Tuesday, May 22, 2007

B.O.B.

Last night when you were giving me a kiss goodnight, tears involuntarily sprang into my eyes. You noticed immediately and asked, "Why are you crying now mom?" as though I weep every night at the somber occasion of your bedtime. I told you I kind of felt sad that I was saying goodnight to my 3-year-old for the last time ever; that when you woke up in the morning, you would be my 4-year-old. You sighed somewhat impatiently and offered, "Okay, fine, I'll come back here when I turn 100 and be your baby again."

I appreciate the gesture, but it was of little consolation to me since just minutes before you had declared that you definitely weren't going to live in this house still when you turned 100.

I didn't think I was the kind to get sentimental over my child having a birthday---but you are my baby! You have some tell-tale signs left of that, but not much. There are still sweet dimples in the knuckles on your hands. Those hands were inordinately large when you were born. Proof then that you were mine, but you've kind of grown into them now. Now those hands can help you scale a pantry cupboard and retrieve Spiderman fruit snacks. And those hands, although older and wiser, still don't find the need to hide your crime from me as you walk by with your contraband, as though entitled to what I've painstakingly put out of reach and hidden behind the healthy stuff.

Four years ago you were just an idea in our minds. I couldn't even imagine what you would look like. I couldn't even fathom the grasp you'd take on my heart and how that grasp would grow tighter and tighter with each passing day; so that sometimes I feel like I can't breathe, for how good a hold you have on my heart.

Four years ago I wasn't sure I had what it takes to be your mom. Now I'm pretty sure I don't, but fortunately you are patient and forgiving and you teach me everyday what it takes. You do it kindly, without recalling yesterday's mistakes. Much. You don't know that I don't know what I'm doing most of the time. This is a secret I suspect I will spend years trying to keep from you. Sometimes I think you might already know, particularly when you say things like, "You don't even know what you are talking about. What you are talking about isn't even impossible."

As a baby, and even still you were slow to cry and quick to stop. Your dad and I thought we had mastered the art of parenting because of you. We suspected, but couldn't be sure until your sister came along, that you were different and that it really didn't have anything to do with us. I'm much more willing to give all the credit to your good nature now. In the early years I was prideful. You gave me a lot of reason to be.

One time when you were only about 16 months old we were in a waiting area of a car repair shop. You were toddling around exploring and you headed toward the opening that would lead you behind the counter and into the garage. Your dad stood up and showed you the line in the tile that you shouldn't cross. You were happy to obey, you've always been amazingly respectful of boundaries. You appeared to take note and went back to toddling around the waiting area. You probably forgot, because just a few minutes later you were headed toward the "forbidden" area again. As you approached the line, we said "No-no Bo" and you stopped so suddenly before one single foot could cross over that you fell. We both laughed and couldn't believe we had a child so obedient. I don't mean to compare you to your sister, but just to contrast what most children are like---your sister triples her speed the second she hears an adult's voice.
I say you are respectful of boundaries, but I have to clarify that. You are so obedient and follow the rules you are given. If you don't, it's usually because you forgot or you are tired. You are especially compliant when you understand why you have a certain rule. But there is one exception, and I'm not sure how to approach this with you. You have absolutely, positively, NO respect for other people's personal space. It's not really a big deal when you spend your days at home with me. I hardly notice your need to reach out and swat at me every time you pass by. Or flop yourself on my back if I'm ever sitting on the floor for more than 3 seconds. I don't mind that you practically mold yourself into my ribs when I read to you. I love that affectionate side of you. However, once you started going out in public more, I started realizing it probably wasn't as acceptable.

When you joined gymnastics it was very hard for you to stand your place in line. No matter what I said to you, I couldn't get you to stop trying to nuzzle the back of the neck of some innocent girl in front of you. You'll run your fingers through anyone's hair within reach. You are king of the body hug, willing recipient or not. It's really not a problem in the big picture, that you are so sweet---but it's a little embarrassing when it's a little girl who's name you don't even know, and who's mother, watching from the side is visibly distressed by your handsy-ness.

Before I send you off to your church class I have to remind you to respect the other children's space. Not to try and share chairs because there is plenty for everyone to have their own. Or stroke Makenna's hair, or put your nose in her ear, even if sometimes (you say) it makes her laugh. It's hard as a mom to see the sweet innocence this stems from, but know that you can't go through life with a lack of impulse control when it comes to other people's personal space. In a perfect world, none of us would mind fingers in our ears or faces in our armpits as a sign of affection.

My greatest hope with you is that your sweetness, the natural curiosity, the pure desire you have to do what is right, doesn't get broken as you learn how to navigate your way in the world.

Most of the time your incredible memory astounds me. For example, just today you rattled off what mine, yours, dad's, and Aunt Sara's Chinese Zodiac animals are. I didn't realize you were doing it when you first blurted out of nowhere, "Dad's a snake!" When I realized what you were doing, I couldn't believe you remembered from a Chinese restaurant we ate at nearly 2 months ago. You find particular pleasure in saying that Aunt Sara is a rat. A sneaky witto rat, you say.

When you first started talking you would recount things that had happened six months before you could talk, and I would be amazed. Of course, the day you recounted my last doctor's visit before Avery was born, it was amazement combined with deep chagrin. You weren't talking yet, my babysitter had cancelled, for some reason I felt confident this situation wouldn't come back to haunt me. But a year or so later when I mentioned we were going to the doctor, you asked if it was the same doctor who did such and such to me. Yeah, there are some mistakes, thanks to you my boy, I will only make once.

