My days are long, but they are full. My boys are crazy, but they are wonderful. And that has been my life in recent memory.
I was able to go to Joey's awards ceremony at school today, thanks to the complete selflessness and generosity of my husband who offered to work from home for a few hours so Max could nap and I could enjoy the peace of being at a school event by myself. I sat in the back, clapping at the various achievements of other people's children, and then felt the now-familiar sting of happy tears each time I heard my boy's name called.
I was proud of him for working hard and doing well, but prouder still because I know how this year has gone for him. It wasn't an easy road for a little guy. I keep thinking of that quote I see all over Facebook and Pinterest for book lovers, something about how when you finish an amazing book, you put it down and you're shocked that no one realizes your world has just changed forever. Everyone is just going along like nothing happened. That's how I feel about our year: our whole world changed, but if I even begin to try and explain this to people, it sounds pretty lame. And I know in the scheme of things, us having a baby is pretty run-of-the-mill, but as I watched Joey gripping that certificate, his face awash with everything that comes with hard work paying off, I decided to bask just a little more in how well we've come through our personal mountain climb.
My sister had warned me that third grade can be a tough year. It's the first year of number grades, the first year of really studying (flash cards are the best; buy your index cards in bulk!), the first year of really starting the journey to becoming an independent student down the road. At first, Joey dealt with his mom being at work for the first time in two years. Then, he dealt with his mom having just had a baby. A baby who, in the beginning, wasn't easy. Joey had to learn that homework time was going to be filled with baby bottles and burps and spitting up. Studying would have to happen regardless of newborn cries and kindergarten woes (because Noah was no picnic in the whole change-of-life scenario, either). He had so many questions, and every time he had to ask the best answer he got was, "Not now," or, "Try it on your own until I'm done with this other thing."
In a lot of ways, it made Joey better. My little pleaser, always wanting to check in with a grownup to hear praise and be reassured, had to step out on his own and feel his way along to figure things out. And in that way, I bet it made him feel even better to be holding those certificates today. But then...I saw his face when he pulled the papers out his backpack earlier in the year, the papers with red markings that weren't what he wanted or expected. That he sometimes didn't even understand. Those moments were hard for all of us, but I think in the end, they did make us all even more determined to get the whole picture right. And I think we are. Getting it right, I mean. Or starting to.
Tonight, after Max was in bed, I was holding Noah. As I mentioned, his struggle with going from baby to middle child was no small matter. One of his favorite things to do is count his woes, no matter how hard I try to get him to do the opposite. So as I held him tonight, I started a little game. He'd said, "I'm the saddest boy in the whole world." And you should hear his voice as he says this. He'd win an Academy Award. For real. Best Male Actor in a Drama, except for him, the drama is his life.
"Sure," I'd said, "except for, you know, the boys and girls in, I don't know, Africa, who have no parents, or clothes, or food. And they're sick and they just want someone to take care of them. They might--might--be sadder than you."
"Yeah," he said, turning his mouth sideways. "Except that I really am saddest of all."
"Noah Michael is lucky, though," I said, thinking of Joey at school. "Noah is lucky because he has a mom and a dad who love him. Noah is lucky because he has a baby brother who thinks he's the greatest."
"Yeah, but I have a big brother who doesn't love me at all." (Are you picturing Eeyore? Because that's who he sounds like.)
Ignoring that last remark, I said, "Noah Michael is lucky because his Mom buys him cool clothes. Nice clothes. And Noah Michael is lucky because he has a room full of toys. And a house to live in with his whole family."
"Yeah. And my room is pretty cool. That's kind of lucky."
"That's very lucky."
We went on with our list for a few more minutes, until I could sense that Noah's heart was big and full and his Eeyore voice was gone. Then we began a game that involved blowing a piece of paper across the coffee table at each other, which he thought was the funniest thing ever. Noah Michael is lucky because he finds humor in small things.
I tucked him in to bed after a bit and came down the stairs. Joey was at baseball, his dad with him, so the house was quiet. I pictured my big boy with his proud face. I picture my middle boy, with his Eeyore frown turning to his sunshine smile. And...I lifted my shirt from my chest to my nose and smelled my baby, who slept soundly like a little angel just steps away. Who curls against me at bedtime, eyes closed, drinking his bottle, while I rock him slowly in the chair I didn't think I'd use again. Whose soft fuzzy hair feels like heaven in that space of my neck just under my chin, where he fits perfectly.
I am lucky because my days are long, but full. I am lucky because my boys are crazy, but wonderful. I am lucky because this has been my life in recent memory.