Elijah is four weeks old today. Does that count as a month? A month less three days? It's been... well, it's been long.
There have been beautiful moments, certainly, like when I was cleaning for company and Harvey asked, "Do you want me to hold the baby so you can vacuum?" Zion even helped by reading them all a story.
There have been normal moments too, like when I asked Harvey if he could grab a baby blanket off the couch he replied, "I think I've done enough for Elijah today."
And then there have been downright difficult moments. Lots of them. Zion has done a lot of hitting. Whenever a stranger asks him "How do you like your baby brother?" the poor guy breaks down and cries, "I WANTED A GU-GURL!"
It is fair to say that, like Zion, we've all been a little up and down. Elijah is cute and we love him, but we are exhausted and overwhelmed. The chores get harder every day as he gets older and more difficult to put down. I feel panic-attack-level trapped by having to walk circles around a house I can't clean. I jiggle a baby and walk around and around, spying dirty laundry I can't pick up and letters from MassHealth I can't deal with, mentally tallying all the baffling pieces of minutia I have to attend to whenever I get a free second. Which is never.
Then again, life is often beautiful and unmanageable at the same time. It's like uphill climb, but then you get to roll down at the end.
Whatever that means.
A moment from the week.
Dear baby staring lovingly into my eyes as I nurse you,
Thank you for eating what I feed you.
Thank you for not only taking the milk I give you, but APPRECIATING IT. Thank you for not asking, when I present you with my breast, that the liquid be given to you in a container of a different color, the container of your FAVORITE color, and therefore ONLY OKAY color at this moment. Thank you for not asking that the milk be warmed up in the microwave to a slightly different temperature. Or warmed up in the microwave to the SAME temperature, but AGAIN because you only wanted to hear ONE BEEP, and why did I let it beep three times like some kind of hearing-less monster?
Thank you for not being two.
Thank you that when you're hungry you cry just one cry, and it only means one thing, and that thing is milk. Thank you that you cry instead of saying, "What are my options for cheeses?" like this is some kind of friggin restaurant, and then screaming "I DON'T LIKE THOSE OPTIONS!" like you're the New York Times food critic.
Thank you for not being four.
Thank you sweet nursing baby that for the time being you don't have control over your arms and legs, that you only have a tiny amount of intellectual processing, so that when you flail you aren't trying to hit me on purpose, and when you spit up at me it's only a stomach problem and not something that needs carefully considered consequences.
Thank you that for now, when you stare into my eyes, I can imagine that you love me, that we are one unit, even though you will soon grow up into your own little person with strong opinions about taste and texture and the level of service in this establishment.
Oh goodness, you're throwing up all over us, aren't you? Well, let's get you cleaned up again. At least you don't think this entitles you to watch a show....
I don't know when you think spring starts, meteorologically speaking or whatever. For me it only spring when the boys decide to open the backdoor and walk outside, all on their own, without accounting for coats or footwear.
Also, if it's warm enough to walk up to Bedford Farms for ice cream, then it's officially spring. Officially and deliciously spring. Today we made the trip for the first time this season.
I'd been dreaming about this ice cream for several weeks now. You see, I've been counting calories a little obsessively. The last ten pounds to lose is the hardest, they say. And with roughly 3000 calories to a pound, that's thirty thousand calories I have to expend in excess of what I take in. I don't know if you know this, but expending more energy then you take in is unpleasant.
And yet, I've been holding out this first ice cream as a sort of beacon of hope. One day, I told myself every time I went to bed hungry, one day it will be first ice cream day. And THAT day will be a day WITHOUT DIETING.
And let me tell you. The best way to enjoy an ice cream frappe made with super premium coffee ice cream, chocolate fudge swirl and whole oreos all blended together? The best way to enjoy it is to NOT GET ENOUGH FOOD FOR THREE WEEKS. Then walk a mile to the ice cream store pushing a stroller and carrying a baby. Then order the drink you've been thinking about in the middle of the night for days on end.
