Brotherhood

I lay still as I listen to him breathe 60 calm, even breaths; as I take in his face and the feel of his soft hair beneath my fingertips.  My baby is becoming a little boy.  Some days I can barely keep up.  He pushes me to my limits as he tests all of his- physically, behaviorally, emotionally.  His favorite word is no and sometimes he screams and covers his face when he doesn’t get his way or someone says something he doesn’t want to hear.

But he is still my muse.  He has always been my muse.  My first born who helped me to find my voice and unlocked the dam to a million words.

And now there’s another boy who is slowly stealing my heart, beginning to inspire his own words.  Poetry seems slow to come these days, overshadowed by the inelegant daily concerns of figuring out how to meet the needs of two little boys.  As an only child myself, I am winging it.  I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with a sibling, to share that bond, to share the attention of your parents.  I find myself overwhelmed a lot by how to give myself to both boys without feeling as if I am letting one down, without feeling like I am being ‘mean’ or ‘bad’ in the mom realm.  I am plagued with questions and guilt about whether I am giving Cameron the same attention and opportunities that I gave Casey.  One of the hardest things is realizing that their first years in this world will be different from each other and that that’s ok.

Just when I am plagued by this whirlwind of thoughts, I catch a glimpse of their brotherhood- Casey running to get a toy for Cameron before he goes to bed so he can give it to him in the morning, helping me find a pacifier, showing Cameron his trucks, telling me why he thinks Cameron is crying and telling me to go take care of “my brother” when he fusses.  Cameron unable to take his eyes off his older brother, fascinated, laughing and cooing when Casey talks to him, grabbing onto his hair or his shirt or his hand when he sits close, laying still and watching him as he plays.

Cameron is growing so fast. I forgot how fast they grow. He is rolling over both ways and will be sitting up in the next month or two.  He is already so aware of his surroundings and I can’t wait to see what it will be like when he is able to begin “playing” simple games, when he is able to begin to communicate with us.  I can’t wait to watch these brothers grow together.  As my own comfort level with raising siblings grows, I have hope that poetry will return but for now my words will serve to simply document our days and keep track of my running thoughts so they don’t spin out of control.

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Temper tantrums & Teaparties

I got Casey to fall asleep for a nap today ALL BY HIMSELF.  That is a big win around here. There was a little yelling, some wall kicking and his pillow definitely got thrown across the room as he stood on his bed screaming.  There was a lot of me sitting in the rocking chair with the baby (who was also crying) while I gently coaxed him to lay down and pull his cover over himself and in a calm, quit voice told him I would lay down with him when I didn’t hear any screaming.  Finally, I managed to put the baby down for half a second while I molded my body around Casey’s as he lay, now exhausted, under his blanket, and held him, whispering how important it was that he learn to fall asleep by himself and how proud I was of how helpful he’d been all morning.  Then Cameron started up again and  I told him I would come back in his room once I found a toy for the baby. “Ok, mama” he said in his soft baby voice.

I listened on the monitor for a long time while I walked around the house with Cameron and here we are two hours later and he’s still sleeping.  He needs it.  We’ve been batting around the stomach flu over here and it’s been a topsy-turvy couple of days and nights.  Parenting with a fever is no fun.  Thank god for family, who took Casey for a few hours Monday while I slept off some of my illness.

Someone asked me recently, in an email, how I manage temper tantrums, especially the increase that have flared up since bringing another baby into the mix. Honestly?  It’s different every time.  Sometimes there is a lot of yelling from both of us.  Sometimes things get thrown, doors get slammed.  Sometimes I have to leave the room or lock him or I into a room so that we can both calm down.  Sometimes, I get down on his level and there is a lot of hugging and holding and just letting him “get all his angry and sad out.”  Most of the time I just try to wait it out, talk him through it, be reasonable (even when he is completely unreasonable), take deep breaths.  I don’t mind that he sees me get mad or frustrated.  I do apologize when my temper flares and I don’t feel it was really justified.  I don’t spank but I have swatted his butt a few times when he has done something truly horrendous or scary- like when he ran away down the street and then darted across the street and then did the same thing on the other side of the street, crossing it twice without a thought and making my heart pretty much take up residence in the top of my throat.  I was so scared I could hardly breathe, let alone speak, and a swat on the butt and a tremendous hug was all I could manage to get my point across.

It’s hard for a toddler to adjust to sharing their parents attention with another child.  It’s difficult for the parent to have to divide their attention in a way that makes everyone happy.  At 3 months, things are beginning to level out.  I try to incorporate Casey into everything I have to do with Cameron: diaper changes, baths, picking out clothes. Sometimes he really wants to help, sometimes he could care less.

