My baby is ten. My last, my youngest has achieved a new milestone of double digits. He is constantly testing, pulling, stretching against the binds I put on him. Seemingly aimless, boundless energy with no purpose he is very intentional and knows that his desired outcome is always achieved, to have my attention.
Today is day 72 of quarantine, today is also Penny’s 11th birthday. In an average year this date could have fallen on a school day for her and a work day for me, a chaotic day of commitments squeezing in celebrations where we can. But instead it’s day 72 of quarantine, of social-distancing, of distance learning, of work from home. Her morning started with our usual birthday breakfast tradition but instead of rushing out the door she was surprised with a “Happy 11th Birthday Penny!!” chalk art message thoughtfully and beautifully decorating our front side walk, with homemade doughnuts dropped off with homemade cards and a lot of love, with texts, messages and videos as they streamed in from friends near and far, and a socially-distanced ice cream break which turned into a water gun fight (OK, the six feet distance may not have been enforced the whole time). So on her 11th birthday, the 72nd day of quarantine, of social-distancing and isolation, she felt streamers full of love, coming from every which way, tumbling down on her.
Our first born, bearer of our many firsts, now our first teenager. Too cool for school, beyond his years, no. His height might confuse many but he’s still just a silly kid inside.
This was the moment I held you for the first time. After hours of labor, some small panics and too many doctors you were measured, cleaned and swaddled and placed into my arms. You were crying so I sang “Dream A Little Dream of Me”, a song I had been singing to you in utero. You instantly calmed down and tried to open your eyes to see me. This was the moment.
Oliver was our easiest baby. He slept through the night at 10 weeks, he nursed and fed easily, he didn’t fuss or whine. He mostly sat back and watched his big brother and big sister swirl around him. He was slow to crawl, to walk, to talk. He was the essence of the laid back third child.
Oliver as a baby and toddler was no indication of the boy he’d become. Nine year old Oliver is observant, inquisitive, detailed, analytical, energetic and independent. He is reason over sentiment, comprehension over illusion, deliberate over accidental. He can articulate his feelings while at the same time stomp over others, unintentionally. When I would say “Why would you do that, don’t you think it would hurt his/hers feelings?” he would merely shrug. This reaction would drive me insane, leaving me to think my son was being defiant and disrespectful. But recently I’ve come to learn that his shrug is not attitude but honesty; he doesn’t know the answer. So I’ve learned to explain it to him and he files it away. It’s almost like watching more machine than human; he takes new explanations, processes it, remembers it and learns from it.
Remember that time you blew out Oliver’s birthday candle? We had just finished singing “Happy Birthday” and before Oliver even knew what happened the candle was out. But I knew exactly what happened. With friends and family gathered around, with cameras rolling, this moment was documented forever. Look at Oliver’s and Penny’s faces, still waiting to blow out the candle that is no longer lit. But your face reveals your guilt. You were only five. Just a young child yourself. Unfair to ask you to be fair, unfair to ask you to be considerate of your baby brother, unfair to ask you to practice self-control. And look at my face, but worse, look at my hand. I have loved and hated this photo. I loved it for the honesty and realness of a mother in a moment of little patience with three children five and under and I have hated this photo because it captured me at my worst. Yet looking at this photo now as you turn twelve I have a different appreciation of this photo. Since the day you were born you carry our dreams and expectations. Your five was different than Penny’s five and Oliver’s five.
March 27, 2007
You know the feeling you get when you wake up and realize it is the weekend? Or Christmas day? When you think of the upcoming vacation or party or event that you’ve been planning? When you suddenly remember that your going to Italy in a week? Well that is how I feel every time I look at Lucas.