Once you've done that, let the full fat concoction hit your tongue with its explosion of sugary goodness. In that moment you will know that there is a God in heaven. Nay, that heaven is here and now and comes with an extra-wide drinking straw.
The boys also enjoyed their ice cream. Harvey didn't get so messy and Elijah just slept the whole time, so I'll post another picture of Zion to symbolize the event. Middle child, you win the chocolate-covered cuteness contest for today.
Even though we woke up to a rainy morning I had big plans today for the children's entertainment. First we would go to the doctor for Elijah's one-month check up, where the older two could play with the train table. They love that train table for some reason. It features the exact same track pieces we have, but they're GLUED TO A TABLE.
After that wonder of wonders, my big plan was to take them to the The Edge.
The Edge is a sporting complex recently built down the street from us. The sprawling facility features not only a skating rink, personal training gym and indoor soccer field, but three raised astroturf fields that for half of the year stand enclosed in a pressurized bubble. We used to live on a quiet back-country road, but since The Edge moved in we live off a dangerous thoroughfare trafficked by hockey-moms in SUVS. Turn the corner to find a bulbous architectural monstrosity that can probably be seen from space. The bubble needs giant fans running constantly to keep it inflated, and giant heaters to keep it warm. The light pollution from nighttime games blocks our view of the stars. All put together, The Edge is an environmental abomination.
But two mornings a week, when the bubble stands empty of more worthy pursuits, one dude who works there throws out some balls and inflates a bouncy house. They call it "toddler play time" and charge $5 per child for an hour and a half.
It's basically an excuse for them to print money against the cost of their constant-running fans.
Am I going heavy on the righteous indignation here? Because I don't want you to miss the important thing: THERE IS A BOUNCY HOUSE! Twice a week, every week all winter, there was an open bouncy house two-minutes away from our door. And so in the winter when it was cold and rainy and the kids desperately needed exercise, I often swallowed my hippy pride and ponied up $10 to let my kids bounce their little butts off.
I'd rather they get exercise outside. I'd rather they get exercise FOR FREE. I'd rather they get exercise without breathing in the combined fumes of a plastic trampoline sitting on plastic grass enclosed inside a GIANT PLASTIC BUBBLE. On the other hand, they're less annoying when they jump. You could say that I'm conflicted.
So we headed to the bouncy house this rainy morning. Elijah was asleep following his doctor visit. Harvey and Zion were eating their snack in the back of the van. Both were drinking milk, and Zion was probably thinking about a book he had read recently because he said suddenly:
"God can't bless the milk when it's INSIDE my belly!"
I'm in the milk and the milk's in me? God bless the milk and God bless me? I don't think so, says Zion.
Harvey, seeing theology as another area where he can correct his younger brother, chimed right in. "But God is inside of US TOO."
"What do you think?" I butted in, unable to allow a discussion to flourish without my leadership. "Do you think God is everywhere, Zion?"
"Yes!" yelled both of them, as if we were having Sunday school. Then baffling me with his ability to extend an idea, Harvey added: "And God is in the bubble!"
Well that stopped me dead in my little homeschooling tracks.
I mean, I was thinking more along the lines of: God's in the forest, God's in our homes. God is inside of every believer. When I implied that God was everywhere, I wasn't actually referring to EVERYWHERE everywhere, including the big plastic source of my parenting guilt.
"Well, God is in us," I explained not wanting to give in, "so God will be in the bubble when we go inside."
"And the first place God goes inside the bubble is right into the bouncy house. Because that's the first place I GO."
We pulled into the parking lot and got out of the van. The man who usually takes our money was nowhere in sight, however. Instead we saw a crew of landscapers milling about outside.
"Is there no toddler playtime today?" I asked the man in the truck.
"No programs today," he answered, "We're taking this bubble down."
And cue Harvey screaming.
"I WANTED TO GO TO THE BOUNCY HOUSE!!!!!"
