Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It gets better

In two short months Sam will be 2 years old. When Ben was turning 2 I was probably scared, because everyone talks about the "terrible twos" so much. This time around, however, instead of being scared, I'm excited because I know we're going to reach two milestones that make life so much easier.

Sometime in probably the next 6-8 months Sam will graduate from his crib to a big boy bed. Ben transitioned when he was 2 1/2, but I'm thinking Sam might go earlier, just because it'll be nice for us. When Sam's ready that means we're breaking out the bunk beds and thus will start the era of Ben and Sam sharing a room. That does make me a little nervous, from the sleeping less perspective, but it means we'll have a free room. We're not sure what we'll do with it yet, but that'll be nice. Also, not having to drag the pack 'n play around when we travel will be AWESOME. I remember Ben went from crib to bed right before a trip to Florida and it was so nice to leave that thing at home.

Then sometime in the next year Sam will be starting potty training. It's by no means a fun experience, but I do remember thinking that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be with Ben. And I'm hoping that the I-want-to-do-everything-Ben-does thing will work in our favor. Plus, we are definitely doing it before he turns 3. We unknowingly dodged that bullet with Ben, because I think it would've been MUCH harder to potty train him after 3. He got so stubborn that year. It would've been a nightmare. So that'll probably be our spring or summer project next year. Something to look forward to.

So those are the two biggies we have coming up and they mean so much more freedom. Traveling really is the biggest thing that gets easier. And while potty training doesn't mean I get to stop paying attention to Sam's bathroom habits right away - for a while I'll actually be MORE focused on it because I want to avoid accidents - I will get to stop buying diapers and carrying around a diaper bag.

Even little changes are nice, too. Babies and toddlers have very specialized needs and as Sam gets older his needs and Ben's needs can be met together. Like, once Sam turns 2 he and Ben can use the same kind of Tylenol. And by the time Sam's 3 he and Ben will probably use the same toothpaste. Fairly soon Sam will be able to use regular cups and not use sippy cups anymore. I've been able to put the toilet paper back on the rolls, instead of up high out of his reach, because he seems to be past the un-rolling everything phase. He's already attempting to climb into his car seat by himself. All these things add up to not so much work on our part.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pushing through

I'm feeling melancholy today. I think Ben turning 5 has affected me more than I thought it would. For some reason 5 must be a threshold in my mind. Even though Ben won't be in elementary school for another year, I feel like he's starting to float away from me. I also think about the fact that I read somewhere that kids' brains are like sponges until age 5. They soak up everything. And I just hope we exposed him to enough good things to soak up.

He's getting so big. Not just physically, but mentally. Sometimes the connections he makes and the insights he has astound me. "Where did he learn that?" I think. And then I realize he didn't learn it. He just thought it up. And that's so awesome, but today it's making me have a real "Where is the time going? It's happening way too fast" moment.

Sometimes I'll watch one of the kids as he's doing something really funny or very This Age. I'll try to memorize the lines of his body, the cadence of his laugh, the tilt of his head so I'll never forget it. But I know I will. I try to remember what Ben was like at Sam's age and it's hard. Hard to remember him then and hard to imagine him in the future.

So I take pictures and videos and try to post the funny moments on my blog so I can remember. I'm also trying very hard to live in the moment. But right now I'm feeling very overwhelmed by the task of Raising Good Human Beings. There are so many things to think about: good nutrition, teaching values, setting limits but not being too strict, not "being their friend" but still having fun with them, not spoiling, learning colors and letters and reading and chemistry, instilling gratitude and manners and helping them to appreciate art and science and beauty and life. It's so much. Sometimes I take it all in stride and I know that little by little, day by day, through my actions and words my kids will learn what I want them to learn. But right now it seems like an impossible task and there's a part of me that thinks I squandered those sponge-brain years with Ben and I'm definitely squandering them with Sam.

Well, I've just got to push through. One of the exhausting but sometimes liberating facts of parenthood is that it just keeps going, whether you're ready or overwhelmed or not.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dear Ben,

This year, your fifth, has been an emotional roller coaster. In contrast to your fourth year, when everyday was up and down, up and down, this year the ups and downs have been in weeks. So for a few weeks you'd be the best kid I could imagine. Kind, helpful, funny, creative, thoughtful, mature, obedient. I'd feel like the best mother. And then it would switch and suddenly for a few weeks you were beastly: Yelling, slamming doors, refusing to listen. Those weeks were tough. The good news is that you generally save that behavior for Dad and me. At school, with babysitters, with family you're well behaved and respectful. Only one time in two years of school have you gotten a bad report and your teacher was SO SURPRISED.

The most exciting thing from this past year is that you're learning to read and write at an amazing clip. Just a couple weeks ago you made a card for a friend's birthday and you sounded out "Happy Birthday" almost all by yourself. I'm in awe of your curiosity and voracious need to learn new things. Both will serve you so well in the years to come.

One of the most fun things about your emerging personality is that you're definitely picking up on Dad's and my geekiness. Video games are a favorite of yours. You love making up stories about zombies and dragons. You even wore your wizard hat to the Renaissance Faire. At first it freaked you out a little that people kept talking to you, but after a while when someone would say, "Are you a wizard?" you'd proudly say yes. And when Dad and I brought you home Catan Jr. from Gen Con, you have no idea how excited and proud we were by how quickly you picked up the game.

The biggest milestone this year (to me) was your first Weird Al concert. I was so excited, but at first I wasn't sure I'd made the right decision, taking you so young. It started close to bed time and you seemed tired. When Al came out on stage you just seemed perplexed by all the lights and how loud it was. You said you'd had fun, but I wasn't so sure. However, the very next day you started asking for your iPod to listen to Weird Al. And now all you ever request in the car is Weird Al. And when we hear original songs in public you say, "This is Weird Al!" So even though you have absolutely no context for the jokes or parodies, I've succeeded in making you a Weird Al fan.

The most poignant milestone this year was taking the training wheels off your bike. It just seems to completely symbolize you growing up. Now you have your own transportation and you can (almost) completely balance yourself on your own. It's scary and thrilling to have you becoming more independent. It makes my heart ache a little, but it's also what's supposed to happen.

You're getting to the sweet spot of childhood. Those handful of years where you're old enough to be somewhat self-sufficient, you can do stuff that's fun for us and you still want to hang out with the family. In a couple more years Sam will be in the sweet spot with you and I think the four of us are going to have a lot of fun. I'm so looking forward to the next half-dozen years with you. You're turning into someone I genuinely want to hang out with and I'm so proud to be your mother.

Happy birthday, Ben!

I love you,