Somewhere along the way, we lost our baby and got this little dude up there above. He is sweet, he is loving, he is gentle, he is scatolgically inclined, he is funny, he is disarming. Even as I scroll up and look at those pictures above in the writing of this post, I find that I'm getting a little teary - the usual parent marvelling of where has the time gone, and I can't believe how big he is, and where did my baby go? Why can't I remember every single minute from the Big Yam's previous 3 years? If human beings have all this brain capacity that goes to waste and lies fallow, wouldn't every parent in the world be better serviced if we could put that grey matter to use with the ability to recall in perfect detail every moment of our children's lives? I honestly don't know how we got from that first picture to the last, but I do know that, as Anne Lamott says, children come into our lives and wedge our hearts open.
The Big Yam has a habit of coming into our room whenever he wakes up enough to be semi-conscious. It's like there's no hazy, liminal, between-sleep-and-waking space for him, that fog that generally envelops us and coaxes us back to sleep. No, for him that gentle nudge from sleep signals that he's supposed to clamber out of bed, and slip-slap on his cabbage roll feet down the hall to our room, where he stands by my side of the bed and waits for me to wake, sometimes scaring me half to death in the process. If I'm slow to wake he'll do an exaggerated pouting, pre-crying hiccup sound, just to hurry things along. Usually what I do is lead him by the hand back to his bed and lie with him and we both get a few extra hours of sleep. If it's close enough to waking time and there's not going to be any additional sleep in our future, he'll ask for "covers" and "snuggles" and I'll wrap his cold feet in my hands and we'll "tell secrets" (telling secrets generally means whispering stuff like: "Baba smells like stinky poo" - you know, salacious stuff like that) and talk nonsense and laugh and be silly. It's in those moments that I can feel my heart unfurling - parts of me opening up and making space in which his him-ness can reside until such day comes when he'll use those very same spaces as collateral for hurting me (or so I think in my darker moments when I contemplate what it means to be a mother to 3 boys who will be inevitably morph into teenage hooligans). When I think about those future versions of ourselves, I wonder if I'll be able to remember what it felt like to hold his thrumming body under a pile of blankets in the slowly warming grey light of early autumn morning. If that memory will sustain me when he tries to find his autonomous self and breaks me in the (necessary) process.
I doubt it. Let's be real: that memory doesn't sustain me now when he goads me into being a ridiculous caricature of parental punitive hysteria.
But, as in all things, I try. Now that the Dotytron handles the Wonder Twins during the last feed, for the past 3 months I've been putting the Big Yam down to bed and it's been glorious. When it all goes right - when we're not running late and we can luxuriate in many, many stories, and ad-hoc games, and bedtime philosophizing - we have time for one of my "fireside chats": where I can take stock and apologize for being a shrieking harridan and we can brainstorm what we can do so that tomorrow might be better. It's an iterative process and I try to be mindful that to parent is also to give him respect and agency. Just because I'm technically the grown-up doesn't mean that I don't have to answer for my actions as well.
A snapshot of the Big Yam at age 3:
On his birthday, over breakfast, I started this new tradition where I ask him a series of "interview" questions and wrote down the answers so that we could compare them over time. Me: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Big Yam: "BEER!" Me: "You want to be beer when you grow up?" Big Yam: "I want to get beer!
When he's angling for some iPad time, he likes to ask me: "Mama, are you using with the iPad?" wait for my response, and then ask, "Baba, are you using with the iPad?" I love the phrasing.
Sometimes we'll be out walking or in the middle of watching TV and he'll turn to me or the Dotytron and say, "I want a hug" and I hope and hope and hope with every fibre of my being when I wrap him up in my arms that he never, ever stops asking.
Sports class is still heart-breaking. I keep sending the Dotytron sad photos of the Big Yam standing off on his own, with a soccer ball a foot away, doing that kid kicking-at-the-ground thing or that kid stationary-hip-twisting thing while around him the other kids are running around with the balls and throwing and kicking them and going nuts. We've had three classes and he spends the bulk of them standing off by himself. It's all I can do not to pull him from the program and get a refund. I know rationally that it's good for him to do things that challenge him socially and aren't comfortable, but f**k if it's not one of the hardest things I've ever had to see. That's why I send the Dotytron the photos - I can't bear the burden on my own. I worry he has problems socializing generally, but I think it's just a comfort and familiarity thing. He's fine with his cousins and fine with daycare and fine with playing with the kids on the street. He's just not that kid who goes into a new situation running and screaming with excitement. Thankfully, he's also not that kid who starts crying and freaking out when you try to drop him off. But in a way, I think his stoicness in the face of the class is part of what makes it so hard to witness. I keep asking him and debriefing after the class to find out if he's hating life and just suppressing it, but the reports are pretty matter-of-fact, if not matter-of-fact tinged with a tiny bit of nonchalance. Maybe I'm just projecting adult anxieties onto him. It doesn't seem to be affecting him at all, but I am looking forward to the day when he's a bit more of an enthusiastic participator.
He is currently into: Bob the Builder, Thomas, the Wiggles, watching the odd nature video, playing on our neighbour's riding train toy, poo and pee jokes, playing with his "vehicles" and a huge assortment of stories.
He's been potty trained as of a month ago. His daycare provider decided he was ready. It happened all in a week. We had still been putting him in cloth diapers or pull-ups and taking him to the bathroom on weekends, but it was fitful and intermittent and half-a**ed on our part, at best. J had us send him in underwear one week, and by Friday he came home in the same underwear and pants he wore to her that morning. He had a couple of accidents on Monday and then the rest of the week she managed to bring him to the bathroom in time, even when they went to the drop-in centre. By the end of the week, he knew to hold it until she brought him. The following week, she gave him Monday and Tuesday and then stopped bringing him, waiting for him to tell her that he had to go, and he did. It was a two-week process and rather effortless. I will say that having him already do the deuces on the potty for so long is an extra bonus in our favour - he's been pooping on the toilet exclusively since he was about a year old or so and telling us since he was 2.
We've implemented a no-TV, no-iPad on "school" nights routine which seems to work. Now he asks us if it's a "school night" or the "weekend" and is fine with our answer and will do his own thing.
His birthday was really nice - cake on the street went well (except for the fact that we sent all the kids home on a sugar high) and some of the neighbours got him small, thoughtful birthday presents. We celebrated again with the cousins during Thanksgiving and again with Nana and Auntie Ehmdo on Monday.
Anyway, there's nothing more to say than that I love him to pieces and want him to stay exactly as he is at every moment of his development, forever.