Friday, May 16, 2008

Brotherly Love

Will's arrival was not the easiest development in the life of Andrew Cannon. We endured months of bouts of jealousy, instances of slapping, reversion to baby-like behavior (only really annoying) and clingyness with me. By Christmas, Andrew was pretty used to Will. I wouldn't say that he ignored the baby, because he did talk about him a lot and show concern for him ("Our baby is crying! Help him!"), and sometimes even affection ("He's a funny baby. I love you so much baby Will.") But I think we have turned a corner even still: Andrew now genuinely wants baby Will around.

I realized recently that I have simply expected my two boys to be best friends. If they are not close as they grow up, I know it will be one of the biggest disappointments of my life. I realize that isn't quite fair, but that is how I feel now. Hopefully the boys will sense my desires and, at minimum, feel guilted into closeness.

It should be easy and natural, though. They have so much in common. Will is like a tiny, skinny version of his big brother. I am saving a post on Will's Six Month Milestones to go into more detail, but he really is a mini Andrew (but a little bit of an easier nature insofar as sleeping and eating are concerned). I am hoping that he displays Andrew's AFV sense of humor. Next time I trip in Will's presence, I will have to be sure to gauge his reaction. At around Will's age, Andrew would go from crying to laughing at any of my misfortunes. Almost choking to death in the car (me) really lightened his mood one day and turned the shrieking from being trapped in a car seat into peals of joyful laughter. He couldn't even see me.

Anyway, but I want to relate the secret to getting my older son to love and want to be around my baby son. Andrew loves attention. Most of our life together has consisted of me narrating his activities as he engages in them. Sometimes a little bit tedious for me, but absolutely essential in his world. In the last 6 months, his toys have begun to participate in the narration, or at least talk to him. (Some of my body parts are likewise treated as separate talking entities, and my feet, for example, often have to carry on conversations with his feet, or admire his basketball games.) I realized that the way to Andrew's heart was through his ego. So I let Baby Will in on the dialouge, and Andrew cannot get enough.

Baby Will spends his whole day describing what Andrew is doing and exclaiming over how "awesome" and "amazing" his brother and the activity his brother is engaged in are. Baby Will speaks in a really high-pitched voice. Andrew refers to it as "A tiny, tiny baby voice," and if I leave Baby Will silent too long, Andrew will guide me: "Have Baby Will talk in his tiny, tiny voice and say . . . " and Andrew supplies the necessary praise in a really high pitched annoying voice which I sometimes can't understand. But I know basically what he wants, so I talk about how much Will loves him and how awesome Andrew is.

It has worked wonderfully. Andrew now hugs Baby Will, tries really hard to make Baby Will laugh, kisses him and tickles him. He tells him they will be best friends when he gets bigger, and promises to teach him how to play basketball and racing, again, when he is bigger. Today he promised to show him how to be so awesome . . . when he is bigger.

Inducting Baby Will into Andrew's vast fan club of puppets, cars and stuffed animals, all of whom speak through my voice, has totally changed their relationship. Because Will worships and adores Andrew, Andrew now sends those feelings right back. And the best part is that, while I am the one saying the words, it is obvious that Baby Will's feelings for Andrew are just as I describe. Nothing makes him smile and laugh and start flapping around more than the sight of his big brother (or maybe a balloon).

Hopefully this means that there will be no repeat of the incident of a few days ago. I left the room to get a glass of water and heard the normal sounds of playing. Then I heard Andrew's voice calling out urgently, "I'm sorry, Baby! I'm sorry! You're ok, baby Will! You are!" I rushed back into the room to find that everything was basically as I had left it. Curious, I asked Andrew why he was apologizing. "Because I hit Baby William," Andrew replied, highlighting one of Will's best qualities: he is really not a complainer.

As the years go by and the boys approximate each other in size, or at least in ability to fight back and defend themselves, and as they grow into genuine playmates, I will have to remember how it all began and let Will get a few free punches in.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bribery v. Threats

Today you both woke up around 5am. The heat is shut off in our building, so our apartment is pretty cold. Andrew, your room is a little peninsula into the courtyard, so your room is probably 10 degrees colder than ours. So you wake up. You would probably wake up anyway, but at least now you have an excuse.

While we are on the subject, I thought I would let you know about your dad's tactic v. my tactic to getting you to sleep through the night.

When your dad was out of town last week, I knew that I had to rule the Nights. Well, Baby Will is really the King, but I had to at least have dominion over you.