Oh no, I blubbered, I had no idea. Would you like to go to the library? The playground? Go back in the car and drive to another indoor playground? ("NOOOOOOOOO!")
While Harvey was bawling, Zion spotted an adjacent astroturf field that he wanted to run on. Here, I offered both of them in a state of panic, why don't we run on this field while we decide what to do next.
By this time it had just stopped raining and it was warm enough to be outside. We walked over to the uncovered plastic turf and I was surprised by how DRY it was. While real grass would have been awfully muddy under these conditions, the astroturf field had such incredible man-made drainage that my kids were able to run on it undeterred. And run. And run. And run for an hour without getting wet.
It turns out that even in a plastic field surrounded by ugly buildings, there are a many fun things to do. There were lacrosse balls to throw over the fence and and soccer nets to use as a secret house. We walked all the way around the edge of the field, observing the sort of detritus that accumulates after a lacrosse game. A lot of mouth guards, apparently. Like A LOT of mouth guards. I guess on a plastic field plastic mouth guards are almost compostable!
Despite the initial non-bouncing disappointment, the boys had a wonderful time on our outing. Indeed, the only difficulty was getting them to leave.
Is there a moral to this story?
I'm probably too quick to draw deep philosophical meaning from the mundane aspects of my children's lives. Sometimes an outing goes well and sometimes it doesn't. Certainly it would be a stretch to say that divine intervention saved my morning. And yet, and yet... As their joy and resilience reached beyond my expectations, it did feel strangely like God was in the bubble. Or at least present in its coming down.
When Elijah was born we rejoiced at having an infant who slept as much as the books say newborns are meant to sleep—he might have even been on the high end of the average that first week or two. I definitely had the sense that he was making up for Harvey, our 12-hour-maximum sleeper. (In case you're not familiar with them, I'll let you know that it's hard to have a newborn awake for 12 hours a day; besides sleeping they pretty much only eat—which is naturally limited in duration—and cry. So I felt like we'd earned an easy one.)
Only, as he hit two weeks or so, the dark side of LyeLye's love for sleep emerged. He could sleep for 16 to 18 hours a day, yes; but if he didn't get that much sleep he became less and less happy. And even worse, he's a light sleeper. Since peace and quiet is in short supply in our household he started to build up a sleep debt, which made him fussy, and his fussiness in turn prevented him from settling down to sleep. So the problem compounded itself, and there were moments when we were close to despair.
But happily things have started to look up again the last week. We realized how much sleep the little guy really needs, and made more of an effort to get him those hours. We also made sure to give him plenty of calm-down time in the evenings, which has meant that he's been able to sleep for longer periods over the first part of the night. Oh how we enjoy the three hours—dare we hope for four?!—of uninterrupted sleep the first part of the night; or, of course, of the unencumbered time to get some housework done!
Well-slept, Elijah is the soul of compliance for much of the day. This afternoon, for example, he sat happily in the bouncy seat for what must have been an hour as we stuffed plastic eggs for the big Easter party next weekend. And he's happy on walks in the sling or Bjorn, and rarely complains in the car. Of course, he still tends to get fussy evenings, and he's still an infant—mostly one of us is carrying him, which tends to slow things down. Don't think we have it too easy! (at least, don't think Leah has it too easy: she does all the work). But he is sleeping some. Like a baby.
A moment from the week.
Today I am six weeks postpartum. I had a goal of losing all 35lbs of baby weight in six weeks, because my life is built on setting impossible goals and then beating myself up when I'm not a superhero. Suffice it to say I didn't lose 35lbs. But I got within a ten pound range that at least allows me to wear some of my old clothes. Fugly clothes, mom clothes, but not clothes that say MIMI MATERNITY proudly across the tag. Yesterday I put on jeans for the museum, and it was the first time I didn't put on my pants and immediately scream MUFFIN TOP!!!
