own self

You take care of your own self, Mom.
He hurls the words at me like handfuls of mud.
I could let frustration manifest itself in a sudden burst of my own irritability but instead take a deep breath and let his words dry so I can try to brush them off.
Having children, and being married and life in general, have taught me that love may not be something I always feel, but it is something I’ve promised to choose.
It's my job to help Tollie learn that at our house each person is responsible for their own actions and behaviors, each person is responsible for following the rules and expectations, and each person is responsible for how they respond to stressful or frustrating situations.  We all take care of ourselves, and we all take care of each other.  No one in our family can get away with changing the rules to fit their needs or feelings.  At least that's what I was trying to tell myself while I breathed deep.

His take care of your own self raised a red flag in my spirit about something though, because what are the rules?

I tell my boys, on occasion, to take care of themselves, to let so and so take care of him or her self.
But I want them to take care of others, too.  Although they aren't often exposed to it in our small, quiet neighborhood, blessedly free from much worry or want, I want both boys to consider the less fortunate.  I want helping neighbors in need to come as naturally as the next breath, for the boys to give wings to the golden rule, always.  I want them both to take a stand against violence, to be engaged  in environmental issues, to become part of the next generation of progressives.  I want them to advocate for all the things they believe in, but there are plenty of instances when I don't think it's our job to help people make the "right" decision.  Let the lady decide whether to terminate her pregnancy, let the gentlemen determine whether they want to make their marriage official on paper, allow the terminally ill person to pursue death with dignity.  Just take care of your own self.  

Wading with Tollie in the whitewater of emotion that swirls around toddlerhood, I remind myself that his energy and his confidence and his courage and his passion will serve him well for years to come.  I try to help him feel independent, but also encourage him to ask for help when he needs it.  I try to show him how to admit vulnerability, to accept help and to know that he's worth the trouble.  I want him to be kind and to show love and to do good, to truly care for others, but to take the very best care of his own self too.

Don't worry about what I'm doing, worry about why you're worried about what I'm doing...



fifty shades of spring

A small space has its drawbacks, but our house seems to create an environment that necessitates cooperation.  Our confines can also force a claustrophobic feeling though, kind of like we're stuck in a box with these two in the winter.  I know I can't rush the seasons, the same way I can't rush the sunrise or the boys in the morning.  Wishing harder and yelling louder don't make it happen any faster, and definitely make it all feel much worse.
But spring seems to be breaking here finally, and we've been able to spend so much more time outside.  It's like living art out there right now, more bright and more beautiful, different every day.  We watch the weather patterns and the helicopters, the bugs and the construction workers, all the movement and color make the best kind of museum.  We notice the way green arms reach toward the sun where yesterday there was just dirt.  We collect snakes in jars and start seeds in egg cartons.  We stay out until we see the red stretch in the western sky, the sun surrendering to the moon, the gallery lights dimming.
I pushed an empty stroller on a recent walk through the neighborhood, cup holders filled to capacity with grape hyacinth heads, yellow dandelion tops, pink tulip petals, fifty shades of spring.  This is what we've been waiting for, like we held our breath all winter and can finally exhale.  While the boys collected bits that go unseen by the busy world, I tried to come to terms with the fact that when we went inside their wet socks would leave a double trail of footprints all the way to the tub.  They'd each captured record-breakingly large worms and my pockets were heavy with even more special treasures.  Except it was like the opposite of heavy, all the things they found and piled onto my palms and shoved into my pants, each small evidence of spring, felt more like light and hope than anything.

Later, clean and cuddly, I laid them down for bed.  I kissed their cheeks and wished I could pull the stars through their windows, wished I could put the moon under their pillows while they slept.  I think I'll always want to give them the world the way they give it to me.


great words

I wish all our wishes could come true he says, looking at me like his eyeballs have been dipped in glitter.

I know thoughts like these take up a lot of mental real estate.  Lots of other things do too, of course.  He is always, always thinking.  Even when he’s in the middle of playing the iPad he’s thinking about the next time he’ll get to play the iPad, for example.

Do you ever wonder how to the lift the words out of somebody’s head? he asks, hanging upside down on the inside swing.

Even when you’re upside down on the swing you can still look with two eyes, he announces, using the universal "I'm watching you" signal, peace fingers back and forth between our faces.
I am careful not to recycle any of his schoolwork, careful not to sneak another jellybean from his stash.  I can do those things after bedtime.

Sometimes I feel like my body’s on backward.
I am also familiar with that feeling, I assure him, rubbing his shoulders.

You know, there are an infinite number of colors.  Like all the “ish” ones.  If you have a purplish color and you add another color to it, you get a new color.  It’s like lighter or darker purplish. 

I ask where he learns so much and he tells me: I’m just full of great words.
He is.  And I wonder how to lift more of them out of his head.


At the top of the steps

I cross my fingers and silently count how many seconds the side-by-side sibling camaraderie will last.


keeping it real

The boys were WAY more excited about plastic eggs and chocolate rabbits than they were about going to church. And although one was significantly more cooperative than the other, we had to bribe them both to tuck in their shirts and wear their bow ties.
We do not have a single nice picture of our family, despite valiant efforts to get one.
But we did have a nice Easter weekend.