Around midnight, you went into this weird screaming fit you had been experimenting with the preceeding few days. Locking you into your room doesn't solve the problem: you bang on the door as you scream at the top of your lungs, awakening Baby Will (and, oh yeah, probably everyone else above and below us). It is not even close to being as charming as I have described. I am a little surprised no on has complained or called the police. Visions flitted into my mind of how I could get you to sh** up (you were begging me to use those words against you, just begging me!).

I envisioned a humane strap that would secure you to the bed. This is my way of gently saying that I wanted to tie you down.

One inviolable rule of Parenting is that if Mommy Dearest did it, you really can't do it yourself. So, my mind moved on to other ways to achieve my ends.

I knew it had to be something that would contain you and keep me and Will from being disturbed by you, and something I could actually carry out. This is what I thought of next, and I think it was brilliant:

"If you keep screaming like this, tomorrow I am going to the store. I will by a baby crib and I will put it far away across the apartment in the computer room. I will put you in that crib and you will not be able to get out and I will not be able to hear you scream. You will sleep there from tomorrow on if you do not stop screaming right now."

I thought that I would really do it. In the light of day, it might not have been a good idea, since you would probably break your neck climbing out of the crib and I would be too paranoid to us a crib tent. You would have been on a mattress in the computer room.

Well, my will was not tested, since luckily the threat was enough. I did not hear another sound out of you for the next few nights. When your dad returned, so did your midnight banshee routine. This was Daddy's approach:

I found a crudely drawn chart. On one side was a stick-figure bed, on the other a series of boxes. If you slept through the night for seven nights, Daddy would buy you a Doc Hudson car.

The Bribe Approach was also successful. You were so excited to get underway with acquiring Doc that you jumped right into bed. You have failed to sleep through the night on occassion since then, but no more screaming.

Happily, right now you are drugged. You are sick so we had to do it. Hopefully you will be better tomorrow. I would sure hate it if you slept from 9am to 1pm and then lay listlessly on the couch for the rest of the evening again.

Actually, when the Tylenol was working its evil magic, you were in a great mood and back to your bubbly self. We took two baths, you played basketball with Daddy, you went to McDonalds with Papa (while I took Will to the dr) and even thanked Papa for playing with you. You swam the goldfish crackers into your mouth while you watched your shows under the influence of a 101 degree temperature. You are the cutest little thing. Just please stay asleep at night.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Thoughts on Mothers' Day

I wanted to post my favorite Mothers' Day essay. It was written by author Anna Quindlen. It always makes me cry. Thank you to Lynne of sugarcityjournal for sending it to me a few years ago.

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow, but in disbelief.

I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.

Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.

Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education — all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations — what they taught me, was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay.

No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent, this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr.Brazelton’s wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants:average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged?

Was I insane? Last year he went to China . Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine.

He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the “Remember-When-Mom-Did” Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language — mine,not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed.

The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, “What did you get wrong?” (She insisted I include that here.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.

There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done.

Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That’s what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Game of Catch

Andrew and I have been playing catch a lot lately. I can't believe that he has reached that age where he can actually play a game like this with me. He can legitimately throw and catch a ball (a light-weight, larger ball).

I still blame many of his mis-catches on the poor throw. I do this to avert frustration and the collapsing to the floor in self-protest that inevitably follows. I have wondered if I should temper my self-blame and let Andrew deal with making a catching or throwing mistake a little bit more directly.

Today, I had to confront this dilemma again. We had a great rally going when I delivered a genuinely bad pass. I hit him smack in the face with the ball. "Oh, that was a bad throw," I admitted.

"That's ok, Mommy. Papa does a lot of bad throws, too!" he reassured me confidently.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Morning Song

Will, I just, for the very first time in your life, sang you to sleep. I have sung to you before while you were asleep, but those couple of times were more instances of you tolerating or being unaware of the singing. This morning, your fussing and crying actually stopped when I began. I couldn't believe it.

Interestingly, I was singing "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know." It may sound silly to you, but I sort of offered up a mental prayer that I could comfort you and help you fall asleep. The enzymes have burned up your little bottom and have caused, or are associated with, tummy pains and problems, particularly at night. The last few days you have simply not been quite the sunny, happy baby I have known.

Ever since your diagnosis last Wednesday, I have gone through a range of reactions. At first I felt horrified that you were being diagnosed with CF. Then I tried to focus on the drs' reasurances that it was a mild variant and that, with treatment, you would lead a relatively healthy life. I told myself it would be like diabetes: we would have to manage it, it would be a nuisance sometimes, but it would not be fatal to you, or terribly disruptive to your happy life.

