Thursday, November 29, 2007

I love you Finn Pa-twick.

This is what Reese says to her one-year-old brother often. Usually it's as she's got him in a headlock slash hug with or without his consent. He seems to accept this as par for the course, which, for him, it is. These siblings of ours are more than I imagined. I didn't grow up with a sibling, so this intense love - and the opposite of it - is new to me. Hearing screaming and walking in on the two of them, both dissolved in tears. Turning around in a clothes store, hearing Finn's chortles of laughter that only his sister can generate, finding her feeding him Cheerios off of her nose, one by one. Bending him to her for a goodnight kiss and seeing on his face unmatched, lottery-winning joy. She is most definitely his favorite person. And while she loves him wildly, she has divided loyalties, knowing he's still new on the scene and she'd best spread out her affections until he proves he's not a passing fad. But still, on a special Father-Daughter date to see Bee Movie, she finishes her M&M's even before the previews are over and then announces that it's time to go home. That she misses "Brother." That she doesn't want to be without him.

I can't blame her. Neither do I. Finn is a cherub of a baby. A strong, vocal cherub. So busy and sort of a Pig Pen meets Dash Incredible. A big sweet potato angel pie. Thighs like Thanksgiving drumsticks, but even juicier.

As much as we planned for him, he surprised me by appearing. By being a "he." And now, he floors me with what he's done to my heart - reconstructing it, remodeling a special section reserved for him and him alone. So, for all the wondering and worrying about how you can possibly love another child like you love your first, the answer reveals itself: you don't. You love them different. Differently and completely. But with the same wild abandon.

So Finn Patrick, even though I'm just one of your many devoted fans, you should know: Mama loves you so.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not the one you'd want to be in the lifeboat with.

I'm a panicker. I also am not keen on tight spaces. I'm not claustrophobic exactly, but I'm big on freedom, personal space and kicking off the day with a Starbucks yogurt parfait, which, by the way is starting to be about as addicting for me as a vanilla latte is for some. Anyway, last night I went to pick up Reese from school and she was sitting in the teacher's lap and I could tell from ten paces that she was sick. Once she saw me, she began to smile and walk toward me and then instantly burst into tears. That's what my people do. In my family, crying is a sure sign of sickness. When we're hurt, we yell and when we're sick, we cry. When we're angry, we smile and mutter things under our breath. Go figure. Anyway, there's Reese, a puddle in my arms and I'm carrying her to the car and envisioning the next few days of my life: lots of throw up, little sleep, trying to figure out who is going to take care of the kids and who is going to work, doing lots of laundry and lots of caretaking. Being housebound. For some reason, this last one is what truly freaks me out. It's not like I'm the big carouser, out till all hours. In fact, I'm pretty much in bed by ten every night; having a Blockbuster night would be a barn burner compared to our normal pattern of dinner, put the kids to bed, talk for a few and then lights out. It's just the knowing that I can't leave - that I have a sick, miserable little one who needs, more than Tylenol, tea or Ritz crackers, her mommy right now. RIGHT NOW. And for every single moment until she is feeling better and then will, in an instant, be off to play "Circle Time" or "Tea Party" or go ride her bike, leaving me in an exhausted, crusty heap, as though we hadn't just spent the last three days stitched at the hip. For sure, it's as reliable as the seasons: just as soon as you don't know how you will make through another round of sheet changing and washing and soothing, they're better. Just like that.

For now it's about being present and making toast and showing up. In a few days or years it will all be a distant memory and one day she will be throwing up in the bathroom and I won't even know it except I happen to pass by and I will ask if she needs anything and she will say, "No, thanks Mom." and I will know that I have my freedom and my space and that it is maybe a bit more space than I bargained for.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Giving Thanks.

We had been gone for the Thanksgiving holiday and I took Finn, my one-year old, to pick up our dog Rose at “Dog Camp” which I’d never actually seen because my husband is a love and normally drives out to the middle of nowhere to drop off and pick up our sweet, purebred, reject show dog who is possibly the most sensitive soul in our family.

Nevertheless, today it was me. And Finn, who of course was no help at all in navigating the way to the middle of nowhere. But after a few wrong turns we made it. With Finn straddled on my hip and a leash in my hand, I waited while a woman with about four teeth retrieved my non-retriever. As I stood there taking inventory, I observed a few dog show awards from 1998, a Dream catcher, a small black and white television and a woman, possibly the mother of Four Teeth, who was busy watching Finn and I, but not speaking at all.

Rose bounded out of the kenneling area at rocket speed, as if there were something hot stuck to her tail, her eyes bulging out of their sockets. Once corralled in the back of my Volvo station wagon, she spun in circles, repeatedly catching her leash on her paws, not knowing what to do with her newfound happiness and semi-freedom.

At home, Finn sleeps and I eat and Rose pouts. I don’t notice it at first. She’s parked herself in our room, big black and white body on the carpet, sad muzzle on the cold bathroom floor, like a hairy teenager with a bad hangover. Hours pass, the rest of the family comes home and she remains unmoved. Maybe she’s sick? Depressed? Reese, my four-year-old strolls in while I’m assessing the situation; I tell her Rose was probably sad at Dog Camp. Without a word to me, Reese lays down on the floor next to Rose, her head inches from Rose’s, her feet aligned next to her paws. She takes one of Rose’s paws in her hand and starts talking in a low, kind voice, like the one I use when Reese is sad or sick or otherwise not herself. I hear her say, “you’re OK, Rosie, you didn’t like Dog Camp, but you’re OK, you’re home now, I love you, sweet Rose.” She makes these little sounds, these little comforting sounds to Rose, while stroking her snout with her stubby little four-year old fingers, fingers which, just months ago couldn’t find their way around a pen or a toothbrush. Her kindness overwhelms me; my heart is in my throat, savoring this victory, this evidence that no matter what failures we have in store for us as parents, no matter what fights, what cigarettes, sex, rock and roll and “you don’t understand me’s” lay before us, for this single moment a goal has been met; the kindness chip is in place and it’s functioning on all four cylinders.