Two months ago the toilet training hammer came down. We spent a week counting down your last pull ups and then Saturday morning arrived and there were no pull ups to be had. (OK, I had to hide the rest of them to make sure we started on a Saturday, but you didn’t know that.)
That first day was pretty awful. You peed six times and pooped once and not once did you make it anywhere close to the toilet. It was a very long day. Your dad and I went out to dinner that night and I walked into the restaurant and it was filled with screaming children and I nearly lost my mind I was so irrationally annoyed.
The second day was a lot better. We made it to Em’s for breakfast and home without an accident. We had a few mishaps but you actually started putting two and two together and sitting and waiting to pee. You took an hour long nap on the floor of your playroom during your rest time – I guess you were exhausted too – and then in the late afternoon with the sun shining warmly outside, I introduced you to shaving cream and food coloring. You absolutely loved it and things started to feel a little easier as you laughed and swirled the colors and your dad looked on from the kitchen as he prepared to grill outside – because it was just that perfect.
I am trying to remember that Sunday because things have been so difficult for the past month or so. Your half birthdays and the months around then have been hard since you were born. I look back at your seventh month, your 19th month, your 31st month and there is this recurrent theme of Really Damned Hard, So I keep thinking back to that Sunday and that perfect hour when absolutely nothing was wrong. I cannot stop looking at these photos.
I have this hazy floating memory of the week after that because I wrote it all down as fast as I could. The weather was picture perfect, Dad was grilling again, the Civil Wars played in the background on Prairie Home Companion and we had dinner together in the sun-filled dining room. A lot of laughing and not too much interrupting from you. Another perfect moment snagged out of a difficult week. The week after that we watched the snow swirling and fall on the greening grass. A fire burned in the fireplace for the first time in weeks and I had to re-learn my fire tending skills. And the weeks floated by and spring came early this year and we planted the garden and added to our chicken flock. You named your baby chick Woof.
So much has happened in the months since I have last written. Another Easter arrived and with it our annual Easter Egg hunt. We had thirty people over, easily half of them your friends and after the egg hunt was completed (it took about four minutes to find the nearly 150 eggs we had “hidden” around the yard) you all raced through the garden chasing one another stopping to compare your candy haul and stuff a few more pieces of chocolate into your mouths. The parents stood around saying, “Can you believe it? They are entertaining themselves! They are all playing together!” It seemed incredible that you are all old enough to play a game of tag by yourselves.
And yet, and yet, there is so much you still want from us, still need from us. Three and a half has ushered in an era of needing me constantly. You constantly ask me to do something or be next to you or hug you. After nearly of a year of easy drop offs at school, you became a weeping mess every morning as I attempted to pry you off my leg. At last, I found a solution. Every morning before I left, I drew a picture of Dad on your left hand (you always reminded me to draw in his beard and mustache) and me on the right. Some days I added the words Mama and Dad as well and then you informed me, “When I miss you, I can look at my hands and you will be right there.” The last weeks of school slipped by and I drove to school yesterday afternoon to pick you up with a huge lump in my throat. Your teachers this year were beyond incredible. They loved and understood you and were so patient with you. You are not an easy kid to have in a classroom full of other kids and they viewed this with joy and that was a gift.
Last Friday you had surgery to have your ear tubes removed. When they were put in two years ago the doctor told us that most kids had the tubes fall out within a year and a half. Most kids. I know well by now that you are not most kids and was not surprised at all when your little ears two years later were clinging stubbornly to those ear tubes. Since we are on the edge of summer camp and swim lessons, we decided the tubes had to go. But when you had them in, you were a mere 18 month old and had no memory of the surgery at all. You are definitely aware of every little thing in your life now. If one thing has been changed in your classroom, you notice it immediately. You will find the smallest minutia of an object and ask why something is the way it is. So springing surgery on you wasn’t going to be easy and we spent the entire week before talking about it and mapping it out. At odd intervals during the day you would say, “Mama. Let’s pretend about the surgery,” and we would act out the entire procedure form checking in to waking up to the trip to the toy store afterwards. We took a tour of the hospital waiting rooms and you had memorized the schedule so thoroughly that you corrected the nurses if anything seemed out of order. The morning of the surgery I watched you wheel yourself down the hall in a little toy car to the operating room talking the anesthesiologists’ ears off. Ten minutes later you were done and coming out of anesthesia and within a minute you were asking me all sorts of why questions. You were just fine. But much later that afternoon I sat with you in the garden filled with sunshine eating the first strawberry of the season and as you laughed I thought of the hospital tour we had taken a few days earlier when one mother mentioned that her son would be kept asleep for three days after his surgery. Three days. I couldn’t begin to comprehend the terror those parents were feeling. I felt again crushing gratitude that you were happy and healthy and that we had all only danced around the edge of a tiny medical issue and didn’t have the sadness in our eyes of those parents, the truly awful weight of a really sick child that rounded their shoulders and shaped their lives. How terrible could my life really be that I have this laughing boy eating strawberries in the sunshine? Not terrible at all.
p.s. I loved this.