Then I began experiencing some denial. Your newborn screen was negative. Your sweat test, which has about a 1-3% rate of false negatives, was negative. The doctors admitted they were a bit baffled by your genetic test: one CF gene for certain, but they think there must be some T factor . . . They explained this part to me a few times in the hospital, and it made sense for maybe 20 minutes.

Yesterday I felt fear. You were napping without any baby clothes so as to air out that sore little bum. I went in to wake you so that you didn't sleep too long. You were on your tiny side and your ribs were just sticking out. I have never seen that on a baby in real life. And it is my baby. Your treatment doesn't seem to be working. You hate the enzymes bc they taste awful. You are refusing your food now bc you know I hide those enzymes in it. I feel helpless, and I find myself reverting to the position that it must not be CF, it must be something else. I don't know what to do.

Cuddling up with you this morning as I tried to help you take your nap, I was struck by one of the lines in the song that had mysteriously calmed you the moment I began singing:

"little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong."

Little Will, did you know I had tears then? You do belong to Him. You are weak, but He is strong, and He loves you.

Maybe I needed to hear that as much as you.

Monday, May 05, 2008

An Almost Perfect Day

Someone was praying for me today. Maybe even without ceasing.

Both boys went to bed tonight without a fuss at all. Andrew even cleaned up his room without any help from me other than providing verbal encouragement. All three of us ate dinner together (chicken nuggets for A, applesauce for W and a delicious tuna pasta w/ orange peppers and spinach that I threw together for myself.

Sure, we ran out of milk and I had to scrounge for frozen o.j., which I was only able to cram into a small-necked carafe by scooping it with my hand and shoving it down the little neck. But I am fairly certain I washed my hands between the zoo trip and then, and Andrew pronounced it delicious and forced me to "try it!" from his Dora sippy cup. I was thirsty anyway.

Will took two hour naps (I had to awaken him to keep them that length) exactly on schedule. Andrew found renewed interest in his toys after having spent most of last week with Nana and Papa, and played quietly for a bit and politely invited me to play racing, too. The only stressful part of the day was in the morning when Andrew wouldn't comply with something . . . I can't even remember what now. It was a big deal, though, bc he had to keep repeating his time outs since he wept and screamed and kicked and got out of the chair. But he finally got it right and was so compliant for the rest of the day it was as if I were offering chocolate to get him to do it. It was so wonderful.

(Oh, now I remember: he had started screaming when I was on the phone with the realtor about the townhouse we applied too late to rent, and then he began throwing his chocolate milk all over the white couch. Big trouble.)

After Will woke up from his afternoon nap, we went to the zoo. Perfect weather, perfect kids. Andrew and I pretended to be race cars. Andrew would occassionally bump the stroller, my cue to "spin out of control!", and then would rescue Will and me. Even the animals provided a much better show than I have ever seen before. They were all out and active. The sloth bears fed one another, the zebras were nuzzling and scampering together, the elephant and hippo were eating. Andrew tried to scare birds ("boo!") as we raced back up the hill. Even the weather was perfect.

Andrew has gotten great at throwing and catching balls. He loves to play catch, and this evening he had me throwing the football with him. When he would miss a catch, he would blame my throw ("That was a bad throw."). He got that from me blaming myself to prevent the self-loathing and discouragement that would result in him collapsing gently onto his back in self protest.

Will had the most fun in the tub as he has ever had. Andrew put on a real show for him by slamming his matchbox cars onto the side of the tub and making noises in accompanyment. Will thought this was hilarious and laughed a real honest to goodness laugh. I have to tape record it. I think I only have a few recordings of Andrew's baby laugh, and I regret that so much.

I was thinking as I read stories to the boys in Andrew's bed tonight about what our lives were like last year. I got the little treasury golden book for A for Christmas 2006. He was so little then. I think his only consistent and clear words were ice, no, emma and ami (for mommy). I thought that Timmy in the story Busy Timmy was doing such advanced things when he dressed himself, opened the door, walked down the steps all by himself. I even worried that it might discourage Andrew, who couldn't identify. Tonight I thought about how Andrew could do all of those things. He even agreed with the narrator when I read "You can do lots of things, too." "Yes, I can," replied Andrew to the book. And he proved it by lying "on his tummy like a big boy" (to go to sleep), as we used to instruct him last summer. Almost a year ago. Can it really be?

The time has flown. I am nearly in tears as I write this. On these days, these perfect days, I know I will miss it all. Even the days we struggle and I am desperate for my back up rescue hero to walk through the door at 7.

Amazingly, I did not need rescue at any point today. But I miss you a lot anyway, Brig.