summer, this, now

Is it July? I think it might be July. This summer is just disappearing. Our new little squish is somehow fourteen weeks old(!). And his brother is half a month away from two and a half. Time. I’m not sure whose side it’s on.

But as it passes, we all change.

Our little Bramble Bug no longer wears diapers. He just, somehow, doesn’t. We’ve been at the potty learning gig for three weeks and one day and most days we are accident free. He doesn’t even wear a diaper when he naps now, and he’s yet to have an accident in bed. (Universe: please take the previous sentence only as a statement of fact and not as a challenge.) He still sleeps in a diaper at night, but it’s always dry in the morning, so we’ll stop that soon too. For the first two weeks I set a timer or kept track of the time and cajoled him into sitting every thirty minutes. Now I ask him to sit at transitions (if we’re headed out, if we’re starting a meal, before bed), or when he gets a certain look about him (parents of pottying littles: you know the one). But mostly, when he needs to go, he pulls down his shorts and unders and backs himself onto the potty and holds his penis down so that the pee goes in. All by himself. Same thing with poop. Just: does it. We have a potty on each floor and one in the car for travel. It is a new way of living, and getting here hasn’t been simple. But wow. But wow.

Other things Bram is up to these days: Taking on different personas. “I am Mr. Bill.” “I am Harold.” “I am the exhausted conductors.” “Introduce my name to Louis; I am Josh Ritter.” And READING. He likes to read the same books eight hundred million times, memorizing even complex narratives before moving on to something new. Grasping them. He and J just finished his first chapter book: The Trumpet of the Swan. Bram has been Sam Beaver a lot lately. Other recent favorites: Ty’s One Man Band; Peter and the Wolf (he’s read a few different narrative versions and watched [with rapt attention] the entire symphony twice); Journey (an incredible, words-free, contemporary, female-led, adventurous intertext of Harold and the Purple Crayon; The Little Island (which is Virginia Woolf-quality prose poetry, let me tell you); Grandpa Green (a recent addition to our collection from a kind friend);Otis; (which he recites more adorably than I can even handle); and about two dozen others that I’m forgetting. He also loves spatial work, so we do word-rhyming pairing puzzles, thirty piece picture puzzles, Duplos, and Imaginets on the daily. He builds “machines,” “construction sites,” “lawn mowers” (with which he mows the cats, his brother, our floor), and instruments (“this is a new kind of saxophone,” “this is a sort of slide trombone and trumpet,” “I haven’t seen this kind of instrument before”). He also, of course, loves to be outside. To get close to the ground and watch bugs. To splash in even the saddest puddle. To garden with his Bubbie on (beloved) Bubbie Days. He rarely lets me wear him anymore, preferring to walk almost everywhere we go (though sometimes when he’s sad or can’t sleep he still likes to be front wrapped). When he wakes up from naps he wants to snuggle, and though that’s tough as his brother is usually awake and in my arms, we make it happen. The other day, Louis let me lay him on the ground next to us and Bram curled up on my lap and, after a quiet couple of minutes, he said simply, “it’s hard being a big brother.” I waited a minute. “I bet, bug. It’s hard having another baby and not only being your mama.” True Things. And because I read Siblings Without Rivalry when Louis was first born, I left it at that.

But in terms of that other sweet sweet soul: Lou is every bit as quick to smile as B was as a little, though when he’s not smiling, he’s still a Worry Bird. He has an unusual seriousness: he’s far easier to soothe than Bram, and so far he’s a decent sleeper, but he’s deeply watchful, almost vigilant. He loves singing, and lights up when you look him straight in the eye and sing softly. Really, he raises his eyebrows so flirtatiously it’s impossible not to laugh. He loves long hair (thank God mine is finally getting there), and his big brother, and being worn on my front and hip (he still cries when I put him on my back). He doesn’t love bouncing the way B did (thank the lord because my legs are worn out already), but like B he never ever ever wants to be put down. He is a thoughtful, owl-eyed, affectionate Birdie, and we are all head over heels for him.

