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.
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.
We celebrate Penny’s seventh birthday with a soccer party at Dulles Sportsplex. Friends from pre-school, friends from Floris, girls, boys, older brothers, younger brother competitively play soccer and Sharks and Minnows in the most non-competitive way possible. Riley scores four goals on Lucas because “he is going easy on her”, Cody is untouchable, Brady and Zachary are the dynamic duo, Mikayla is determined to tag Penny as the last minnow, Oliver plays his hardest undeterred by the fact that he is the smallest and in between there are cartwheels, hand stands and smiles.
I had three teacher conferences this year, told at each one where my son was challenged or challenging. It was sobering, my son who has always been complimented on his self-control, manners and humor now being scrutinized for all of the above. I rained down on him, my disappointment and frustration falling in thick sheets. I doled out punishment and new expectations. Lucas, meekly, accepted it all.
I ask Lucas to do ten things a day, he does all ten without question or hesitation. He makes me laugh out loud; sometimes I am laughing at him, so is he. He relents when I demand. And he gives the warmest, hardest, sweetest hugs.
I couldn’t normalize what I was told and what I know to be true.