How does one go from maternity sizes to rockin the mom jeans in a matter of weeks? I would like to say something hippy and loving like "Breastfeeding! And holding my babies! And walking outside to take in the presence of the sun!" But the truer story is that losing weight takes real work. Like exercise. Hard sweaty exercise. The kind you can't do pushing a stroller. Here's me in my running clothes yesterday before I forced Dan to watch the kids so I could log a quick two miles.
Also it takes going to bed hungry. A lot of going to bed hungry. Because if I go to bed hungry I will post a weight loss the next day, but if I lie in bed thinking about something OTHER than food because my willpower died and I am pleasantly full, God help me in the morning there will be a weight gain on the scale and I will rain down curses on myself and my body and the possibility of having more children ever again.
So whatever. Six weeks. Sarcastic hurray.
Getting in the way of my exercise time, I am working hard on preperations for Easter. In the past month I have spent at least ten hours sewing suits, and that's just for Harvey and Zion; Elijah doesn't have ANYTHING to wear yet. Three days away I'm down to baby's outfit and ties all around, so I can probably acquit myself in five hours or so. That's not including the time it takes to clean the entire house for a massive party and make food for 20 people. That should be a cinch.
All this leads me to the inevitable question: What is important? I don't mean generally like "Family is important" because no shit, I spend like EVERY FRIGGIN SECOND with them. But within the scope of housewifery, what is important? Do handmade Easter suits really matter? Do handmade DOLL SUITS really matter? Does it matter if it matters to me? If seeing my children in matching suits gives meaning to my life, and seeing them match their dolls brings us all joy in the way that two hours of sleep does not?
I was reading a book about surviving baby stress, and it was all like: See what you can stop doing! Can you order out more for dinner? Can you pay a housecleaner? Can you get other people to watch your children so you can sleep?
The truth is that as soon as I think of a suggestion I immediately shoot it down. We can't order out because eating healthy food is important. We can't have someone else clean the house because that's part of our hospitality and hospitality is important. I can't sleep because sleeping time is sewing time. EVERYTHING IS SO IMPOSSIBLY IMPORTANT!
I can't think of anything except keep being a superhero.
A moment from the week.
Last night we lost Harvey's PowPow. I had spent an hour sewing two very minuscule ties, one for each of Harvey and Zion's PowPow dolls, and when it came time to fit the elastic we could only find Zion's Powey. It was getting close to bed time, so I assured Harvey I'd look around the house. The boys went to bed and I looked. And looked and looked and looked.
I found an overdue library book under the couch. I found A LOT of little legos. I didn't find PowPow.
Even thought I was pretty sure he came home from Whole Foods, I went to bed a little panicked.
I spend more time panicking about PowPow then Harvey ever does. Dan makes fun of me, Harvey doesn't care that much, but if I lose track of PowPow it's like we're at DEFCON 5. I like to say it's because I'm the mother and it's my job to keep track of things. It's my job to protect my child from emotional pain.
But that's not even true. It should be his job to keep track of his things, especially if he's going to cart them everywhere all over the world for heaven's sake. And it shouldn't be my job to shield him from emotional trauma. How is that a way to teach him resiliency? How could that prepare him for life?
In truth I'm using PowPow to try to fix my own "issues."
When I was four I lost my favorite lovey, a stuffed bear named teddy. We were driving to New York to visit my grandparents and I had to bring teddy along. Of course, there were a lot of other things I wanted to bring along too: my magnetic writing pad, a dozen books, five other stuffed animals whose names I couldn't remember, along with some random shit I picked off the floor of my bedroom. I walked down the hall with a huge paper bag filled to bursting. My mother frowned and remarked forebodingly "that looks like a lot to keep track of."
I remember the big paper bag at my feet in the car. My toys and books and games spilling out everywhere. Candyland game pieces rolling under the seats. I had everything I could ever imagine wanting.
At some point between Massachusetts and New York I opened the door and teddy fell out. I didn't even realize with all that mess on the floor of the car. Too much visual clutter. I never saw teddy again.
