We try to celebrate boy-ness at our house. I say “try” because it’s not always easy. I remember when there were only four of us in this family. Mom, Dad, James and Catherine. Two boys, two girls. It was too easy, too symmetrical, too sane. So we added some spice – his name is Charles. In one week of vacation last summer, he single-handedly convinced my sister and her husband (and maybe many others) that their family was complete with just TWO children.
We are blessed with two boys (and a girl in between -– the rose between the thorns). The gap between the boys is large enough to drive a Mack truck through. You know, the same Mack truck that hits us as our “alarm” goes off on dark, early mornings. Our “alarm” is a three-year-old named Charles. The alarm goes something like this… “MOM!! I can’t sleep by myself!”
Some days, this “Charles alarm” goes off earlier than ever and he comes to “sleep” between us in our big bed. I can count the number of times on one hand that Charles actually fell back to sleep once he got snuggled down between us under our comforter. Usually, he talks to his lovies (soft slips of pale blue fabric with elephant heads). Or he’ll talk to us. He’ll ask if the sun is awake yet. He’ll ask when it will be time to have “brek-stas” because he is hungry. He will ask this incessantly.
I know this particular phase won’t last for long. We’ve been through plenty of phases with three children – the bottle phase, the pacifier phase, the sippy cup phase, and now the “I can’t sleep past 5 am alone” phase. Will I miss his little toenails digging into the small of my back at the crack of dawn? Doubtful. Will I miss his mop of white-blond silky hair pressing against my face and the pudgy soft fingers feeling for my nose in the dark to go “honk?” Probably.
Talking about “celebrating boy,” reminds me of how much energy is packed into that little sturdy body. Let’s just say our youngest is a climber. Charles never met a chair or table that he didn’t want to dominate. He takes the descriptive term “ladder-back chair” literally. Miraculously, he hasn’t sustained a serious injury -– yet. I feel it is only a matter of time before I am careening across eight lanes of Atlanta traffic to get to Children’s Hospital for stitches or worse. I keep the driving directions to the emergency room in my glove compartment.
The energy of a three-year old boy is astounding. He can run laps around a busy parking lot, but refuses to walk a step toward his room for a nap. We call naps “quiet time” at our house, which is hysterical since the quiet time consists of Charles screaming and crying for me for the better part of an hour. Sometimes I skip “quiet time” and let him watch TV – it is much more restful for me.
One interesting thing about having a “caboose” -– a child who brings up the rear with a noticeable five or more year gap between him and his siblings, is that the “caboose” is oddly way ahead of his time. He knows things other kids won’t experience for a good four or five more years. For example, Charles likes rock music. He likes to play air guitar to U2’s Beautiful Day. It is a precious thing to see your three-year-old swaying his hips and rocking out. Charles has seen movies that I didn’t let James see until he was getting braces. The movies didn’t bother him -– no nightmares, no crying. Just a little bit more realistic swordplay and “I’m going to kill you” talk. We just went back to watching Caillou and Noddy for awhile. (If these don’t sound familiar, just count your blessings.)
His sister has had an effect on Charles, too. For example, every time Catherine tries to talk to me, Charles starts to fuss and whine. Hmmmm. He definitely knows who the competition is. But those moments when they are squished together in the family room chair, both eating a handful of gorp that dad made for the Cub Scout campout tomorrow, wiping their hands on their pant legs, while Catherine reads Froggy Plays Soccer out loud to Charles…well, those moments are beautiful, if rare.
Remember the gap in ages that I mentioned? That definitely adds some interest and challenge to our daily family life. Many times I have found myself “bridging” between wiping out the little potty that Charles uses, and helping James get his thumb drive into his laptop so he can research dragons on the internet. And, I will always remember one day when I got a chance to really show my ability to adapt quickly. I had just spent a lovely morning at the High Museum. I gave a tour of two new exhibits to a group of girlfriends from church. We had lunch afterwards in the café and felt “oh-so-urban” and sophisticated. Later, I reluctantly headed home. The second I walked in the kitchen door, the babysitter said, “I’m so glad you’re back. Charles has had two accidents – one is on the floor in his room, and the other is in this bag.” Great. I spent the next part of my day cleaning carpet and underwear.
Last April, we felt bad that Charles was the youngest so we got a puppy. Okay, that’s not really true. We got a puppy because I promised the older kids that we could get one when James was 10 and Charles wasn’t a baby anymore. I made that promise in a moment of weakness three years ago. Lo and behold, a 10-year-old birthday actually came, and Charles “sleeps” (I use that term loosely) in a big-boy bed now. So, Abby joined our family. She is just as energetic as Charles, but weighs twice as much. Charles is determined to dominate her. He wants to be the alpha child, alpha dog, and alpha everything. Abby actually listens to him better than she listens to me. He has perfected the deep voice and commanding tone when he says, “Abby, no.” “Abby, sit.” “Abby, back.” He basically can boss her around and all that happens to him is some eager sniffing for stray oatmeal on his pants or a wet lick in the eye.
So, while we try to celebrate all the boy-ness, all the enthusiasm and all the spice that Charles adds to our days, I’ve noticed that he is busy enjoying himself, too. He is the self-proclaimed “Man of the House” when his dad and older brother go camping. He shouts, “I’m the King of the World” when he climbs on top of the big rock at the playground. No self-esteem issues here. We cherish that energy, confidence and independence that pours out of our youngest child. Believe me, we know Charles is a blessing. It’s just that sometimes he is a blessing in disguise — in this case, a blessing wearing a muscled Spiderman suit wielding a pair of ninja swords.
By V. Bratton: 11/17/07