Let me just start this post out by saying that I absolutely love Autumn.
I think if I lived somewhere where the leaves were changing and weather was cool in the fall, I would love it just as much, but I'm not actually sure. The impending winter might so blind me with his frigid whiteness that I'd have difficulty appreciating the changing colors.
I suppose Autumn means something different to a Florida girl, and I think maybe most of the Floridian friends will think I'm crazy, but I can feel it coming.
It's not just the Pumpkin Spice Lattes coming out, or the fact that stores are starting to get in their Christmas supplies (seriously?!).
It's the sun going down just a tiny bit sooner. It's a very early morning on the beach when the ocean feels warmer than the breeze. It's rushing to organize and clean the house during the heat of the day so that once the beautiful fall weather hits we can not only feel extra cozy inside, but enjoy as much time as possible OUTside.
I am in love with the fall, and I fell in love in the fall. And even though I have done very little surfing these past 4 years in the busyness and exhaustion of raising two of the most beautiful boys that have ever lived, the fall is when I most remember what it felt like to be a surfer. It's why I don't begrudge my husband the antsy, almost frantic behavior he exhibits when he's doing anything but surfing when a tropical system is passing by. It's one of the reasons why I find myself so often rushing the boys off to the beach during dawn patrol hours, and why I sometimes get lost staring out into the raging power of it. The feeling of change and excitement and LIFE in the air.
Life is really really good.
We've been in our townhouse over 2 years now. I am still as deeply in love with it as the day we moved in, probably more. I love the backyard with our seashell landscaping and hedges of sea oats and lots of room to run. I love the sidewalks and the nearby parks and the neighbors who wave when we're playing in the puddles that collect in the parking lot. I love that our home is small and cozy, and that we have to thoughtfully consider every single little thing that enters into it and whether it is important enough to take up space here. I love that my boys have no choice but to share a room, and that they adore it. I love that there are parts that are old and gross and that decorations are sparse, the coffee table is padded and the couch has to stay covered. I love that the ugly parts don't seem ugly at all in the light of the laughter and kisses and sunshine that always fill the rooms.
The boys are growing up into the greatest of treasures. The Dude is saying 70+ words now and has begun to respond to the phrase "use your words" instead of screaming at the top of his lungs about everything (though he does get quite bossy and fed up at times). Aquaman is beginning in a very rudimentary way to learn to add and subtract and is fascinated with numbers and words, and it is so much fun to watch his mind piecing life together (though his favorite activities still involve only things with wheels).
The Dude is losing some of his velcro child tendencies and is allowing me to attend church, which is a wonderful freedom. He is still nursing all night long, and though I look forward smilingly to a future of sleeping all night, I find myself quite content to hold on to these snuggly nights for a few months longer. Funny how different it is with the 2nd child, how much younger they seem, and how quickly time goes. Last night I found myself kneeling beside him as he lay on his mattress, the tiniest bit of milk still left on his chin, blond curls framing his tanned face, and was struck by the wonder of it all.
I had more of those moments with Aquaman. There was just more time to stare.
But I've been drinking my fill of my littlest man a bit more lately.
I love, when Aquaman goes to school, how the Dude becomes a little shy in my full attention. Though he seems so assertive and sure of himself when Aquaman is around, when he is given rein to make all the decisions, I've been noticing him hesitate. I think in some ways, the second child is luckier. He has never thought of life in terms of just himself. There has always been another to share with.
I wouldn't necessarily describe him as easy going, or even happy-go-lucky, but in him there seems to be a bit more resiliance than in my firstborn. In his being less sensitive, he seems harder to damage, there is less pressure. He has his challenges, in that he requires much more consistency and repetition to teach, but it is altogether less of an emotional experience.
Much of this is temperamental, but I am also realizing that part of it is just that I've done so much of this before. I spent hours and days and weeks and months researching about how to "sleep train" or even "night wean" my firstborn. I spent even more time than that worrying that whatever I did would damage him for life.
I'm still not really for "crying it out", but I'm pretty sure that's because it just wasn't right for my kids, not because it's wrong altogether. However, if you read or talk to proponents of this practice, they'll have you believe that you're destroying your child or setting yourself up for future boundary problems if you don't make them sleep by themselves when they're infants. And now I know enough to know that it's not true.