Of course, for a four-year-old this was devastating, but doubly so because I had no one to blame but myself. My mother had frowned at that bag of toys and washed her hands of the matter. It was all on me.
It was my greed that made me lose teddy.
And so now as an adult I keep a careful watch of the toys, the precious ones, while secretly culling the things I can't stand. I walk around with a trash-bag when the kids are out, clearing the visual clutter, as if disposing of things will somehow save me from my own sin of greed. I think of this as a spiritual act, something called simplicity, when in reality it is a hege against my own fear of chaos, of uncertainty, of loss. This is a fucked-up version of minimalism, I know, where I have fewer things not to dis-attach from things, but because certain place-holder things are impossibly SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT.
Meanwhile, greed is something I can't stand in my children. When Harvey tries to steal Zion's dessert, or hoard all the trains, or tell me what he wants for HIS birthday, I turn into some kind of monster nun. "GREED IS A SIN!" I scream. "I WILL NOT HAVE THIS DISGUSTING SIN IN MY HOME!"
So last night, after cleaning the downstairs and not finding anything, I prayed.
God, I said, forgive me for losing teddy. Forgive me for my own greed. And I pray that you'll protect Harvey's heart. Thank you for making him not like me. Thank you for making him him able to move on, to deal with loss, to be a person who doesn't ascribe human emotions to inanimate objects such that he feels a responsibility to them because he has trouble dealing with responsibility to real people.
This morning Dan found PowPow. He was outside on the lawn.
I imagine a magical room where the toys change every day, a heaven shaped after the play space at Whole Foods. In this heaven I sit peacefully and watch my kids play. They play with abandon. They see the toys there, the toys that are new each time they enter, and they love them wildly and passingly. They enjoy the shit out of each toy until it's gone. They enjoy them more even, more violently and more freely, knowing that none of the toys really belongs to them. Knowing that in a day they will be gone.
Holy crap, that is a metaphor for life, isn't it?
Today on Good Friday may we all love our little ones in their little ties. For as long as they get to be little. For as long as we get to love them.
It seems like all I can manage these days is posting contentless pictures. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily: it means we've been doing things worth photographing, and also not spending too much time in front of the computer. On the other hand, I like writing. And the life of frantic and exhausted business is sometimes a hard one. But I don't let business stop me from doing fun things!
Thursday morning the boys and I headed out to check out a garden plot we might be able to farm this summer. It looked good, but examining it took only two minutes; hardly a proper outing; so we filled out the trip with some woodsy exploring. The hard part was finding a way into the woods, but once we managed that we had a very pleasant walk of about a mile through an interesting boggy woods. The boys are starting to trust me when I say that, wherever we happen to wander, I'll be able to get us back home. They do still ask, though.
Then today we drove over to Lexington to take in some early Patriots Day festivities. The Army Old Guard reenactors were in town, and we enjoyed the show once Zion was convinced that they weren't shooting at us, nor would they come too close.
Leah stayed home on the first occasion to talk the the midwives and confirm that Elijah is growing at a tremendous rate, and on the second to clean the house for the big party tomorrow. Despite appearances, I do have some responsibilities, and we do do some things together. But not in the last couple days!
Marathon Monday for some, "huh?" for others; but today was Patriots Day for us! We went to a parade. More narrative—and variety of photos—later, but here are some images of us being patriotic.
We all got new little flags.
Harvey carried lots of supplies... most of the way.
Even LyeLye got in on the action.
It was a Patriotic time all around.
Every year I sew my children suits for Easter. I have great commitment to traditions I completely make up, you see. Especially if they make me look good. I gave up on the hippy ideal of sewing all my children's clothing myself, but if I make Easter suits and Christmas sweaters that's two major photo opportunities which make me look like a much more dedicated crafter than I am.