I tell him all the time that I understand that it’s hard for him “when mommy has to give her attention to Cameron but you are wanting me to play with you.”  He nods his head. Sometimes he starts to cry.

But now there are beginning to be more moments when I’m holding Cameron, burping him on my lap and Casey passes by and gently caresses his hair.  Moment’s when we are sitting on the couch in the morning watching Cartoons and Casey spontaneously looks at me and says “Cameron is the best isn’t he?”  It makes me feel all warm and teary inside as I just nod and say that he is, “and so are you sweetheart.”

The other day, Casey had a tea party for his teddy bear and a doll that was mine when I was a child.  He really wanted Cameron to join but I told him Cameron couldn’t really sit at the table. “That’s ok.  You can sit at the table and he can have your otherside (his term for breastfeeding) so he gets big and strong like me and then we can both have a tea party right?”

Absolutely my boy.  You’re absolutely right.

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Brothers, chillin

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Sometimes I tell him he’s being too rough and sometimes I let him just hug it out. 

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Sweet Baby boy 🙂

Moments

Both boys are napping!  It feels like a miracle.  I used the time to finish laundry, eat lunch and sit down to try to write a little bit.  I didn’t get much writing done but I did find this. This was a blog entry that I had written and never published.  I wrote it before Cameron was born- I’m guessing I didn’t have time to go back and edit it and forgot about it, had a baby and never gave it a thought until today.  Reading through it I remember each of these moment with instantaneous and fleeting clarity, each rushing across my memory like a slideshow of snapshots.

sidenote: i didn’t do much editing here.

Moments:

the soft skin of his forearm beneath my thumb as I rub it absentmindedly

standing in his doorway watching him sleep, his face turned towards me, lips puckered open, cheeks puffed out as he exhales

the scent of his hair as he struggles to snuggle closer to me as we sit on the couch

“thank you mama” he says when I bring him more pancakes.
“looks nice in here, good job mama,” he says admiring the rearranged back porch.

singing his made up song as he clangs away on the xylophone “hello apple, hello mango, hello arm, hello eyes, hello dresser, hello apple and mango,” and turning his head, laughing, making sure I am watching  

watching him peddle his tricycle up the driveway, he turns his head to make sure I’m staying put: “mama stay!”

the sound of his feet as he runs through the hall and into our bedroom in the middle of the night

following him into the kitchen as he cries because he can’t reach the pan he wants to get down because he wanted to “make mama breakfast” 

his arm flung over my shoulder when he turns to me in the night as I lay, facing away from him.

so many more….so many unremembered.


Losing my mom, when I was ten, taught me the value of time and memory.  How quickly time passes and how precious are the moments that we have with out loved ones!  It was easy when I was younger, in grief, to turn away from others and to sever ties rather then take the chance of experiencing loss all over again.  It made me uncomfortable to get too close.  Except that inside, I yearned for those deeper connections- for loving, supportive arms to encircle me, comfort me when i needed it and keep me safe when I felt vulnerable.

It’s taken me most of my adult life so far to realize that I alone hold the power to return the gesture when others reach out and that embracing others is the only way to protect myself from feeling alone.  It took having a child to realize how much we need the community of people in our life.

I hold on tight to the moments I have with Casey.  These precious moments that are so beautiful they hurt.  It tugs at my heartstrings, watching him, knowing that he will grow up some day and be big and that I might not remember this moment, or the next, or maybe the next one.  I wonder if I will remember all these tiny moments when I am old and he is grown?

I am elated that I get to do this all over again- babyhood.  Watching another tiny child reach milestones, encounter and conquer his firsts.  I know there will be hard moments and moments of frustration but I feel so much more prepared this time around even as I feel overwhelmed with the knowledge that i will have two boys growing up before my eyes, two boys worth of memories to store and cherish and wonder if I will remember in five, ten twenty years.  I feel more able to find that balance between holding them close and letting them loose without guilt.

~~~~~

(in response)

It has definitely been a challenge some days, to keep up with two boys, feeling like I am running on empty and completely overloaded trying to accommodate the growth and needs of each boy. Finding a balance is easier some days than others.  Most days it feels like we are walking up one of those balance ladders you find at a fair, trying to ring the bell at the top.  Just when I think I’m making some good forward progress, the ladder starts to shake and I loose my footing all over again. 

~~~~~

I peeked in on Casey this morning.  He slept so soundly last night.  Not a peep all night and still serene, on his stomach, his head turned so he faced the doorway as I stood leaning against it watching it, taking my first sip of coffee.  I wondered if I would remember this moment in five years, ten, twenty? I wondered if it would matter then as it does now and then I wondered if the fact that he slept so soundly through the night meant that I should do away with daytime naps, and I shuddered at the though.  Not ready for that day yet.

