Slow Down

Today, I thought I would share an old story from 2000 when Elder was four years old and Younger was one. Today, Elder returns home from his first year at Mizzou. And on Sunday, my oldest nephew is graduating high school.

So fast.

Life happens so fast.

So, even though I have shared this story before, I will share again, just because . . .

Life happens so fast . . .

The other night, as soon as I walked into the daycare, Elder began to communicate with me in this grating, high-pitched voice that can, for whatever unknown reason, only be used to complain, both specifically and generally. Most mothers recognize this as the “whine.”

Struggling for patience, I endured twenty minutes or so, until, standing in the kitchen at the stove with him at my side, his little head tilted back, so that the “whine” can travel the distance between his mouth and my ears just a little better, I recognized my patience was at a rather abrupt end.  So, I turned to him and calmly announced, “Elder, if I have to listen to even just one more whine, I will most likely lose my patience.”

He shut his mouth, looked at me, then said, “Okay.” And he left me alone in the kitchen tending dinner.

So, things had improved slightly but only slightly. Elder still didn’t want to eat his pizza because it had cheese.  Never mind that every pizza he has ever eaten has cheese.  If Mommy actually makes the pizza rather than pulling it out of a box – either frozen or carryout – he doesn’t want it.

Then he didn’t want his bath.  Or to brush his teeth.  Or Younger to look at him cross-eyed.

So on and so forth.

But then it was bedtime and I lay between my two boys. Elder lay his head on my shoulder, tucked one knee on my hip, and sprawled his arm across my chest.  Then he whispered, “I like this part, Mommy.”

And I whispered back, “I do, too, Elder.”

Amazing how even my worst day cannot be so bad when I can spend even a few minutes snuggled between Elder and Younger. So I lay there thankful for my blessings, loving the feel of them snuggled against me, loving the sound of their soft, even breathing, loving the sight of the peaceful faces of sleeping innocents, loving them.

But even those precious minutes are bittersweet. Because I know that too soon I will be limited to those motherly touches that are surreptitiously given and warily accepted.  You know the ones I mean — where I try to smooth unruly hair and they duck away from and beyond my reach or where I lock my arm around their neck in the accepted disguise of a hug or where, in a very public place, I spit on my napkin and wipe spaghetti sauce off their chin while they perish in mortification.

And part of me will laugh and part of me will cry and all of me will remember the little boy snuggled so tight to my side whispering in my ear, “I like this part, Mommy.”

And all of me will silently whisper back, “So did I, Elder. So did I.”

Close Enough

For the last few nights, my niece has stayed at our house.

Thankfully, she is now old enough to arrange her own hair. Having only boys and lacking any interest in spending time on my curls, beyond what is necessary to look somewhat civilized, I never quite knew what I was supposed to do with her long, straight, dark hair. I would shrug, she would shrug, and we would settle for “combed” as an acceptable style.

So I was relieved when she grabbed a hair dryer and styled her own hair.

But she still requires us to feed her.

So, on Tuesday  night, after picking her and Younger up from school, we visited the grocery story to gather ingredients for tacos. Unfortunately, I had forgotten I didn’t have any grape juice, which I tend to stock when I know I have her or my nephew for a meal. So, when my husband called on his way home from work and asked if he needed to grab anything, I asked him to stop at a convenience store for an individual-sized carton of grape juice.

He came home with grape soda.

Apparently, they didn’t have grape juice.

He thought he was close enough.

My niece did, too.

And her parents, well, we won’t ask them, now, will we?

The Nose Knows

The other day, my niece and nephew visited at my house for an hour or so. And, at one point, when I ventured into the living room, Younger and my nephew were twisted into a wrestling knot, with one of Younger’s socked feet in the vicinity of my nephew’s nose.

“Is Younger making you smell his feet?” I asked. “I think that may be a bit of foul play.”

And I turned to leave them to burn their excessive energy through their tussling, except I heard my nephew crow, “Smell that!”

Glancing back over my shoulder, I saw he had wiggled until he could shove one sole against Younger’s face.

Still working to twist my nephew into his own particular design, Younger remained unbothered by the younger boy’s attempt to influence his behavior through smell. “No problem,” Younger assured him, his voice sufficiently bored. “I spend hours every day in a football locker room. Trust me, your foot right there is a meadow of rainbows and daisies.”

Well.

Nice to know I’m raising a connoisseur.

Gimme a Smile

Last Sunday, I took my nephew to our church’s pool party. And we enjoyed ourselves, him playing in the water, me relaxing on the side. When his big eyes landed on me each time he surfaced, I cheered for his underwater flips and clapped for his belly flops. When he finally admitted he might be hungry, I unwrapped his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and found him chips and a grape soda. And when he returned to the water, I again went wild over graceful somersaults and undignified leaps.

Then it was time to leave.

In hopes of earning at least one more smile, I asked, “Do you want some ice cream?”

“From where?” his little voice drifted to me from the back seat of the truck.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. McDonald’s?”

A pause followed then, “Can we get something else at McDonald’s?”

“What else would we get at McDonald’s?” I questioned, distracted by pulling into traffic.

“Fries?”

“Sure, I’ll get you fries instead of ice cream. If that’s what you want.”

And he thought he had me then –– hook, line, and sinker. “And chicken?”

He’s trouble.

And I enjoy every minute of it.