Friday, March 16, 2012

Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails

My experience as the parent of young children is that much of it is an exercise in perseverance - trying to endure the difficulties of a particular time, waiting for things to get better.  And I don't mean this in a bad way - I love my children to pieces and I enjoy my time with them.  But the early years, especially with two of them, are stressful and exhausting (not to mention expensive). 

I don't find the experience of caring for newborns to be particularly rewarding, so when they're tiny little blobs, and their existence is made up of naps and feedings and diaper changes, you're waiting for them to get a little bit older and start smiling and cooing and sitting up. 

Then you're waiting for them to crawl. 

Then you're alarmed by the fact that they can crawl, because this means that they can get into your shit and you can't just stick them on a blanket on the floor, leave the room, and expect them to be in the same place when you come back 3 minutes later. 

But, life is about progress, so then it's the walking.  Which is exciting, but with walking comes constant vigilance and covering of electrical outlets and worrying about stairs and open doors and skinned knees. 

Or you're waiting for them to learn how to talk.  Or to use the potty.  Or to stop whining all the time.

And then they turn 4.  Or more accurately, 4 1/2, which, as far as I can tell based upon my own experience, as well as the input of my friends who have children, is the Greatest Age Ever.

Seriously, if I could bottle the essence of what Zeke is like right now, it would be a powerful inducement for people without kids to abandon efforts at birth control and hop on the procreation train.  Because he is so unbelievably awesome right now I can hardly believe it.

It came on kind of suddenly.  In October, he was going through this emotion stage during which his behavior at school was occasionally so severe that it prompted his teacher (who I really like and who I do not think is an alarmist quack) to suggest that he might require an evaluation to determine if he might be eligible for special education.  As a special education lawyer, I know enough about disabilities that I didn't think there was any basis for that level of concern, but still.  Not a fun thing to hear about your kid.

Then, all of a sudden, maybe around December or early January, everything changed.  His daily reports from school were not, "oh, he had an OK day," or "the day was mostly fine," but rather, "he had an amazingly awesomely perfect day."  "Great day."  "Wonderful day - played nicely, got a lollipop from the teacher for being a great helper, was sweet to the new kid in class." 

Since that change, whenever it was a few months ago, Zeke has not had a single day at school where the report wasn't glowing.

It's been the same at home.  Not that he hasn't had his moments here and there -- he's still a little kid after all -- but overwhelmingly, he has been sweet and affectionate and funny and hilarious.  Bedtimes have been less stressful.  He is incredibly kind and helpful with Josie, who is 2 1/2 and going through her own drama.

Like this morning, Josie was fussing about what to wear.*  She kept going back and forth between this dress and that dress and that t-shirt.  Then she was fussing because she wanted her baby.  Then she couldn't find her cup of milk.  Then she wanted to wear her dinosaur shoes, then she didn't want to wear them.  Basically, she was being a massive pain in the ass and making us all late for school and work.

Zeke could see that I was getting annoyed and that Josie was starting to cry.  So he stepped in to save the day.  "Hey, Josie, want to brick it?"  He held out his fist so they could share a terrorist fist jab.  She blinked through her tears at him for a minute, and then held up her little fist and bumped it with his.  He gave her a smile and she started to giggle, and they did it again a few more times and all was right with the world.

Later at school, she was standing in her classroom door, crying because she felt we hadn't given each other sufficient cheek kisses before I left her room to go say goodbye to Zeke (we have a very European ritual, with the cheek kisses on each side).  Zeke's class was in the hallway, lining up to wash their hands before breakfast.  He saw Josie crying, and went over to her, put his arm around her neck, and pulled her head to his shoulder.  She put her arm around him and gave him a hug, and he kissed her cheek before going back with his classroom.  "It's OK, Josie.  I'll come visit you later."

I about plotzed.

I have the kids' school pictures up on my Facebook profile, and I was online chatting with a friend about how resoundingly my NCAA bracket sucks, when I clicked on the picture of Zeke.  He's got the biggest freaking shit-eating grin on his face, like his head is about to explode from happiness.  And it made my heart skip a beat, because that picture?  That picture is exactly what is so wonderful about Zeke.  It totally sums up every part of his 4-1/2-year-old awesomeness.  His enthusiasm for life, his sweetness, his cheeky rascally nature (every other word out of his mouth is still "toot" or "poop" or "fart"), the goodness of his soul.  And that's the part that's so important to me, that gives me so much naches -- that he is genuinely a kind person.

I want to stop the movement of time and keep him at this age.  Like Superman did in the movie, when he made the earth turn backwards to save Lois Lane from dying in the ditch that her car fell into.  (And speaking of, we re-watched that movie recently because it's on streaming Netflix. I had fond memories of it, but it is a seriously cheesy piece of shit -- it was very disappointing.  But I digress.) 

With Zeke, I don't have that feeling that I'm so used to having, of "Jesus, can we just get through the Terrible Twos?" or "is he ever going to be toilet trained?" or "does he have an emotional disability?"  I want him to stay the way he is, for at least a little while, because he's so, so great right now.

But of course, he could get even better, so I guess I should welcome the passage of time.

In any event, he's a keeper.**

* The "pink dresses only" dealio lasted about a week and a half (long enough for her grandmother and me to load up her closet with frilly dresses), and now it's hit or miss. Two days ago, it was a pink dress. Yesterday, it was a pair of leggings and a t-shirt with a dinosaur on it. Today, it was another pink dress, and a pink shrug because she was chilly.

** And so is his sister.  She just has the disadvantage of going through the Terrible Twos when Zeke is at the Greatest Age Ever, so she's suffering by comparison.  But she's still an adorable, funny little monkey and I love her like crazy.


  1. Jen Luc...6:58 PM

    as you know, i can completely and totally relate to this. and for us, the changes since 4 1/2 have just made parenting more fascinating and fun. i recall years ago, before having a child, when a co-worker commented about how cool it was as his kids grew up (then aged 7 and 9) to be able to have real conversations with them, to experience them as people. it is kind of thrilling, really. thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes, if I could slow down the time from 3-7, I totally would. They get weird around 7-8, just dorky kid shit. But that time leading up to that? Totally priceless. I'm looking forward to Wade getting potty trained so I can have two in that age bracket.

  3. This is so sweet I can barely even take it. Not that I needed the excuse, but procreation fever is in full pitch over here! I'm sure Justin will appreciate the added endorsement ;-)

    1. Very interesting!! Good luck!