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Motherhood and happiness.

It was last night when I had a moment of enlightening, while sitting on our couch after both boys had finally gone down to sleep.  It’s been a roller coaster these last two months and we have had some trying days with Casey adjusting to a baby in the house.  There have been some times.  Enough said.

I never feel good after I’ve yelled at my kids.  I don’t like losing my temper and there are many times during the day when I get mad at something I later realize didn’t warrant the emotional energy spent arguing and fighting about.

The thing is, I am a selfish person.  I mean not really.  I’m empathetic and love connecting and learning about other people.  But here’s the thing: I’m an only child and, for better or worse, I am used to having things in my family revolve around me.  I am used to having most areas of my life revolve around my schedule and my needs.

But parenting doesn’t work that way.  I don’t get to set the schedule for my children. Besides making sure they are well fed, educated, and taken care of, I have no control over what toys my 2.5 year old wants to play with or whether or not he actually wants to go to Target and wander the isles when I say so.  I have no control over when my 7 week old is hungry or tired or overwhelmed or wants to be totally cute and lay on his back and kick and coo and smile for us.  I cannot exert my will or my schedule upon these boys anymore then I can tell the sun to set at a later hour.  It is not about me anymore.

My job now is to raise these two boys.  It is my job to make sure they are well-adjusted, healthy, encouraged, understood, loved, supported and generally happy.  It is easy to lose sight of this in the moment, after I have said the same thing 5 times in a row, when I am facing ultimate temper-tantrums, when the only answer I get all day is “no” and “I did it anyway”.  It is hard to just want five minutes to myself, to be able to finish whatever it is I am working on or have things go “according to plan”.  It is easy to lean into the resentment and anger that can bubble up.

But this does not serve me.  This season of my life calls for deep breathing and slowing down; for listening, uplifting, teaching, gentleness and understanding.  It is a season of warmth and growth and bonding and even though the hours stretch long and sleep is wanting, it always feels better to take the time and give that extra minute.  It pays to get down on their level and slow down, to try to see through their eyes and understand what the world is like for them, instead of trying to impose my schedule onto them.

All of this came to me last night and it was like a light turned on. It was forgiveness and a letting go of all the guilt I carry about reacting badly when I am stressed out or tired, letting go of all the questions of whether or not I am a good mom.  It was like warmth and reassurance; the innate knowledge that I am a great mother to my boys and that I have so much to cherish and to look forward to.  It was happiness.

It was motherhood and it was happiness.

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Thanksgiving

I am Thankful.
I am thankful for this privileged life I live,
which I have not had to work particularly hard for,
thankful for all the people who have worked hard for me.

Thankful for this path I am walking.
Thankful for all the tiny treasured that I collect along the way.
Thankful for marriage and motherhood and family.
Thankful that I am surrounded by good men and strong women.
Thankful for accepting frustration in the midst of joy
and for finding the hidden joys in the mundane madness of our days.

I am thankful for my body.
Thankful for all the parts I already love
and for those I am still learning to.
I am thankful for my body’s strength and it’s softness,
Thankful that it has grown and sustained life.
Thankful that I was able to feel tiny kicks
and give the final push
to bring my squirming, slippery babies into the world.

I am thankful for my two boys.
Thankful for Casey, my curious, courageous son,
who forges his wild way through sound and action
delighting in all things new and loud and fast
dropping bits of knowledge along the way,
leaving us breathless and astounded

I am thankful for Cameron,
My tiny little snuggler
who makes his unformed voice heard-
his grunts, snorts, coo’s and squeals
reaffirming his place in our hearts
and in this world-
his precious being just beginning to shine.

I am thankful for my husband.
My quiet, hard-working husband
who loves me because of and in spite of,
has loved me during and through,
who accepts my fears and encourages me to dig deeper.
who holds me hand as we explore uncharted territory
and anchors me to a safe harbor in this mad world.

I am thankful for all I have
and all I have yet to receive.
Thankful for good friends and strong coffee,
for beauty and creativity,
for sleepless nights and nap times
chaos and quiet moments.

I am thankful for the tiny flame of faith
fanned by growth and intrigue and devout friends,
Thankful to feel the spirit move me-
in soft windy gusts upon forested hills,
the warmth of sunshine in quiet summer mornings,
colorful blooms of wildflowers opening their faces to me
and in the tiny hands and soft smiles of my babes.

Most of all I am thankful to just be alive.
To get to experience this short time of living,
on such a beautiful planet,
among such rich diversity,
to discover the vastness of the human spirit every day,
is a gift.
I am so thankful to have been given it.

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