School is out–again! The last time school was out in March, I got the heck outta the city to spend some much needed time somewhere else–and much needed time with my boys in North Carolina. The following is a collection of moments and observations.
An evening outside, sitting around the bonfire,the grown-ups drinking local Aviator beer, the stars out and both Saturn and Venus visible in the sky. For Will, they were even more visible on Uncle David’s iPhone app which traced the their progression in the sky. While under an inner-outer space canopy, the 4-year-old is more into looking down at his gadget, and I hope he snaps out of it someday and learns to look up. But I get it, you tell the boy to look up and “Hey, there’s Venus!” But it’s just this little anticlimactic spot of light. The iPhone has shiny pictures–and look more like what he’s studying in pre-school. With that, I think the official word on Pluto is “dwarf planet” which makes me sad, because it’s Pluto, and that’s the planet that rules us Scorpios. Forever the outsiders…. Anyway. Again, I hope he–we all–learn/remember to look up and take it all in.
Ben wasn’t quite walking yet when I visited–though he is now! Just getting it started if you held his hands. And instead of real crawling, he’d do this Army crawl, like he was ducking under barbed wire. Nothing cuter than sitting in the living room, and watching him scoot across the entrance to the hallway. Seriously. I saw Ben first shortly after my arrival. When I picked him up, it was like Oof! As Ernie said, he was still a sack of flour. And boy loves to eat! He will pretty much eat anything. Though we did give him a little piece of feta cheese and that didn’t go over too well. Later, when we picked up Will from school, I lifted him up and I said, “I think you weigh less than your brother!” But Will’s had time to stretch out and build some muscle and shed the baby fat. Still, crazy.
Will says “blooding” instead of “bleeding.” Not that there was a lot of blooding going on.
He also says “I can’t” for “I don’t want to.” Will buddy, if this is a preconceived strategy and not just the evolution of your control of the language, it won’t work for long. If it did at all.
That first night in town, I watched Will’s his gymnastics class. 4-year-olds doing gymnastics is hella cute. His teachers were blonde Southern high school girls who pronounced his name like Wheel. His twang is getting more and more pronounced and he’ll even say, “Hi, I’m Wheel!” Get you guys back tot he Midwest, stat! When he pointed me out to the coach dude, he called me Uncle David (who wouldn’t get there for another day or so). Aww, that’s okay. I’d only been in town a few hours and he hadn’t seen me since the previous June. So you know he’s figuring it out and committing us to memory. Still, he called me Uncle David a few times. He eventually got it. So, gymnastics, he wasn’t the most focused of the bunch. He often kinda flopped around doing his own thing, living in his own world. But he still did a good job. And one of the little girls held his hand when he walked the little balance beam. Awww….
After gymnastics class ended, they got little stickers on their hands. You would’ve thought Will was given a new car. He was so excited–and proud of that sticker. Like when I given a plastic spider ring at a grade school Halloween party costume contest–my mouth dropped and I walked in a stunned daze to show my parents. Will showed everyone as we made our way to the car: “Look, I got a sticker!” The adults smiled and nodded and maybe said a “Cool.” But the little African American girl who was maybe around 7 just gave him this cold look of, “So?!” and my heart broke for a second and I was like Uh-oh. Already subjected to the uncaring cruelty of other children. Will Will the dewy eyed innocent always be made fun of by his cruel jaded peers? Or maybe in a few years, he’ll look at a 4-year-old with a sticker and also be like “So?” But I don’t to think of that innocence lost quite yet.
We had fun making pancakes together. I used the recipe from my BHG Junior Cookbook I got for my 8th birthday. I didn’t bring the book, filled with fabulous 70′s kids photos (do little girls still wear yellow yarn in their hair?) but I know the recipe by heart (even though I still pull out the book at home.) Will helped me add ingredients and mix things as he stood on a kitchen chair to reach the counter. If we could collect the footprints from all the chairs stood on by kids as they helped in the kitchen, that would be something special (or gross, not sure….) If Ben will eat anything, Will is our picky eater. I like to add stuff to my pancakes (bananas, apples, blueberries, etc.) but we set aside some plain batter just for him. He even wanted the chocolate chips we offered on the side instead of inside his pancakes. Maybe he’ll learn to live a little. Ben, of course, gorged on his share of what the rest of us had.
