I dropped the boys off at camp on Thursday.
They’re staying there, with my family, while I’m in San Jose for BlogHer ’14 with my husband. It’s really a treat for everyone. They play, have a blast, get to stay up late and eat all the ice cream, spend time with family, and make new friends. My husband and I get a mini-vacation, even if I work the whole thing.
Saying goodbye to them doesn’t get any easier.
When we stopped in on Sunday to check on them, they didn’t care that we had been gone since Thursday. As we said goodbye until the following Monday, BigBrother simply gave me a hug and ran out the door to go find his friends, the screen door slamming behind him.
LittleBrother looked up at me. “Eight days,” he mumbled. His eyes were wide.
“Yes, but then we’ll be home. You’ll have a good time with your brother and your other friends.”
“Yeah, you’re right. See ya later!” He shrugged as he kissed me and ran out the door, chasing after his brother.
I miss them so much right now, but I am not worried about them nor do I feel guilty. They’re having a blast. They’re safe. They’re happy. The same can be said of us here in California. Not too shabby at all.
One day last week, just after the boys went to bed for the night, a friend of ours stopped by with his daughter and a bag of books.
An overflowing bag of books.
An overflowing bag of books full of all the kinds of books the boys find interesting right now: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (as in, the whole ding-dang series! score!), all kinds of mysteries (Jigsaw Jones Mysteries being a new favorite), books about science, books, books, and more books.
LittleBrother felt especially excited as he now has his own copies of Captain Underpants books. BigBrother has them as well, but now they can sit together and read all about fart jokes and poop jokes and other things that make them laugh. There’s something to be said about owning your own favorite book, not just having to share it with your brother. When one finishes a book we hadn’t previously owned or borrowed from the library, he passes it to the other. After they’ve both read the book, they talk about it, the characters, the plot. They’re back to writing their own books again too.
As an aside, they also want to start their own band as of this week. I don’t know where this came from and I’m not sure it’s book related, but it’s worth mentioning. Because we could use some ear plugs for Christmas.
They’ve been reading non-stop since the bag of books arrived. In fact, on two of their technology days over the weekend, they took time out in the middle of the afternoon to sit down and read. While we have “assigned” reading time every day (two to three chapters or two to three story books), they’re choosing to read above and beyond that time limit.
LittleBrother came to me today. “Mommy, I finished my three chapters, but can I read some more?”
Uh, yeah kid. Yes, you sure can.
They spent time this evening after dinner playing with a neighbor’s grandson. When the little boy left to go home, my two boys came inside, picked up their books where they left off, and continued reading. They’ve both already finished their Summer Reading Program for the school, earning a pool party when school starts back up. They raided the library today for chapter books, Pokemon books, The Puppy Place series, and a number of other books that looked interesting.
I can’t keep them in books right now.
It’s a good summer.
Last week on vacation, we took one morning off from our usual beaching to go do something as a four person family unit. When vacationing as a multi-generational family, we find great importance in taking time for our individual family unit. Sometimes we go to the aquarium. We’ve hit the Blackbeard museum a couple of times. We meant to go on a pirate cruise last year, but ran out of time.
So last Wednesday, we loaded the boys in the car and, per our usual, didn’t tell them what we were going—only that it was a surprise. We did, however, tell them they could wear the pirate hats they got at the pirate museum two years ago.
When we walked up to the dock and they saw a pirate ship situated at the end of it, the excitement level sky rocketed.
We chose the Beaufort Pirate’s Revenge because it was child-centered, not overly long, and omg, pirate ship!
Honestly, the cruise was quite fun. But it also showed the brothers’ personality differences quite well.
BigBrother got into the pirate role very well. He was all pirate, all the time. Intense, arrrg-gahhh-ing. Facial expressions that only he can make. Very dramatic, all the time.
LittleBrother enjoyed himself, but he was more laid back, a little bit unsure. He had a lot of fun, but took a minute to warm up to each thing that they did—from the face painting to the sword fight… though he loved the water cannons. He’s just a little more introverted than Mr. All On All The Time. I like that about both of them; their differences.
I’m glad we took a morning off from the beach to drive to Beaufort and do something new, different, and fun. Watching these two get into the fun of imagination, of “being” a pirate, of laughing and playing and being on a boat on the Intracoastal Waterway. We, the parents, sat and watched them line up and follow orders; we smiled as the water cannons got us wet, cooled us off under the sun’s strong rays. They had a blast, and I hope it’s one morning they remember for all time.
I started writing a beautiful piece about how these two boys are getting along splendidly at the beach, how they dig holes and/or convince Papau to dig them a hole that they can continue to work on after the hard work is completed. How they made friends with another brother pair and spent hours digging and playing. How they acted like pirates and laughed as they engaged in a sword fight on a pirate ship.
Then BigBrother punched LittleBrother in the head upstairs after I told them to go find something to do because they argued over a game.
Vacationing can be hard on brothers. On parents.
