Tuesday, March 4, 2014

3 years old

Today my baby boy, who won't be the baby of the family much longer, but will always be my baby: is 3 years old.

We had a low key birthday party on Saturday night at Panera after JT got off of work. We had a construction truck cake, dump truck plates and napkins, Planes movie party hats, and Lightning McQueen party horns. It was eclectic to say the least.
The cake wasn't pretty, but it WAS pretty chocolatety, which was just what the birthday boy ordered.
The mac n cheese was as good as always, and we were fortunate enough to have cousin C and Aunt M in town to celebrate with us.
Nobody seemed to mind, least of all the birthday boy, that there wasn't a theme or even a pinata.

This is before the party started. The Dude wanted to skip the whole dinner part and right to presents and cake...

Yesterday, to end his 2nd year with a bang, he threw up all over Noni and Papa's floor right as I was getting ready to walk out the door to work. 
I was surprisingly unpanicked, considering the horrendous round of stomach flu we just went through last March, and considering I also had to call out to work, which means falling ever behind during a time when it's hard enough to keep up as it is, and having a smaller paycheck in a couple of weeks.
I decided to take it as a gift from God. An extra day to rest during a time when I have every good reason to rest whether my mind allows it or not, and most of all: an opportunity to spend The Dude's last day as a 2 yr old with him.

With the laundry mostly caught up, the bathrooms semi-clean and the refrigerator full from a busy weekend, as well as a slightly subdued little boy who couldn't tell me for sure if he was sick or not, ("I feel willy weird, Mommy." I think in hindsight he was just caught off guard by the fact that he threw up and that his schedule then changed dramatically) I had an excuse to sit and read to him for over an hour. To give him the many hugs that he's always asking for. To memorize 2 as it fades into 3.

As excited as I am about the birth of his baby brother, and as much of a gift as I know it will be to him, I still find myself mourning a bit how my relationship with him will change.
I'm reminded of the last couple of months with Aquaman as my only child. Back when he still seemed so small at two and a half.
He WAS small.
But the instant he walked into the hospital, climbed into the bed and proudly held his little brother for the first time, he turned into someone Big.
And there are different expectations of him now. Expectations that aren't even always fair, and that I constantly have to question.

There's no doubt that he's stepped up to the plate. That he loves to help, and will enjoy helping this next little one as well. ("I'll take care of the baby Mommy, you won't be doing it alone. And you can take care of The Dude. The Dude is kind of a handful for me.")
He jumps to lift anything heavy that he can to save me the trouble, and to show off his 5 year old muscles. He tells me, "before long, you won't have to do much at all around here, with 3 boys AND Daddy. That's a lot of muscles."

The Dude will find his place as well.

But there's no doubt that there'll be less opportunity just to sit and hold him. I ache sometimes for the days when I had endless opportunity and time to devote to Aquaman. I had much more patience. I had much more room in my arms. Now there'll be less time and less room.
I am praying that God will multiply the patience endlessly.

These two will probably become even more united, as they seek to gain in each other what they have temporarily and permanently lost in me.
And I'm coming to terms with all of it.

Maybe having another baby is just another way we let go.
I often think that Aquaman's slowly pulling away and not being as cuddly and affectionate as he once was is a direct result of my not having as much time to nurture him.

But maybe it's just because he's growing up.

Because there will come a day when, no matter what I do, he won't need or even want to be pulled up into my bed early in the morning when he's had a bad dream.
One day, those wrinkly newborn knees that turned into banged up boy knees will turn into hairy man knees and they will need freedom to go their own way.

So for today, while they're most interested, all I have to do is let the Spirit lead me to lead them, in whatever moments that I can.
And then, already, even at the tender age of barely 3, I have to let go, and let Him lead them the rest of the way.

For The Dude's birthday, we bought him a $9 used trike.
He loves it.
I wanted to get him the $70 John Deere Big Wheel in the window of Once Upon a Child. I stared at it for a long time. I justified it in my mind ("we DO have the money right now").
I stared at it some more, and then God told me to keep going and we found this bike, and I asked if there was anything else in the whole store that The Dude would like, and he said no, and rode the bike to the front desk.
I handed the girl $9, with one last backward glance at the tractor, and then walked him out.

I thanked God that today he is 3 and doesn't know any better, and I also thanked God for showing me that the only way to teach him as he grows that he doesn't need all the shiniest and coolest stuff is to teach him to be content right now. And that doesn't take much.

All it really takes is a $9 bike, and a few pieces of computer paper and blue crayon and old Christmas stickers to make a birthday special for a 3 year old.
I can't believe it's been 3 years since we checked into the hospital at 7 am. Since I walked the hallways contracting. Since I pushed him out in 5 minutes, and since I held him that first time. I'll never forget how he stopped crying to listen the moment I said his name.

3 will hold new challenges, as we revisit the "Friend or Enemy" stage we struggled through with Aquaman, and as The Dude adjusts to his role as Big Brother.

Yesterday, with a knot in my stomach, I signed him up for both fall preschool and summer swim lessons. A rite of passage somehow, a start of something new.

I look so forward to seeing how he will mature into his new roles. How he will spin it all into a big joke like he does with everything.
How just when I think I'm going to explode with not knowing what to do, he'll squeeze me and tell me, all on his own: "you're a good girl mommy, you're my FAVORITE girl." Or just when I am getting too serious, he will strip down to his birthday suit with nothing but his birthday crown on and tear through the backyard grass on an unknown mission.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Dude.

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