And then his Pomo. J has had a tough postpartum period. I won’t go into details as they’re hers to share or not share, but since this baby was born she’s spiked regular, sometimes unexplained high fevers, battled stomach problems repeatedly, gotten mastitis twice and plugged ducts three times, and grappled with both postpartum depression and anxiety. And she was up for a great job that didn’t pan out, so she’s struggling there too. She has been and remains a truly amazing parent, but it has been a hard path. I am hopeful that things will ease up for her soon. She deserves some lightness. We both do.

And then there’s me. I’m finding it hard, at a little over three months in, to even get a handle on how I’m feeling. The swings are just unlike anything I’ve ever known before. Yesterday, Lou let me lay him on B’s bed for awhile and Bram and I grabbed a blanket, and crawled under it together, and got nose to nose, and hid from Monster Iris (the cat) for about fifteen minutes. It was hot under there, and his teeth needed to be brushed, and I could smell his skin and his breath and he just stared at me and we laughed and stared and stayed quiet so the Monster wouldn’t find us. It was one of the most intimate moments of my life; I wanted it to last forever. And just today, watching Bram’s little calf muscles jut out as he climbed the steps, so steady on his own. It’s like falling in love every day.

But I’m also a kind of bone tired. Like, I want to cry but it would take too much effort tired. And I believe that this will get easier, believe it in an “Ooh Child,” kind of way, but the Better that comes with Older Kids feels far enough away to be an oasis in a desert right now. I trust it, but it is so far out of reach. And my mom was in a highway car accident leaving our house last week, and though THANK GOD she’s okay, the terror of it has rocked me. And everything just feels relentless. It’s funny because J and my mom were frustrated with how I responded the night after the accident – how much I wanted to control the way we got my mom back home, the way we got her things from her van before they crushed it – but this part of my life feels like the opposite of control All The Time. The Not Having Control is unending. I don’t decide when I wake up, or fall asleep, or pee, or read, or bathe, or eat, or what I eat sometimes. I mean, really, right? Each moment I bound from toddler play to baby needs to baby play to reading to reading it again to cooking to cleaning to feeding someone to dressed for outside to do we need sunscreen? to please don’t let go of my hand when we’re walking to the park to do you need to let out some pee to does Louis need a diaper change to I really need to mow to the laundry is piling up to can I wait one more day to start diaper laundry to can we skip another bath day to if I wrap Lou I’ll be able to give Bram all of my attention but my shoulders ache to trying to remember the words of that song he loves to have I even looked at my wife today? to how can it already be almost midnight again? to how are they already awake again? And on and on and all over again. Relentless. But those moments, like the one under the blanket yesterday? Or Louie’s first attempts at a laugh? I mean, that’s what remains. The next morning, that’s what’s still there. I’m so happy. I’m also sinking. “Yes,” I want to tell myself, as I tell Bram when he’s struggling. “This is hard.” True Things.

One final bright light. A dear and remarkably beautiful friend’s book of poetry is coming out. Watershed by Laura Donnelly.* Somewhere within a collection of poems that I cannot wait to read – a collection of poems each of which is no doubt as graceful and brave and kind as its creator – is one poem I’ve read before. A poem she wrote about Bram coming into the world, and Emmett Ever, and all of it. I’ve only been able to read it twice. Its existence is both an honor and a confusing source of pain. But it exists. It exists because we have the great good fortune to know artists. Which is to be seen. Which is bewildering and so so sweet. Anyway, Watershed. Because I know Laura, I know it is a gift.

*That link will take you to the pre-release order page.

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4 thoughts on “summer, this, now

  1. A friend gave me really good advice during those dark days of young kids when sometimes you get too overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done that I still use. I’m not sure I can say it the same way she did, but she asked me if I remembered college (she is my best friend & roommate all through college) & I said of course. Then she asked me if I remembered how broke I was or how dirty some of the places we lived were. When I said no, she said exactly: You aren’t going to remember the days you cleaned the house or cooked all day, you’re going to remember the fun times with your kids. Those things can wait if there are memories to be made. I still live by that advice when I’m feeling overwhelmed with everything and hope it helps you, too.

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