With the brain-drain of a new baby this year I wanted to pick a pattern that I'd be sure not to muck up with mistakes. I used the pants pattern I've used for the past three years (from this book), and happily I dashed off two of them without having to rip out a pocket seem or anything major. I drafted new vest patterns since they don't come from a book, but having done the construction of these vests three years in a row I felt like it would be difficult for me to do anything stupid. In the end it turned out I was right. Suits went off without a hitch (if a little booringly) and I made it work in 30-minute increments when the baby slept.
Elijah also got a matching outfit, though I didn't want to mess with a 6-week old by forcing him into a vest. Instead I sewed a tie to the front of a onesie, and I made a coordinating pair of easy pants, also from Sewing for Boys, without pockets or too much fuss.
Oh, and both PowPows got new suits, with a simplified pants pattern this year. The pants were made in one piece as opposed to three, but I made up for it with complicated ties. The ties took me longer than the pants together, and I have ideas next year to simplify the process, if I can remember sewing lessons from one year to another, which is questionable.
I was pretty pleased with my ability to get stuff done, and I went to bed on Saturday night bursting with my own hubris. The suits were done, the house was clean, and I had fancy organic chocolate bunnies on the table in their hand-woven Easter baskets.
On Sunday morning however I learned that no amount of prep-work can make my life okay if my children, like, don't behave.
Zion woke up on the wrong side of several beds. He wouldn't eat, he ripped Harvey's artwork off the wall, he threw a decorated easter egg on the ground smashing it to pieces, and he refused to put his suit on screaming, "I DON'T LIKE YOU EASTER! GO AWAY EASTER!"
Meanwhile Harvey radiated gladness, cackling when he saw the bunny and begging me to button up his vest. That's why I have multiple children, I guess. One to tell me that the things I care about matter, and the other to assure me that I'll NEVER earn his love, NEVER EVER, so I shouldn't even bother trying.
And a third to make me so distracted with poop and puke that I can't get emotionally invested in the reactions of the older two. Altogether we make quite a family.
A moment from the week.
Easter was last Sunday. It was lovely, filled with chocolate, food, friends, and egg hunts. Oh, and some church too: church with lots of people. After the service many of them took part in an egg hunt. With oh, 100 kids under the age of 12 looking to participate, we had to stagger the start, and Zion and Harvey were in different waves; but never mind, as soon as Harvey entered Zion found him and they went to work together.
Then while I helped manage the rest of the chaos, they sat and ate their loot. All of it.
Then (after some more church) it was home for our Easter party, and our own egg hunt. We had to hide all the eggs before the kids could start, and then keep the bigger ones waiting while the smaller ones were assembled; there was some impatience. But it was mostly good-spirited.
We had lots more eggs per person than we managed at the church hunt, so everyone got as many as they wanted.
Well, maybe not quite everyone: Zion was exhausted by church and all that chocolate (he and Harvey also ate the best part of a chocolate bunny for breakfast) so he was sleeping during the main portion of the egg hunt. When he woke up we hid some more eggs for him and another late arrival. He had lots of help finding them.
Our eggs variously had candy, stickers, and classy toys from Oriental Trading Company (really!). All were well-received, and how better to enjoy the loot than with a good friend?
Happy Easter everyone!
Hot on the heels of Easter came Patriots Day; that happens sometimes. We took a relaxing morning to let some of the effects of the previous day's chocolate and business to wear off, then headed to Lexington to take in the festivities. Of course, first we had to take in a picnic!
There was lots of food; the cookie Harvey and Zion split was plenty of food all by itself! (I made them split it on the principle, as I told them at the time, that you should never eat a desert bigger than your face).
After we finished lunch we had plenty of time to make our way to our traditional parade-viewing spot, since we cleverly came early for prime parking opportunities. As we wandered over we met Grandpa Ira, who kindly indulged us in another attempt at a family photo. It took some persuading to get Zion to join us, but he did eventually.
We made it to the parade route about 45 minutes before P-Hour, and the boys ran around and played in the bushes for a while until the other Grandpa (and Grandma) showed up, at which point they settled down on the curb to wait.
The thing about parade photography is, the parade units tend to be the same year after year. I've noticed this before, but it struck me even more this year (it might be because this parade was back to normal after last year's 300th Birthday Spectacular). So I mostly stuck to taking picture of the kids.
Actually, there was one new thing, which Zion enjoyed seeing.
I think it was advertising a daycare, but no matter: it was there! A marching chicken!
Patriots Day can be hot or cold, and this was one of the hot years. The temperature was actually reasonable—I was fine in long trousers and long sleeves all day—but the sun was startlingly strong, and we regretted our lack of sunblock. Luckily I had remembered the hats! But Lijah wasn't happy to permit his to stay on, so for the most part he and Mama retired to the shade.
But don't worry, they could still see from there! At least, the one of them who can focus her eyes further than three feet away could. But don't worry LyeLye, we'll do it again next year!
Harvey has always been a sweet sweet child, but these days he has moments of being so endearingly sweet with the baby that I suddenly feel the wind knocked out of me. It's like a surprise jump attack at my heart.
Yesterday morning Harvey came into my bed and snuggled up close to Elijah. Elijah was sleeping, and Harvey was content to hold his little hand and lie with his face milimeters away from the baby's fat cheeks, staring into his sleeping eyes. Twenty minutes later I got up to make some coffee and I asked Harvey if he wanted to come downstairs. He said he wanted to stay in bed with Elijah. "I'm very tired," he said.
A child who knows what his body needs, plus loves to quietly snuggle a baby? I could not tell you how to make that happen on purpose.
Later at bedtime I put Elijah down on Harvey's bed so I could use the bathroom. "I wish I could cuddle with the baby," Harvey said to Dan.
"He's very delicate," Dan answered. "You have to be careful not to squish him."
"You just put him up here by my head," Harvey said. "And I'll lie with him close to me."
So while I made the bed and folded diapers in the next room, Elijah fell asleep next to Harvey listening to TinTin. Compounding the sweetness of my almost-five-year-old, it seems we finally have a baby who goes to sleep when you put him on his back. Again, I could not tell you how to make that happen on purpose.
Harvey has always been a socially sensitive child, which is both good and bad. It's like he's on the exact opposite end of the spectrum from autistic. He is so aware of what a social situation demands that it sometimes overwhelms him, especially if he thinks people are demanding certain behavior from him. But once he feels he's mastered the demanded behavior, he is ALL ABOUT IT. Whereas kid's church used to be a fearful emotional nightmare, now Harvey comes home and tells how HE KNEW the right thing to do, but OTHER KIDS wouldn't sit in the circle. Similarly, he shows such exuberance for dressing for an occasion, not just church but painting, bike-riding, running and swimming, that I feel it is my special gift to help him pick clothes in the morning. I like to think he gets it from me, his love of socially appropriate attire, but Dan has a keen eye for fashion himself and will complain right along side me that women have lost all sense of what to wear to a wedding. Seriously, how hard is it to find something, anything, that's not black or white? And for the love of God, tits or ass but not BOTH. Oh Harvey, my love, I guess we're all going to have to work on our judgement issues together.
Beyond these details of social training, Harvey has a deep kindness that is beautiful to watch. Sometimes I worry about his level of influence on this brothers, especially when he's whining and Zion immediately picks it up. But really I know that everything will be fine, that his brothers will be happy and cared for, because Harvey loves them in a very real way that is beyond anything I can discipline or manufacture.
Zion is a different person from Harvey. He never wants to change his clothes unless they are soaking wet, and even then it's under protest. He loves his Mama, idolizes his big brother, and harbors some combination of those two feelings for his father, depending on how funny Dan is being at that moment and who else is hanging around. What I appreciate most about Zion's personality is his keen sense of humor. That kid is funny. At barely three he has more of a sense of timing and an innate understanding of what makes a joke than most grownups. Whereas Harvey skates by on repeating things he's heard (prefaced by emotionally screaming "LISTEN TO MY JOKE! LISTEN TO MY JOKE!") Zion notices opportunities for humor and tries things out that are original and hilarious. I mentioned a while ago one of the bath-time gems when he was just two: "I'm cleaning my penis - hey, CLEANIS!" He's always looking for an opportunity to slip in a laugh line, and he's mastered our favorite family running-gag "What's blank to you?" (As in: The snew lay on the ground - What's snew? Nothing, what's snew with you?) So if he's hands me pretend food he'll say, "It's bubba."