Aquaman and I have just plowed through what was probably the most challenging milestone we have experienced to date. I wouldn't have guessed it at his 2nd birthday when he, of his own accord, suddenly began to pee and poop in the potty. It was one of the easiest things ever, and I heaved a sigh of relief that at least one milestone was going to happen smoothly.
Until 3 months later when he contracted a stomach virus, and along with it, an irrational phobia of pooping in the potty.
We let it go on, and on, and on. We tried every kind of reward possible, and he wasn't interested. We tried backing off to see if he'd become interested on his own. We could not try having him clean himself because his poops are enormous liquidy blowouts and he would have spread disease all over our house.
I listened to many people tell me that eventually he'd do it on his own, because no one goes to college still asking for a diaper to poop, but a part of me knew, because I knew my son, that he was not going to do this on his own.
So we set a date. 4 years old, happy birthday to him, and since he is such a strong willed and anxious little fellow, I did not make myself the enemy. He was advised that there are no diapers that fit 4 year olds. We talked about it for months beforehand, and each time he would remind me that he did not want to talk about it.
The day before his birthday I ceremoniously changed his last poopy diaper, except it wasn't his last. He woke me up 3 times in the middle of the night to poop just to finish with a bang.
Saturday, no poop. Sunday, a few halfhearted upbeat attempts to sit on his potty chair, but still no poop. He seemed to believe firmly that it was mind over matter. If he chose to never poop again a day in his life, then he would never have to.
Monday, he realized the folly in his plan. We spent all morning with warm washcloths on his belly and changing stinky spotted Thomas underwear. And crying. And screaming. And sitting on the potty crying and screaming. He was just terrified of it coming out. A dose of Miralax and a lot of screaming later, he produced 3 enormous poops. I don't know how I cleaned that little Cars potty up, as I had caught his stomach virus by then, but I do know Zofran helped a lot, and prayer even more. As Aquaman sat there stinking up that potty, looking at me through swollen tear-filled eyes and screaming loud enough to give me permanent hearing loss, I was repeating to myself "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me", so that I wouldn't vomit all over my son. He asked me to pray for him, and he sobbed through the whole prayer.
After he went those first few times I thought that would be it...see it's not scary, you can do it, no problem. I'm not sure why I thought that, when I know my dear sweet child.
Tuesday no poops, Wednesday no poops. Thursday, he had to be picked up at school because he was found crying in a corner twice. Another dose of Miralax and he pooped in the potty soon after.
But I underestimated the power of the Miralax, and the next day he had a poop accident at school. Some children might be embarrassed for other children to see him with poop in his pants, but that is not what mortified my boy. He was worried about the teachers, and about his mom.
That night I asked him why he was afraid of my being upset with him because he had an accident. I could not remember getting angry with him in this regard, but who knows. He said, "do you remember that time when you were putting The Dude to bed, and I told you there was a little bit of poop in my pants? Do you remember what you said?" I did not. He said: "you said: 'Oh, Aquaman.'"
Yes, I said, "Oh Aquaman." And this was apparently devastating to him.
This is why having a sensitive child and being an imperfect parent can be so stressful. It's going to take a lot of faith.
But we're not done. After the accident, life became even more emotional. I did lay off the Miralax, and he did continue pooping, but each time reminding me of a woman in the throes of terrible labor. When he'd start screaming the loudest and clinging to my hand and crying for a diaper, I'd look down and see the "head" beginning to emerge. "Push it out!" I'd yell, and like that transitional laboring woman (whom I know nothing about because I experienced the bliss of epidurals), he'd yell: "NO! I can't!"
It wasn't funny. My energetic boy was temporarily replaced by a hollow eyed anxiety ridden cat-like-screaming animal.
I never considered turning back, it was too late really.
The Monday after that weekend, he called me several times at work crying.
The next day it was a little bit better.
And the next day, even better.
And this weekend, he got 5 stickers in a row (which only took him 2 days since he has big man poops 3 times a day) for pooping on the potty without any screaming and without me in the room, and Daddy took him to pick out a new Thomas train, who happens to be his favorite color purple, named Charlie, and carrying a car filled with ice cream. This boy was giddy with excitement, and I don't know if it's all the toy, or just the sense of accomplishment. To be honest, I feel the exact same way.
Because we did it, together.
And because fall is in the air, change is in the electrically charged breeze that's swirling off the ocean, and there's every reason to believe that we're approaching an even better season of life than we're in now.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope