I can’t even with these two.
Tap tap type.
My Grandma bought this typewriter back when one of my uncles needed to write papers for college. My mom used it for the same thing. I spent hours upon hours tap-tap-typing my own stories, my own poems, my own name. Since Grandma’s passing in June, the inevitable texts of “do you want this” came in waves over the months. I said yes to various things, but definitely the typewriter.
Tap tap type.
They’ve been writing stories, both together and separately. Each boy gets so long on the typewriter to write what he wants. One is writing a new story about evil slippers, and the other is typing out a story he already wrote about super heroes. Each stands and watches the other type, pointing out mistakes or helping the other learn how to make symbols or numbers or locate the apostrophe.
Tap tap type.
LittleBrother felt so excited about the arrival of the typewriter that he wrote a story about it at school. “When I get home I am going to write on a taipy writeer. I do not no what it looks like.” I hadn’t opened the case yet to show the boys what it looked like, but he managed to draw it looking somewhat like a typewriter in the photo. Maybe he saw one in a movie or something. Or maybe a love of typewriters is a genetic trait passed down from generation to generation.
Tap tap type.
Whatever the case, they took turns without arguing. They helped each other spell words. They taught each other what the ding at the end of the line meant, how to press “power return” to get back to the start. No harsh tones, no whining. Just the sound of two little boys using their imaginations to write stories and help each other.
tap tap type.
He slipped under the covers on the empty side of the bed, and silence fell around us again. The silence let me know which kid it was, as one comes with quite a bit more verbiage than the other. We laid silent for quite some time, enjoying the peace before another day of busy life for both parents and children.
In the quiet space between our breathing, the sun started to rise.
The sky changed from a light orange to one streaked with bright pinks, purples and dark spots of blue. The change started slow and then exploded in color all at once. We watched through the open curtains in the bedroom, the walls changing color as the light poured into the room.
Eventually, I broke our silence.
“Wow, that’s a really pretty sunrise.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like that,” he replied quietly, his arms resting behind his head.
I smiled, wondering how many sunrises he’s actually seen. Or rather, how many he’s seen with intent. Not those infant sunrises, rocking in the rocking chair while nursing him, both of our eyes shut but aware of the sun lighting the room around us. I know he’s witnessed a number of sunrises as we wound our way through the Appalachian mountains on our way to the beach each summer. We leave under the cloak of darkness, shuffling them out to the car mostly asleep; they wake as the sun starts to peek above the mountain tops, ready to eat breakfast and begin talking—non-stop—for seven more hours. I don’t think we’ve rested our heads on pillows next to one another and watched as the sun turned the sky into a tapestry unlike anything we’ve ever seen or will again; even tomorrow’s sunrise will be different if he slips into bed and waits with me.
I forced myself up and out of bed to snap a picture, and then snuggled back under the cool sheets next to him. I looked at the curve of his profile, his eyes still watching the sky. I studied the shape of his nose, his chin. I wondered how much of that nose shape will stay the same, how much will change as he gets older, day by day.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked him the question I ask both boys regularly. I like to hear their answers, to see what changes, what remains the same.
He remained quiet for quite some time before defaulting to, “A firefighter. Is that okay?”
“Of course it’s okay. You can be anything you want to be.” Then I threw in a different question. “What should I be when I grow up?”
He laughed. “You’re already a grown up!”
“Oh, right. What am I?”
He thought really hard for a moment. “Uh, a blogger?”
Maybe one day when he reads back over these many words, these many pages of family memories, of dreams and goals, of who his mother was and is and might be someday, he’ll remember the bright pink sunrise we watched together in silence. No matter what he does as a job in the future, he’ll always be the boy whose face I memorized one beautiful Tuesday morning.
I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting.
I’ve been thinking a lot about raising the two children under my own roof to adulthood and what all that means. The steps to take, the words to choose, the lessons to impart. And while I’ve managed to get them to nearly seven- and nine-years-old relatively unscathed, I’m looking forward at the long journey still ahead of us and thinking, “This is too much. This is too hard. I’m going to screw this up.”
Maybe it’s because I arrive at the boys’ elementary school in the afternoon, park my car, and watch the middle school kids trickle down the hill. They’re awesome and awkward all in the same breath. I see myself in some of the girls, their long hair obstructing their view and their back-in-style knock-off Doc Martens clomping down the sidewalk. I smile and think of how awful middle school was; how I survived despite being myself.
But it’s the boys that catch me most off guard. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, puberty doing what puberty does—wreaking havoc, causing confusion and delay. I try to guess their ages, guess anything about them: what they like to do, who they might be, how they treat others. I see them interact with one another, talking with their hands and waving goodbye as they separate at the bottom of the hill. I see them talking on their phones and wonder who in their life is so important that it warrants a call before three o’clock in the afternoon; I silently hope it’s their moms.
I look at them and can’t quite fathom BigBrother being one of these kids in three years, of LittleBrother following two years behind.
All of my friends with tweens and teens parent girls, not boys. I don’t quite know what to expect or whether BigBrother will eventually stop talking (though this is very, very hard to imagine) or if I will become Enemy Number One like some mothers and daughters. Do I get to remain their favorite for awhile? Will they become sullen and silent, like we’re told boys become, or will they remain themselves as I know them now, chatty and full of exuberance for all things, everyday? Will they hate spending time with me, with us? Will they hole up in their rooms? Will they get mouthy and full of attitude like I did, or will they just shrug and walk away?
Those currently unanswerable questions aside, I just don’t understand how I’m supposed to teach them everything they’re supposed to learn, how I’m in charge of this Very Big Job. I don’t feel qualified. In fact, most days when I’m trying to manage the load of life in general, I feel vastly underqualified for the job of raising capable adults. When I get frustrated and raise my voice, when my ears get tired from the constant talking, when I can’t think of one more answer to one more question, when I just want five minutes to myself.
I worry a lot about the mistakes, those moments when I don’t say what I need to say or say something completely wrong or, maybe worse, don’t say anything at all. Will that be the moment that they remember? Will that be the moment that outshines all others? Will they forget the good things in place of all of my many faults? Will they know, without a doubt, that they are not only loved but liked? Will they know that I don’t just love them because I’m required to love them as their parent, that I really, truly like them for who they are? Will they know it’s okay to make mistakes and tell us about them?
Why yes, my anxious brain is doing a lot of over-thinking on this subject! How did you know?
I logically know this line of thinking isn’t productive, it doesn’t solve problems or answer questions. Logic and anxiety and wanting the best for your kids don’t always go together, don’t always play by the rules. I’m just overcome as of late with the weight of it all. More than fearing a random virus or accident or anything else, I fear that they won’t know how much I love them, how I’d move mountains every single day to ensure they knew my love. I’m afraid I’m already mucking it up.
I hope they know now, that they know later. They know, right? They’ll remember, right? Of course. Sure. Right.
We never get a Saturday in October to ourselves. Or a day in October to ourselves. The whole month is full of plans and places to be and things to do and go go go. But then Moses parted the sea and we ended up with a Saturday to ourselves.
After I finished my run for the day, we informed the boys that we would be hitting the pumpkin patch.
Now mind you, the weather outside was being very October-y. On either side of my run, it hailed. One minute, the sun would shine. The next minute, the sky would let loose. We showed the hail to the boys at one point, and they marveled. So when we told them we’d be heading to the pumpkin patch, they looked out the window with concerned faces. Or more like they looked back at the fact that they had a Saturday to play all the video games they wanted and their stupid mom was interrupting their technology weekend time with stupid family time. If they had been just three years older, the tween attitude would have been thick.
“Like, the real pumpkin patch or are we just going to Walmart like last year?”
Thanks for bringing it up, oldest son of mine. I didn’t feel guilty about it last year and I sure don’t feel like crap that you remember my short-comings as your mother. No, that feels great! Spectacular! Awesome!
“We’re going to the real pumpkin patch!”
They shrugged and slowly put on shoes, put on their rain jackets. They moseyed out to the car as if going to a real pumpkin patch was a life sentence and delaying that by walking as slowly as possible was their only way at keeping freedom for as long as they possibly could. But dang it, we were having family time and we were going to the real pumpkin patch and I didn’t care that it started raining on our way there, because plans.
“Do you know where you’re going?” The backseat drivers questioned every turn my husband made, and really, we didn’t know where we were going because we were going to a different place than two years ago. We turned out a back road and then down another and then ended up on an unpaved road. I think that’s one of the things that my city friends just can’t totally grasp about living where we live. That you can be driving on a totally paved road and then the pavement stops and it’s not a driveway. It’s a real live road that people live on and have to get out of when the snow and ice come in the winter. But this was an exceptional unpaved road in that it really wasn’t wide enough for two cars. It was barely wider than the running trail. It was epically rural.
On this epically rural road, the rain sputtered and started and stopped and sputtered some more. BigBrother kept talking about the miraculous pumpkins at Walmart, and LittleBrother agreed that they were mighty nice pumpkins. And I just sighed, because apparently that will be their Halloween memory, the one that they tell their children on the way to the pumpkin patch. “One year, mom and dad forgot to take us to get pumpkins at a patch so we ended up at Walmart and she took our picture and everything!” Yeah, fantastic.
Then we rounded a bend and the pumpkin patch came into sight.
They forgot to talk about Walmart. They bounded out of the car and started touching all of the pumpkins.
“Look at this one!”
“Look at that one!”
They ran around, with me instructing them to attempt to avoid the mud, but they weren’t listening. They indulged me briefly for a picture in the corn teepee, and then off they went to find their pumpkins. They helped each other and pointed to and fro, and I just smiled.
Maybe they’ll remember the year that it was hailing out and mom made them go pick out pumpkins instead.
Yes, you already saw this photo. It’s okay. It’s my space; I can pick which photos to use. I promise.
2014 has been a… year.
This Saturday, I rounded up both boys and two dogs (one more than usual as we were dog-sitting for my parents) and drove the two hours back to Pennsylvania to visit my Great-Grandma on her first weekend in the nursing home. My parents were in Florida for a family wedding, and my Grandma, being Great-Grandma’s daughter, was in the hospital. I felt like Great-Grandma needed some extra love that first weekend in a new place away from everyone else, so off we went.
We stopped at The Farm first to drop off the dogs and check on all the homes. I fed the boys a quick lunch and explained again what we were doing.
“So she lives there now? It’s not like a hospital where you just stay until you get better?” BigBrother raised an eyebrow, not really believing me.
“Well, yeah she lives there, Buddy. It’s not the same as a hospital.”
“So she doesn’t live here anymore? That’s sad,” LittleBrother mused from behind his milk cup.
“Yes. Yes it is sad, Bubba.”
And it is sad. This whole year has been full of all things hard and sad and big and grief-filled. It’s been exhausting for everyone in the family, and it’s only the beginning of October. The end of the year seems far away, even though it’s not. And let’s face it: 2015’s arrival doesn’t bring with it promises of no more hard stuff or sad things or all the same junk. Nope. So we soldier on together, visiting when we can, running errands as needed, helping where we can, and praying with all of our might.
We arrived at the nursing home during lunch and sat with Great-Grandma, the boys’ Great-GREAT-Grandma, while she ate her ham, spinach salad, sweet potatoes, and cornbread. We met her table mates. We carried on conversation like visiting her in this new place was normal instead of new and big and different.
We then followed her to her room, walking behind as she pushed her hot pink walker with zebra-print bags attached to it; she likes that everyone makes a big deal about how spectacular her walker looks. I love that bit of spunk; I share her middle name.
The boys sat on the floor and colored while adult conversation and story-telling took place. I reminded her about the time I stayed at her place when Great-Grandpa was still alive, how she let us eat our food on tray tables in the living room so we could watch the Smurfs together. She talked about how she met Great-Grandpa (the Grange) as the boys raided her candy drawer. She talked about adjusting to the new place, about making friends and talking to the other people living around her.
I meant to take my big camera, because I don’t have a picture of both boys with my paternal Grandma whom we lost this past June. I hate that, so much. I took for granted all the times we had together, all the things we did. The boys spouted off a list of memories later this same day as we stopped at the hospital to pick something up for my maternal Grandmother; they admitted to missing Big Mamaw (my paternal Grandma) deeply and my heart caved in all the more. I forgot my big camera, but snapped a quick picture with my iPhone before we left.
I don’t imagine visiting your Great-Great-Grandma at the nursing home ranks high on the fun factor for any six- or eight-year-old. But they smiled and did as they were told and wiggled too much and talked a lot and were generally the amazing little boys I know and love. I know they don’t fully understand everything that’s gone on this year, what’s left to come in the months and years ahead… nor do I, really. It’s all big and hard and too much.
But we’re in this together. As I walked back to the car with my hands in theirs, I felt thankful to have them both with me on this journey of hard stuff in this year of sadness. I am so thankful for these two brothers and their lively presence; they keep me in the here and now.
Sometimes I think my Pastor preaches directly at me.
At first, I thought she was just going after the kids last Sunday when she started out her children’s message by asking the kids if they ever whined or complained. I watched as LittleBrother’s eyes got wide with honesty. I smirked as BigBrother smirked, knowing in his head he was saying, “ME?! NOT ME!!” Ever so dramatic, that child, but yes, he whines and complains like every other child on Earth. Life can feel hard when you’re a kid, when you’re not in charge of the rules or the dinner menu or the schedule or of anything really.
I don’t expect them to never complain. My ears would prefer if they would complain without whining, of course. You know, in a very adult-like way. “Oh mother, this homework is bloody difficult today. I feel eight kinds of frustrated. May I take a short snack break?” Apparently I want them to complain like British adults. Or something.
But after the kids sat back down, after I shot them my smirky Mom grin, the Pastor continued on with us adults and how we complain way too much.
Me? Not me! (I don’t know where that older son gets the dramatic flair. At all.) I shook it off though, because surely someone like me, someone who recognizes the many awesome things in her life, didn’t need to be told not to complain. Surely my own complaints were valid.
There’s been a lot of complaining in the house this week from the kids though, as with every week. Homework is hard. Kids are mean. It’s not fair that they can’t go to a friend’s house on a soccer night or use technology on a weekday or that they have to go to bed at the time we have set because so-and-so doesn’t have a bedtime, Mom. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
“What did Pastor K say about complaining?” I smirk.
And then I find myself grumbling while I fold laundry or struggle to meet a deadline or stand outside with the dog in the dark. I found myself in places I didn’t want to be going through things I didn’t plan on going through, feeling angry and whiny and very, “This isn’t fair.” I whined about things like pace. Like dog hair on my black pants or my tan pants or maybe I mean any of my skirts because I don’t wear pants and why did we get a black and tan dog anyway? Or a dog at all! She smells! She’s annoying! She trips me when I try to walk down the hallway because she thinks the sun rises and sets on my head! She barks! AT EVERYTHING!
Traffic. Bad drivers. Good drivers. The moms at school who won’t talk to me because I didn’t come from here and I don’t fit in here or maybe I just complain too much. The testing at school (but really…). Waking up early. Going to bed early. My site loads too slow. Google Docs won’t open. iOS 8. They updated an app in a way I don’t like. They didn’t update an app and now it doesn’t work properly. WordPress. Not WordPress. Spotify on my computer freezes at least eight times per day. I’m out of lives on Frozen Free Fall; I can’t beat the wolves either. My kid’s soccer coach is a jagoff. I hate politics in Ohio. I hate politics in Pennsylvania. I hate politics everywhere.
And on and on and on.
And so I’ve said to myself, not out loud or maybe out loud and that’s why the moms at school won’t talk to me, “Remember what Pastor K said about complaining. Take a breath and look around you. Take a breath. Be grateful.”
I’m not doing well with it. I’ve complained all week. But every time, every single time, I pause. Even if I tweeted it and it’s already out there for the world to see. Even if I said it to my kids or my spouse or the dog. Even if it’s already out there and I can’t take it back. Even if it’s only in my mind, a silent grumbling mess of complaint. I pause and I think and I breathe and I shut my mouth or stop moving my fingers across the keyboard or tell my brain to stop, just for a second.
Just for a second.
That’s usually all it takes for me to realize that my complaining is stupid. Some of it is valid, of course. Parenting can be exhausting and life can be draining and responsibilities can feel daunting and health problems simply stink. Those things will always be true. But the breath, the pause to think about things for just a moment, changes my tone, my perspective just enough to push me back from Pessimistic Over Whiner and into my normal Realist Who Talks A Lot.
I’m not going to paint my world with a rose colored brush, but maybe the pausing will change my tone just enough that my shoulders won’t be forever clenched in a stressful hump. Maybe.
But maybe all of this almost-optimist talk comes from the fact that my lives are back in Frozen Free Fall. I have to go kill some wolves; priorities are important when figuring out how to be grateful for the things and people in your life. Obviously.