Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Boys

Gosh, I love my boys.  They make me absolutely crazy, but I love them so much.  Mothering little boys is such a bizarre, awesome, challenging task, and most days I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge.  But then I walk by the girls clothing section or hear about some sort of tween girl drama and figure out that girls are absolutely no easier.  So I refocus on the task at hand--turning two crazy little boys into capable, caring men.  Yup, it's overwhelming.

The boys are like oil and water right now, which isn't making things any easier.  Carter absolutely loves Jacob and thinks he's the greatest human ever.  Of course, that doesn't stop him from randomly walking up and hitting him, so there's that...but most of the time he just wants to hug his brother and is always very concerned about where he is and what he's doing.  If Jacob walks out of sight when we're out in public, Carter asks, "Brudder?"  Or during the day when we're home, he'll often say, "Brudder school?"  He genuinely cares about him and lives for any attention he can get--positive or negative, I suppose.  So when he's tackling a very unwilling Jacob, I think he just appreciates that Jacob is acknowledging his existence at all.  They wrestle a lot, which usually doesn't end well.  Carter's random assaults on his brother don't really help his case, but he just can't help himself.  Jacob has zero patience and zero compassion in those instances, which we need to work on, but amidst those we have had a handful of decent moments where Jacob will let Carter play a sport with him.  Jacob's patience or Carter's attention usually wanes before long, but it's a start. 

Incidentally, I laughed a bit tonight as I played some knee hockey with Carter, because he's still learning how to hold the stick right and get off a decent shot.  At this age Jacob lived with a stick in his hand and already had perfect form in at least a couple sports.  That's not to say Carter won't be an athlete--he's got a strong arm, for sure--but clearly his skills are not as innate as Jacob's.  But Carter does things I don't remember Jacob doing on a regular basis--like driving around cars and willingly giving lots of wonderful hugs.  Jacob was a cuddler but not a hugger, and Carter is the opposite...although lately he's acquired the attention span to watch TV shows and loves sitting on the couch (often on top of whichever parent is on the couch) to watch.  But ever since he stopped getting a nighttime bottle, snuggling and sleeping on people has been a rarity.  But the hugs make up for it!  He gives real squeezes, and I'm not sure Jacob did more than drape his arms.  Carter also loves to dance and make noise with instruments or toys.  He sings a few songs and can be so cute just playing with his toys.  He'll put some Duplos together and say his trademark phrase, "I did it!"  My favorite is when he drives his stuffed carrot car (with a bunny driver--it was in Jacob's first Easter basket) around his crib rails, sound effects and all.  He's so darn cute.  Of course, it doesn't come without a stubborn side, like when he throws a tantrum every time we can't stay outside and play, but he's a funny little dude.

Jacob is such a unique kid.  There are moments where I absolutely want to pull my hair out...when he mindlessly chews tiny holes in a brand new shirt, when he talks back or argues a ridiculous point for no apparent reason, when he has zero ability to wait for anything or consider someone else's situation, when it seems like everything out of his mouth is a complaint or a demand, or when he simply can't seem to keep his mouth shut.  Those moments make me crazy, and they happen a lot more often than I'd like.  But then I see him fidgeting or dancing around like he has to pee, and I ponder all of the things I've read about hyperactivity over the past few years.  I hear him complain about a stomach ache and I worry about his Celiac disease.  I see him forget about the simplest, most obvious things--like brushing his teeth after breakfast instead of running right to his iPad in the morning, or remembering his take-home folder every afternoon--and I wonder how he'll manage when there are bigger things to remember.  All of those things are a reminder that he's managing a much different set of factors than I did at his age.  As a result, it's extra hard to find the line between being sensitive to his needs and still trying to keep him on track.  Still, he's got such an amazing mind in that head of his.  While so much of what makes it from his head to his mouth could use some serious filtering, it's clear that the wheels are always turning.  The pictures he draws can be truly impressive, and the random facts and scenarios that he comes out with can make your head spin.  Lately he's been really into rugby.  It all started about a month ago when we randomly caught a rugby match on TV.  I looked up some of the rules to help us understand what was going on, and not long after he asked me to download a rugby app on his iPad.  He plays it a lot and is now a serious rugby expert (in his mind, anyway).  Right now he wants a rugby ball for his birthday and asked me to look up rugby cakes on Pinterest.  They all were either way too complicated (a scrum made out of fondant?!) or looked a lot like football aside from the goalposts.  I'll have to try to remember to post a picture of the rugby picture he drew.  It's really pretty cool, and his passion is clearly illustrated. 

Thanks to various sports apps, he probably knows more foreign flags than most people and has asked us a million questions about various geographical and political relationships between countries.  I always say that talking to him tends to be like that one Google commercial (I think), where someone mentions a topic in conversation and the other person starts spewing random phrases somehow associated with, but not necessarily relevant to, that topic.  For example, they could bring up the Easter bunny, and their friend starts talking about rabbit food or Easter Island or egg recipes.  You just never know where a certain topic will take his mind.  It's as impressive as it is exhausting, and while I constantly wonder how he will interact with others as he gets older, I still feel like there's something in there that can contribute great things to society. 

He's really smart, but when the going gets tough, he loses his patience.  Earlier today he was talking about where he wants to go to high school (it's a constant debate in this family given the state of the schools in our district vs. the cost of a Catholic education), and I told him that if he wants to go to the Catholic high school, he's really going to have to buckle down and get used to school work, because that school only takes kids that are up for the challenge that their rigorous educational experience provides.  I know he's got the brain for it, but does he have the patience to put it to good use?  For the things he loves, his passion and his fact-filled brain can take him a long way.  I love watching him improve, be it in lacrosse or in his school work.  I love when he gets excited about things and when I get a legitimate chance to praise him for something.  He talked recently about a project he did in art, and that there was a chance that it could make it into the school district's art show at the mall.  I have no idea what the odds are it will, but the excitement on his face as he talked about it, and as I got excited at the prospect of seeing it there, really warmed my heart.  I know he feels like he doesn't get the same attention as Carter and he thinks we go out of our way to make his life miserable, but when so much of what he does is decidedly less cute (and often downright obnoxious), it's hard to give him that same positive attention.  So when I get the chance, I do everything I can to help him see that we love him and can get just as excited about him if given the chance.

Life with our boys is such a blessing and such a challenge.  We have two very different individuals to raise, and that's not always easy.  What worked for one might not work for another, and rules that make sense for one might not make sense for the other.  Keeping things fair is never easy, particularly when one is too young to know better and the other should know better but can't always translate that into reality.  It may not be what we bargained for, but at least it keeps things interesting and reminds us that creativity beats a cookie-cutter approach any day.  I know that as a parent I should say that I wouldn't change a thing about my kids, but I won't lie--I hate that we face so many battles as a family on any given day.  I desperately wish that my kids got along.  I fear that some of Jacob's quirks will leave him feeling isolated as time goes on.  My heart hurts when I see Jacob deal with another crappy aspect of the Celiac life or when he can't seem to get past some facet of his unique personality.  But I know that some people would give up their right arm just to have two kids to write about, and I know that our problems often pale in comparison to what some people deal with on a daily basis.  I've written here about my friends whose kids have battled cancer, and hopefully one of these days I will tell the story of a friend of mine from college who is living an unthinkable hell thanks to a flawed judicial system.  My problems are nothing compared to those folks, so I know that I am blessed beyond measure every single day.  Nuts or not, this is our life, and I am so lucky to have it.

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