“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hating Kindergarten

Noah is in kindergarten and he does not enjoy it. Worse, he brings his misery home with him and inflicts it on all of us during homework time. He laments the work itself, but also the teacher, his classmates, the number of hours in the day, all until he comes to the apparently inevitable conclusion that everyone must hate him if they expect him to go to school only to come home and do homework.

I have tried various things to combat all of this, but the problem is as it has always been: Noah is supremely stubborn. Unfortunately, I don't think I can communicate the degree to which this extends in any blog ever. I'll either come off as an inept mother or a terrible exaggerator (and I'm a bit of both, I'm afraid). I try to explain to people how Noah refuses sleep, and they smile smugly, turn up their noses, and say, "Oh, that would never fly in my house." When potty training Noah, it was more about advice. People couldn't seem to accept that he understood the entire concept and was simply going to do things in his own way at his own time. "Buy him toys!" they insisted. "Lock him in the bathroom for two hours!" "Take away his toys!" "Make him be naked!" Goodness. All that advice made me crazy and in the end, it worked out, anyway. It just had to be done Noah style.

Noah has missed a lot of school recently, first because of a terrible ear infection and then because of a family trip. At first it was all fun and games. He was thrilled to be out of school, and as I feared, began to seek new reasons to not have to go back. But upon his return, he discovered the mountain of make-up work that had been piling up. "Take the February break to complete this," his teacher said generously.

That brings us to this week. Every day has been excruciating and painstaking trying to get Noah to do schoolwork, though I know there is simply too much to complete all in one day and the longer he procrastinates the more miserable he will be in the end. So today I said, "Noah, you need to do your homework today. You must do it."

"No! I won't!" he declared. "It's the terriblest, worstest, most awful thing and I won't do it!"

Meanwhile, I intermittently go online and read about kidnappings, murders, child molestation, and terminal illness, but, yes, Noah, homework is the worst.

During a break he and I sat on the steps with his now four-month-old brother Max. The second Noah joined us, Max's face broke into a wide smile, the sort he saves only for his brothers.

"He's smiling at me," Noah pointed out unnecessarily. But it was necessary to him. Making Max smile is a point of pride for him.

"Of course he is," I said. "He loves you very much."


"Because you're his big brother. Little brothers and sisters always love their big brothers. No matter what you ever do, Max will always think you are the greatest thing ever. He will love you no matter what. He'll look at you and say, 'I want to be just like Noah.'"

Noah grinned.

"That's a pretty big responsibility, you know."

"It is?"

"Well, yeah. Max won't always realize you're doing anything wrong. He'll just think whatever it is you're doing is cool, since it's you. So it's your job to make good choices so he learns that being good is cool."

Noah frowned.

I went on. "You know, maybe Max will hate school when he's in kindergarten. Are you going to want to hear him moan and complain and say he's not doing his work? You'll be in fifth grade by then. What would you tell him?"

He didn't hesitate. In his great big voice, he said, "Oh. Well, I would listen to everything he had to say, first of all. THEN, I would say, 'I know. It was hard for me, too.' Because IT IS."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Having Three

Joe and I, having been "in love" for ages now, didn't mind not having a babysitter on Friday night for official Valentine's Day. He brought home some sushi and we had a little wine after the kids were all in bed, and then, to avoid crowds and craziness, we went out to dinner on Saturday night instead.

Joe didn't remember this, but eleven years ago, Valentine's Day fell on a Friday. He sent me flowers, but back then we were only friends and he wanted to avoid the complication of seeing me on the official day of looove. So we went out on Saturday the fifteenth instead, which was the special night we held hands in the car and he kissed me for the first (second) time ever. (Our first kiss had actually been five years earlier but we don't count it because it was such a bomb.) So much for avoiding complication.

But then what I didn't remember was the significance of yesterday. One year ago yesterday was the day I discovered I was going to have Max. I remember the panic of realizing the possibility of being pregnant, and knowing I had exactly one pregnancy test somewhere in one of the bathroom drawers. (I really like taking pregnancy tests. It turns out I'm really good at them.) I had been wide-eyed in my bed at three a.m. with the awareness of it, and by four I was in the bathroom, blinking blearily in the too-bright light as I waited for the second pink line.

Unlike our first two pregnancies, Joe and I really knew what this third one meant. We'd spent a lot of heart-wrenching conversations discussing what another baby would mean for our family, so that little white stick with the two pink lines was more than just a thrilling moment. It's the only pregnancy test I kept of all three of my children, and I think it's because it was the only time I fully understood how different my life was going to be.

I wrote the rest of this blog in my head tonight while I rocked Max to sleep in the nursery upstairs. All of my boys had unique nurseries, something that is inexplicably really important to me (though it might have something to do with my being born third, not having a room, and being housed in the bathroom). Max's room is my favorite one of all, decorated with blue stripes and accents from Where the Wild Things Are. I toyed with how cliche that was, but in the end decided I didn't care. It's a wonderful, magical story, and I love how many times I was able to find something small that said "Max" on it.

Max had a fussy day today. In general he is a fussy baby, afflicted by reflux and a strong personality. I never got to have one of those easy, breezy, on-the-go type babies you see strolling through mayhem whilst sound asleep. The pediatrician actually commented on that early on during an office visit. Anyway, Max gave me a hard time going in for bedtime tonight, polishing off his whole bottle but waking himself up at the last second with the need to spit up. Poor buddy. If you never had a refluxer, count yourself lucky. It isn't necessarily the worst thing at all, but it is hard to see your little one so uncomfortable and unhappy all the time. 

So there I was, playing mind games with Max trying to get him to sleep, bouncing him this way and that, making "sh-sh-sh" noises, and carefully not making eye contact with him because that seems to be an indicator to him that it's Awake Time, and mentally writing this blog. I came up with a concise one through ten list of the changes in our lives because of Max. But when I went to ease Max into his crib, he decided he wasn't ready to sleep and I had to start the bouncing and the shushing all over, so I re-wrote the whole blog a second time, including entertaining details about the difficulty of going from two to three children.

And then I sat down to write it. The cursor blinked at me, the white screen stretched endlessly, and I felt...quiet. My mind and my heart went quiet, thinking over the details of the last four months, and of the last year. The changes seem obvious, but then profound, and then...unimportant. Not because Max is not wonderful and amazing, but because he is. I expected him to be like Joey or like Noah, or like me or like Joe, and I am amazed that he is completely his own person. Already. I am amazed at his tiny ears and his tiny hands and the amount of toe jam one small person can accumulate in a single day. I am amazed at his voice and his sounds and his belly button and his rosy lips. I'm amazed that he knows and loves each member of his family so much already, and that his brothers have loved him without thought or question since the moment they first saw him in the hospital. 

Having a baby is not an easy thing for me. Having three children seems impossible a lot of the time, like I'm having a dream where I watch this messy, chaotic version of myself try and deal with problems that can't possibly be mine in real life. But there is one thing that comes very easily to me, and I am grateful, deeply, that my children share this same gift. I  love my family. I love these children. Here I wanted to avoid being obvious or cliche, but it is the most profound thing I can think to say. That when I reached a point in my life where I believed my love was all used up and given away, the Universe found a way to reach deep inside me and show how much more there was. It is hard and I think I am awful at it, but I love my children and am very glad to be their mother. 

That is all.

Fussy baby yawning. <3 p="">