Week 27: Growing Up
I haven’t spent much time writing about Jack lately, but in the past month, I feel like I’ve had the chance to get to know him so much more. At almost 22 months old, his ability to communicate with the outside world is finally catching up with what’s going on inside his head. He’s finally able to share all his thoughts, feelings, and opinions with us, and it has been a real treat. The more we learn about him, the more fun he gets, and considering what an easy-going kid he’s been all along, that’s saying something.
We knew that he loves trains, but now we know that he especially likes tunnels. We knew he was funny, but now we know that to him, the funniest things are when something’s slightly wrong. He puts a shoe on his head and says, “Hat!” with a mischievous grin on his face–the height of hilarity to him. The fake sneeze is also a big hit; he’ll say “ah-choo” and let the shoe fall off, then just rolls on the floor with laughter.
Swimming is his favorite activity, and he calls it “kick-kick,” because we got in the habit of saying that when he’s in the water at swim lessons. He loves to be “side-out” (outside…we¹re working on it, but it’s too cute to change too quickly). He’s fearless on the playset, and follows the big kids wherever they go; climbing the ladders, swinging on the “big-kid” swing, and crawling up the twisty slide from the bottom. The running joke is that he doesn’t realize he’s just one year old–he believes he’s as big as his brother and sister, and doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be capable of doing everything they’re able to do. For the most part, he’s able to keep up, so they let him roll with them as part of their crew.
Jack is addicted to his “gink” (binkie), and will probably take it with him to college at the rate we’re going. Gracie took forever to give hers up too, but eventually traded it for a betta fish when she was almost three. Right now, my goal is just to limit the “gink” to bed time, a worthy goal which sometimes falls prey to the fact that I¹m tired and pregnant, and sometimes it’s just easier to plug him when he gets upset. Not the best mothering strategy, but we’re working on it. Mostly I just want it out of his mouth when he’s trying to talk, so we can encourage even more of the language development that’s been happening recently.
He’s able to repeat pretty much anything we say to him, and he seems interested in learning how to say new words. I¹m a geek for this stuff because language acquisition and reading were my areas of study for my Master’s degree, but I think even most non-geeks would agree watching a kid learn to talk and communicate is fascinating. I especially enjoy watching him learn slang things, like how he says, “Woo hoo!” when he’s really excited. It’s the perfect phrase for him, because he has so much enthusiasm about so many things, and now he has a way to verbalize that. It cracks me up.
Jack’s big sister is doing some growing up of her own: she starts Kindergarten in a few weeks. Up to this point, she’s been focused on the exciting parts of going to school: seeing a few preschool friends, making new friends, learning new things, playing on the playground, all the good stuff. One evening at bed time, it hit her that doing all those new, wonderful things would mean leaving behind the daily routine she’s used to: spending most of her time with her brothers and me.
We checked out a few books about Kindergarten from the library, and as I tucked her in that night, she suddenly burst into tears. “I’m nervous about going to Kindergarten!” she wailed, clinging to my neck like she’d never let go. This is pretty out of character for my usually independent, outgoing Gracie-girl. She rarely wants to snuggle any more, so whenever it happens I look at it as a rare treat. I climbed into her bed, stroked her hair, and held her while she cried, then told her more about all the wonderful things that would happen at Kindergarten. I told her that it was OK to miss me, because I¹d miss her too, but we¹d see each other by 3:00 each afternoon, and we’d have the rest of the day together. I told her she’ll have a great time at school, and once she sees how great it is, she won’t be so worried any more.
I wish I could convince myself of the same thing. It took everything in my power not to break down, hold even tighter to her, and say, “That’s OK, baby, I don’t want you to go either!” Gracie has been my almost-constant companion for the past five years, and I’m not quite sure what I’ll do without her all day. Despite the fact that we sometimes butt heads because we’re so much alike, we have a great time together for the same reason. She’s my girl pal for doing girl things–we watch girl movies, do mani-pedis, bake stuff, read classic girl-books, and go to the theater together. She’s the one who shares my decaf iced mochas with me, and gets excited about going to Target.
And now she’s leaving me, for 13 years of school, then probably college, then she’ll get married…okay, I¹m getting ahead of myself, but I guess it’s my way of saying that I’m just as nervous as she is, and I’ll probably miss her even more than she’ll miss me. Nothing against my boys–they’re great companions, and we’ll have a wonderful time, but I’ll probably feel guilty for a while when we go enjoy something she likes while she’s at school.
Soon enough, we’ll add another little brother to the mix and I’ll be even busier, but I’ll also miss my big helper. She’s such a pro at helping and comforting her brothers, and takes pride in her role as the big sister. Of course, sometimes she’s bossy and drives them nuts too, but nobody’s perfect. It’ll be interesting to see how Max does with his big sister gone all day. They’re best friends, and he loves to be with her, but he’ll have more opportunities to make decisions on his own and speak without being interrupted. It’s the right time for this to happen in his life, and I think he’ll become more of a leader as he has more opportunities to make his own choices rather than follow along with Gracie.
With all the thought and reflection about my “big kids” growing up, it makes me excited to think that in three months, I’ll get a teeny tiny baby to take care of. At least one more time, I’ll be able to marvel at little fingers and microscopic toenails. I’ll get to soak up all those little baby noises, and laugh when he does that newborn yawn-and-stretch, or when he startles himself with the revelation that he has arms and freaks out. We’ll enjoy the sweet, relatively quiet newborn cry, which all-too-quickly blooms into the shouting and whining that sometimes fills the house as they get older.
I’ll get up to nurse the baby in the middle of the night, propping up my feet in my worn leather recliner and watching late-night TV. I think I’ll soak that up too, because I love the feeling of just me and a baby being the only ones awake in a dark, quiet house, and he’ll start sleeping through the night soon enough.
After my long conversation with Gracie, it was approaching 10:00, and I knew she needed to get to sleep. I asked her what song she wanted for her nightly song & backrub routine, and she said, ³the usual² as she rolled over. It¹s a song that was on a lullaby CD someone gave us when she was a baby, and I¹ve been singing it to her for five years. It’s called “Go to Sleep, My Little Baby,” and I especially love the second and third verses:
“Mommy loves you very much, you’re her little angel one. You are always such a blessing, full of love and full of fun.”
“Daddy loves you, you’re so special, we’re so proud of you, it’s true. Through the night just dream, my baby. Pleasant dreams, I’ll dream of you.”
I got choked up singing the song (just like I am now as I type the lyrics), thinking of how I’ve sung it to a tiny newborn, a squirmy toddler, a busy preschooler, and now to my almost-kindergartener. Growing up is hard on kids, maybe even harder on parents. But at least we have each other, and I realize I need my kids as much as, if not more than, they need me.