The close proximity feels awesome for a few days. As neither seems afraid of the ocean this year, they’ve enjoyed the togetherness as they jump waves, ride boogie boards, and swim in the warm ocean waters. They’ve oohed and ahhed over a clump of seaweed filled with teeny, tiny hermit crabs. They’ve eaten lunches, snacks, and dinner together. Showered together. Sat on the porch together. Read in the morning after breakfast but before beach time. Together. Everything. Together.
I’m not surprised that this morning, Thursday, they’re feeling a little punchy. Literally.
I don’t approve of punching your brother in the head just because he took the really cool blue pillow in your shared bedroom, but I get it.
Right now, BigBrother is reading two more chapters in his book. Alone. In the bedroom. LittleBrother is relaxing on the couch, downstairs, away from his brother. Silently. Because silence. When the reading is done, I’ll bring them back together and talk about how lucky we are to have a vacation like this with each other, with our extended family. I’ll use my most often used phrase when I talk to them about brotherhood: “He’s the only brother you’re ever going to have.” I’ll talk about expectations for the rest of the day.
And then we’ll go about our day.
I don’t know if it will go perfectly. Or, rather, I know it won’t go perfectly, but I have hope that it will go. We have some beach time planned this morning. By afternoon, my husband will be back from golfing with my uncles, hopefully in one piece as he will be in charge of the afternoon hours while I do a little work. Then we’ll all head off for our annual dinner out at our favorite restaurant on the island, The Crab Shack. Birthday cakes will follow as this week brought about a lot of family birthdays.
I’m hoping for less head punching and more happy times today. Because we all deserve happy times right now—even two punchy brothers.
Mothering at the beach presents some fun, some challenge.
Today I floated sideways on a raft with my youngest son, kicking against the current until a wave came and then flipping us back toward the beach to float with any wave that came out way.
Today I watched as our oldest son got too cocky out in the water with an older cousin and found himself on his boogie board out past where he could touch. Thankfully he was right near my mother who helped him until my husband made it out and pulled him back in to shore—for safety, for a serious talk about how we have rules about how far they’re allowed to go out for a reason, for a time out in his beach chair.
Yesterday I watched as my husband and father pulled the boys by on their boogie boards, sending them tumbling and laughing into the surf.
Yesterday I watched as my oldest son showed no fear, diving into the waves over and over and over again. I marveled at how he has changed since this time last year.
Today I carried six chairs down to the beach before our normal beach time so that I could ensure our entire multi-generational vacationing family could have the primo spot of the day.
Today I slipped into a new bikini, one I purchased yesterday. I pulled at the bottoms looking at my reflection in the mirror. I almost second guessed myself until I paused to feel how comfortable the suit felt on my body. I looked briefly at my stretch marks, extra white against the slight pink from the sun exposure the previous day. I smiled; I earned those marks.
Today I watched as my sons played with a cousin the same age as their sister; my heart broke as I thought about what it would look like if things had been different.
Today I watched as my sister-in-law stood in the waves, her eleven month old falling asleep in her arms. I remembered that phase of parenting. I felt nostalgic for a moment, asking my husband if he missed that phase—the water slapping, sand eating, happy giggling phase of the newness of the beach. Then we laughed the laugh of parents sitting in their chairs while their children figured out how to float on their 1980′s style raft.
Today I watched as two tired afternoon boys argued over the big shovel, one swinging the shovel at the other. I simply pointed at the one who swung the shovel and pointed at the chair—the same chair used earlier for time out. Then we packed up all of the things—the toys, the chairs I carried by myself earlier, the cooler, the towels, the everything of beaching with children—and walked back to the beach house.
We showered the children, clothed them in clean, dry clothes, and set them down with The Lego Movie so they could relax away from the sun for just a little while. I showered the excess sun block, salt, and sand from my body, dressed myself in clean dry clothes, and settled down with a book for a little while. Later, we had dinner, we had snacks, and then bed time rolled around. As I tucked them in, one said to me, “Today was the best day ever.”
And the other one said, “Yes, thank you, mommy.”
And somewhere between the time out and the floating, the bad and the good, the exhausted and sand covered and delicious food and beautiful beach breeze, I came into my own. Somewhere on a beach in North Carolina, I felt okay with who I am, right now, as a mother.
I ran some errands yesterday evening and came home to this:
All three male figures in my household in the front yard, working on throwing the baseball. LittleBrother tossed the ball at the pitch back, occasionally catching it on the way back. BigBrother slowly worked through his pitching form, lobbing ball after ball at my husband.
As soon as baseball season ended this week, BigBrother started asking his dad to teach him to pitch. My husband pitched back in his day; so did I, but softball, not baseball. I watched as my oldest son think through each move to make, taking care to hit each individual movement perfectly.
Baseball season may be over for this year, but we’ll have many more seasons like this; evenings in the front yard, catching and throwing, pitching and learning.