I always said I wouldn't be the kind of mom who tuned her kids out. Obviously I wasn't considering a 3 year old with a Spiderman obsession and a 2 year old with an opinion about everything, as my children. I have to confess, sometimes I tune you out. But interestingly, I still love to hear your voice. I love to hear you try out new words. I love that there isn't anything you don't want to talk about. I love that you love to talk, and through that, I get to hear exactly what's going on in your world.

We named you with the initials B.O.B because we thought it would be funny. There are a shortage of desirable O names out there, so it was a little bit of a stretch. You acquired our cheesy sense of humor. Already, at barely four, you think it's pretty funny that your initials are BOB. You do have a good sense of humor---you can sense a joke before anyone else your age. I have to admit, your own jokes make everyone groan, but you sure do know how to appreciate other jokes. Right now you are living in the world of make believe. Caillou and Arthur are your best buddies. Driving down the road you will start to giggle and you'll say, unprompted, "I'm laughing because Arfo said, 'Get that thing off of me!' AHAHAHA! Isn't that so funny?" I hope you never stop sharing even the silly little things with me.

You can count to 100. Thanks to your dad and Super Mario, and your brilliant little mind. Granted, we endured 437 failed attempts of counting to 100, but you finally mastered it. You still think 70 is the highest number in the world, because that's the most Mario Stars you can get. Number value will come in time, I'm sure. You also know how to add. Now, I have to confess, when you added for the first time, that was really the first time I've been completely bowled over by your brilliance. People say you're smart all the time. Sometimes it's just a nice thing to say, and sometimes you do impress people. I tend to think, particularly with kids your age, that the definition of smart varies so much, I don't put much stock in it. Even though, deep down, I think you are the smartest little boy in the world.

So, the day you were sitting on the toilet, yelling out your philosophies on the world to whoever would hear you, and I heard you say "four plus four equals eight" I stopped dead in my tracks. It was either an uncanny coincidence, or you had just shocked my socks off. I asked you what 3 plus 4 was and when you answered 7, I couldn't dial your dad's phone number fast enough. Then Grandma's, then your aunt's, then anyone else's number I could think of in my frenzy of pride and amazement. It didn't take you long to realize that you only have 10 fingers, so any addition higher than 10 was out of your league.

You are creative. Most children your age use stall tactics at bedtime that are predictable and pretty much the same, across the board. While your sister has adopted, "But I'm poopy" as her one and only approach, you have several. Last night, 15 minutes after you were put to bed, you came out to complain, "My room smells like Chinese food." It very well may have---but we all know that's no reason not to sleep. I appreciate your efforts not to make our lives mundane and predictable.

Right now you are going through a rough phase. It feels rough to me, I'm not sure how rough it is on you. You are starting to realize you aren't the center of the universe. You are to me, but sometimes the world can be harsh. This causes some pretty serious melt downs, with some pretty serious accusations. Like, after you drop a baby carrot that you've just dipped in ranch, you'll throw yourself across your chair and wail, "You MADE me get dip ALL OVER the carpet and not on my carrot anymore!" It doesn't matter that I'm two rooms away, putting away laundry. I wish you could go through life knowing how wonderful and perfect you really are, but I also know life doesn't work that way. When I point out the obvious impossibility of me causing the carrot to fall, you quickly find something else I'm guilty of. I'll say, "Bo, I wasn't even near your carrots, how could I make them fall?" and you'll say, "Carrot. It fall" because the sin of pluralizing is definitely noteworthy and you are there to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Even though a part of me is sad that you are already 4, I am happy you are growing up. All the sweet things we realized you were when you were first born and growing so fast, have only flourished and become more of who you are. You are my love little boy. Someday I won't get away with telling you that so unabashedly and smothering you in kisses. But until then...

6 comments:

Camille said...

That was so beautiful. I can hardly believe he's 4 already. Happy birthday Bo! Although I want to say that my favorite picture is the one with my offspring in it (she's so small!), it totally gets beat out by the one where he's on your back picking his nose. That picture is priceless.

Code Yellow Mom said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOB, HAPPY BIRTHDAY. :)

Such a great post...one for the memory book for sure.

I guess if I have a 4yo, you have one, too, but wow. We're getting to be old moms. Is that better or worse than being a sneaky witto rat?

No Cool Story said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB!!
Awww, OMGosh what a super cute post :) :)
I'm with Camille, the picture where he's on your back picking his nose is just too much.
He'll come back when he's 100 and be your baby again. What a cute little guy.

S said...

It feels like JUST the other day I was trekkin across MO to greet the little man. I too have always been in awe of him. He is a perfect young man to be the head of eight little siblins:) or three. Happy birthday BOB your nolonger free at last! greaat post Erma

Roz's mom said...

Awwwww. Having your sweet kid turn four is pretty heart-breaking. I'm not looking forward to it happening to Roz.

Happy Birthday guy!

EarthBint said...

He's so CUTE! Tell BOB hapbertday. Katherine was reading this with me and her favouritee bit was 'anything higher than 10 was was out of your league.' and mine was "But I'm poopy!" :-D
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