know, it’s awful, but you see what I mean? I picked literally THE most horrifyingly dramatic song in all of musical theater and if you don’t know this song, do yourself a favor and do not look up the lyrics) without showing him how I felt about it. I couldn’t do it. When the music started, I stared at the back wall and tried not to think about what I was singing, but my face started twitching against the strain. My brain was like, nope. MUST EMOTE.

Must emote. Yeah, that pretty much sums me up, people.

 

Month 51

Dear Noah,

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.

IMG_5359

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.

IMG_5417

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.

IMG_5225

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.”)

IMG_5155

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.

IMG_5115

“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.”

IMG_5180

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.

IMG_4969

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.

IMG_5112 IMG_5110

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.

IMG_5397

I love you, Love Bug.

IMG_5094

Love,

Mom

IMG_5153

p.s. But seriously, stop being an asshole.