"What's bubba?" I ask.
Then Zion's eyes get very wide as he says triumphantly, "What's bubba TO YOU????"
Zion is also rather straight-forward with his emotions, which is good and bad. While Harvey's sensitivity seems to leave him open for wounding, Zion will just get mad and hit me. A lot. He really hits me a lot. He'll also break things and shake Elijah's seat, so he needs a good bit of monitoring when he's upset. But then again he's over it quickly, especially if you make him laugh. Having two children makes me appreciate the contrast.
I have a third boy now and I am so curious about who he'll turn out to be. Right now he is a baby like any other, though I think back to Harvey and Zion's babyhood and I can trace essential elements of their personalities to the way they slept or resisted sleeping. Elijah seems to sleep well unattended, which makes me wonder if he's going to be a quiet observer, looking out at the world and taking everything in for a later date. A philosopher child would go good with the set, but thankfully it's not up to me. All my children surprise me, thrill me, and tax me. If it weren't so then the surprises thrills and taxations wouldn't be as vibrant.
Meanwhile, Elijah just started vocalizing last weekend. Now after nursing he'll look into my eyes and say "Agleh" while his face morphs into a huge heart-shaped smile.
In these moments I think, that just like the older two, this child is made out of goodness. My children, they're all 100% LOVE.
Amidst all the festivities last week I almost forgot to mark an important anniversary. My lockiversary, I guess. My dreadlocks just turned two years old.
Dreading my hair was one of the better decisions I've made in my life. My mornings are SO much easier without the demands of hair that needs styling. I wash my head only when my scalp feels itchy, which ends up being about once or twice a month. I don't usually admit how infrequently I shampoo; I hope it doesn't sound too gross. I'm pretty finicky in general about cleanliness, and the truth is my locks never feel oily or smelly. If they did I'd wash them more.
The other nice thing about the dreadlocks is that each lock is like a little pillow. I feel like they're equally part hair and air at this stage, which means that they're not at all heavy, and I don't feel the same pulling on my head that I did when I had regular curly hair. I don't know if other people experience this, but my curls pulled on each other all the friggin time. For someone who has struggled with sensory integration, not feeling my hair pull is a BIG DEAL. It's like if you can imagine a car alarm always going somewhere in the distance, and then one day someone finally turns it off.
I now have friends who never knew me WITHOUT dreadlocks. Which is weird. I wonder if that affects how they see me. I wonder if they think I am 100% the embodiment of a hippy. A natural born flower-child who always tuned her emotions to the ebb and flow of the seasons.
I wonder if anyone sees me the way I see myself, a child of unspeakable privilege who is still working on her judgmental classist rehabilitation.
As for the dreadlocks themselves, they've changed a bit in the past year. They are tighter and less wispy on the outsides, though they're still awfully kinked up, with these little wubbles and turns everywhere. I thought those bumps would work themselves out over time, but the answer seems to be either NO or NOT YET. Or maybe if I did some maintenance I could get the dreads more uniform, but since my life is a little hectic right now I'm willing to accept whatever my hair looks like.
I wish I could say that dreadlocks changed me in some fundamental way over the past two years. That I am a calmer person, or a more accepting person, or a person who cares little about outward appearances. In reality, I am a person with ten extra minutes in the morning. With fewer headaches at the end of the day. I am still stressed out, hurried, and judgmental of myself and others. I'm still a bit of a classist brat. But I don't look as much like one, and that's at least a step in the right direction.