Will loves his little brother, but there of course rough moments. Ben will knock down parts of Will’s wall mounted car race track. Will will be sitting on the couch looking at one of his favorite books–a picture book with individual squares holding its own drawing of a vehicle as well as the name of it. Ben will scoot up to Will to be with his big brother. And Will will say to whoever will listen, in a very matter-of-fact tone, “I want you to move him.” Awesome.
My sister-in-law has taught Will the art of distracting Ben with another toy car when Ben is playing with one that Will does not want him to be playing with.
When Will and I sat together looking at the aforementioned picture book, he would tell me the name of each vehicle, even if what he said didn’t always match the word. After each one, I would say and encouraging, “Yes” to show that I was paying attention. After a while in his same m-o-f tone, he would say, “Stop saying ‘Yes’.” Um, okay.
My first morning, still curled up in the guest bed in Ben’s room (Been slept his folks’ room), trying to drown out Ben’s blood curdling screams (boy’s got lungs), Will knocked on the door, and asked, “Is anybody in there?” (seriously, his voice is so sweet I could pour it on my pancakes). “Maybe,” I answered. He came in and climbed into bed with me, wanting to settle into my already warmed spot on the sheets. He told me that the little light coming from Ben’s baby-cam mounted in his open closet was a monster. We had a lovely discussion about all the monsters that lived in their house (seriously wish I had a voice recorder going.) Mostly I just listened to him, letting his imagination go. A few weeks ago, when I hung out with Morgan, I told her about this conversation. When I told her about this monsters, her eyes widened and she gasped, and I assured her that there weren’t really monsters at Will’s house. They were just “atend” as Morgan says it.
Will has his particularities (and of course I know nothing about that….) And when he would freak out about something, or fuss about Ben being somewhere he didn’t want him to be, or a toy car was out of place or something would mess with his sensory sensitives, my “parental” instincts would kick in and I’d just say, “Will, calm down. It’s not a tragedy.” It sort of seemed to do the trick. Maybe because it came from me, a somewhat objective other older figure who was not Mom and Dad. Though if someone would’ve given me that advice at 4 (or 14 or 34 or…) I’d've freaked out even more. Heh. But that’s my take on these things. At one point, Will’s freak out involved him slapping his face a little with both hands, and I’ll admit to saying, “Will, knock that off. You look special.” Alison jumped into damage control and put the positive spin on “special.” So maybe I crossed a line, but maybe that’s an uncle’s job–to keep it real. Though I’d never want to scar the boy. I really shouldn’t talk, because I have and do experience physical manifestations of my own emotional frustration, whether bed spread punching or an occasional literal slapping myself out of it.
We taught Will how to play Angry Birds on Alison’s school iPad she brought home. Trouble. His coordination wasn’t quite getting it, yet. And we couldn’t figure out how to turn the volume down. Eventually we had to tell one of those sanity lies–that Angry Birds was broken.
I had my iPod on shuffle much of the time. At one point, Will wanted to go back and listen to “the song about cars and trucks” and we were like What the hell is he talking about? I backspaced through the shuffle until we got to The Killers’ “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” which satisfied him. Maybe it’s that opening bass line. But then Adele came on next and he was happy with that too, so I don’t know what that was all about. Heh. We’ll have to make him a mix of songs that are really about cars and trucks.
We played cars and read stories and ate cupcakes I bought from a bakery in town. We played Candyland where the new board is now utterly garish and all the characters look like the spawn of Kewpie Dolls and Precious Moments figurines, where we did not play the optional child coddling rule that says a kid can take another turn if he has to go backwards (seriously?!) I held Ben and played fetch with family golden retriever Sadie. We went to the park and rode the carousel. We went out for ice cream. We watched the first two Toy Story movies.
I did not change any diapers.
I had alone time sitting on the porch and reading and taking notes for this and not thinking about school or the city, knowing that the boys would be home soon enough and we could hang, and Ben could pull on my beard and Will could tell me to stop saying “Yes.” That’s all I needed in the world.