After listening to me reprimand his big brother for not keeping his hands to himself in the car, my youngest looked at me fiercely, with love in his eyes, and said,
“Mama, you mess with him, you’re gonna mess with me!”
Big brother explained that he was quoting a line from the movie Madagascar. Great.
Later that day I was wrapping up a final conversation with our contractor, who recently oversaw our complete kitchen renovation, when our oldest joined us. Our kitchen is now bright, sparkling clean, and organized. It’s been a long month + of projects (plus bathroom breakdown/upgrading), but completely worth it.
My oldest asked our contractor if would like a homemade zucchini muffin.
“They’re free,” he tells him.
You know those quiet, almost timid children you observe sitting beside their parents in restaurants or on park benches or in church? Yeah, those aren’t my kids, either.
This summer has been nonstop. Walking through a city park to swim lessons this morning, I noticed a fringe of yellow and gold on the highest branches of towering trees, the greenest of green fading into autumnal light. Already, I think?
Forty minutes later I squeezed my youngest dry, wrapping him head to toe in a large towel, and he laughed heartily. When he’s happy, he’s on top of the world. When he’s mad… look out.
Exactly one minute before we left for soccer camp this morning, my oldest announced, “Mom! We’re supposed to bring a flag! We’re supposed to MAKE a flag!”
Again, really? Now you tell me?
This half day camp has been an interesting experience. Run by three soccer coaches visiting from England, the ages within the group range from six to twelve. I’d thought they would break out by age, but given that there were only 20 kids or so, they’ve coached them together. Not only is my son one of only three six-year-olds in the camp, he is by far the shortest little guy on the field. His camp t-shirt reaches almost to his knees.
On the first day, he was excited but wary as he gazed up at the bigger boys.
“Mom? I don’t think this camp is age-appropriate.”
Watching him scrimmage against ten-year-old boys, lanky and confident in their play, is not easy. Fortunately I’m not there most of the time, and when I pick him up he seems happy enough. He knows he’s the smallest boy out there; he told me so yesterday. Today he told me that he might like “playing with boys his own age”, and I assured him that he will be on a six-year-old team in the fall (with Dad coaching), and he was happy to hear it. Still, he ran off to join the big kids, brave and smiling and physical.
There is little better than recognizing a genuine smile on a child’s face, a bright look in his eyes as he feels good about himself. I think we must be doing something right if he can find a way in which to navigate his small body through a sweaty group of big kids and still have fun. The coaches are doing a good job, too. On the other hand, I continue to negotiate tough and often senseless planning with his younger brother, which balances my sense of parental satisfaction with immense frustration… or craziness. Offering the little dude choices helps, but wow, he is particular about so much at this young age. The ability to “let it go” hasn’t surfaced yet, not even a teensy bit. He tells me frequently he is “sad” or “mad” or “not tired”, and he also asks me regularly if I am “happy”. I know I haven’t kept smiling through many of these negotations. I let my kids see me frustrated – a lot – and happy – often – and sad – sometimes – but not much.
If they only knew how much I think of them, how they are in my thoughts when they are away from me, how fantastic their potential is and will be and how their not-so-gentle truths have grown our family into a place where I think we are doing ok. Most of the time, anyway.
As the weekend beckons, I look forward to the following:
- First and foremost a kid-free evening tonight with my husband at the Oregon Zoo listening to Los Lobos & Los Lonely Boys
- a picnic at a park tomorrow
- a pool swim on Saturday and a 5K run on Sunday
- an evening with my boys alone while their dad cheers on our Timbers downtown, and
- a visit to old friends we haven’t seen in forever on Sunday night.
And in between activities and along the way and during the journey and even as we sleep, I will love and learn from my boys, and hopefully – they will learn from me.