My sons lie sleeping together in a jumble of blankets and pillows and Legos and stuffed animals. Grey’s hand in sleep reaches out to touch his brother’s shoulder; a sleeping assurance that he is not alone. I know someday, perhaps soon, they will be too old and too self conscious for that shared jumble. But I can hope they will always be able to reach a hand to each other, to be sure that they are indeed not alone.
PS their grimace was for the flash disturbing their slumbers.
At some point, as a parent, you come to realize in a non-abstract manner that your multiple children are, in fact, siblings to each other. This seems obvious. If you and your partner have two sons, then those sons are brothers. This is how it works, right? But there comes a moment when you watch the children you bore and love interacting with each other, and you realize… they are BROTHERS. What a fraught, laden word that is. How powerful. How overlaid with history, legend, tradition, meaning and poetry.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
Shakespeare – Henry V
My sons are both old enough now, at 7 and 4, to be real people, and to have real personalities and real relationships. Perhaps the most remarkable of those relationships is the one they have with each other. Thane, at four, is still little enough to sort of take things as they come. Grey is a fixture in his life: the unfairly-good trader of Legos, the master of comic-drawings, the owner of the right-hand-seat in the car, the bossy one. Grey is the person who is always in his day and in his life, and without whom life would not be complete. Thane has never gone so much as a day without his brother. But you don’t think too much about that, if you are four. Grey is a fixture, an assumption in Thane’s life.
Grey, on the other hand, sees his brother clearly, and understands what it is to be a brother. The other day Grey was over the heat-vent in the kitchen working on his homework, I was at the dining room table and Thane was in the living room playing with Legos. Grey, oh so old, raised his head from his 1st grade papers and said to me, “I love listening to Thane play. He’s so cute. He has a great imagination.”
Grey has, this year, discovered the truth about Santa Claus. I watched him as he listened to his brother talking about Santa, and what he hoped Santa would do this year. And I saw, writ plain on my son’s face, his sudden determination that nothing should take the mythos of Santa away from his brother. That night, he prayed that Santa would bring Thane all the things he wanted. Since then, he’s been an (over) zealous guardian – shooting me dagger-like glances and not-so-whispered rebukes for any remark that might lead to the unveiling of the mystery.
My eldest son loves and needs his younger brother greatly. Grey hates, HATES to be alone. Despises it. It was always the worst punishment I could unleash upon him – to send him from the crowd into a quiet room by himself. Thane provides his brother a tremendous service by being another person. Grey is wily about talking his brother into coming upstairs with him when he needs to go up. Grey wakes Thane up in the morning to come down to breakfast with him. Thane prevents Grey from experiencing the horrors of solitude.
For a few months now, Grey’s been waking up in the middle of the night, scared. For months, I’ve woken up with him sleeping at the side of our bed – having snuck in at some point over the night. But the other day I went to kiss Grey good night and found his door wide open and his music blasting. He was entirely missing from his bed. He wasn’t in my room. I couldn’t find him. I went in to see where he was, and found him cuddled next to Thane. (Grey has the side next to the wall and away from the door. He assured me later that it wasn’t so that monsters would eat Thane first. Really mom!) And for the last few weeks, this has been how they have been. Grey goes to sleep much easier when he’s not by himself, with his imagination in his room. There’s no nightlight. There’s no finding him falling asleep on his Calvin and Hobbes. And the boys look so happy together.
God willing, these two boys will have each other for the rest of their lives. In the order of the world, they will fight, slip information to each other, back each other up, stand up for each other at weddings, godparent each other’s children, complain about us at Thanksgivings, and finally stand next to each other – again – at our funerals, recounting their funny memories of their crazy parents. I hope they always have this friendship.
There are moments when, all of a sudden, your place in life lurches forward.
Tonight, for the first time, Thane used the toilet for the purpose it was intended. Twice. Let the record show that he is 2 1/4, and bribed with lollipops. (Actually, I made it a joint endeavor and bribed both him AND Grey so that I wouldn’t deal with melty Grey when Thane got a treat and he didn’t, and so that Grey would have a motivation to help potty train his brother.)
My sweet Thane boy seems so far from a baby, sometimes.
And then, tomorrow morning? I’m going to go to South School and sign my eldest up for Kindergarten in the fall. Which, I must admit. It seems well PAST time for him to be in Kindergarten. But still! School!
It’s Christmas card time of year. I usually do ridiculously complicated Christmas cards. In recent years, my cards have involved:
1) Hand-stamped return address
2) Hand-stamped stamp in corner of envelope
4) Christmas card with personal note
5) Christmas letter (sometimes with personal signature)
6) Lovely family portrait picture
(I usually do about 80 of these)
There’s a chance that I might not live up to that this year. Let’s take, for example, the family portrait. It’s already pretty late to get one taken. And it requires planning. Money. And a time when we are free and no one is guaranteed to be hungry, tired, cranky, or demanding “red car! red car! red car!!!!”. Yeah. So then I wen through my 2010 pictures looking for that great picture where both my boys are looking at the camera and smiling. Now, I’ve taken a lot of pictures this year. Probably over a thousand. You’d think that there would, you know, be that picture. But you would not be the mother of a 2 and a 5 year old. There are few enough pictures where they’re both looking at the camera.
So a month ago, I decided to set this up. I found some scenic locations, and asked the boys to stand together, arms around each other, looking filial. HA!
I’m thinking this might be a good year to skip the family portrait. Still! Here are my attempts, along with Mocksgiving pictures (some great ones there!) and a bonus video of Thane at the Museum of Dinosaurs Science, talking about his favorite dinosaurs. (Tapejara, Neovenator, etc. You know. The classics.)
Thane had his 15 month checkup today. First, the stats.
His right ear actually looks pretty ok, which is a little frustrating given that he’s headed in for surgery next week. At least his left ear looks bad, still.
Weight: 15lbs 5oz (60th percentile) — this shocks me. I could’ve sworn he was over 30. Dude is heavy.
Height: 32 inches (75th percentile)
Noggin: 19 inches (80th percentile)
He seems developmentally right on target, in social, verbal, gross motor and fine motor skills. He got three shots (H1N1, MMR, Dtap/Hib).
Thus, the nitty gritty. But when it comes to the larger question, “Who is Thane”, I’m still in the course of discovery.
Thane is determined. His attention span is breathtaking for a 15 month old. When there is an object of his desire, it is very difficult to distract him or dissuade him. He will crack out his increasing verbal skills, as well as his super-expressive body language to get his point across. Tchz. Tchz. TCHZ! (Cheese)
Words are entering into his world. He will (sometimes) follow simple instructions. For example, if he’s clinging to my leg I can sometimes rescue myself by saying “Car!” or “Ball!” and pointing. And off he goes to get the car or ball, before returning to cling to my leg. He seems to understand many simple instructions, although I always forget he can and don’t use them enough. Regular residents in his vocabulary include: car (he says this ALL THE TIME), book, ball, milk, cheese, cookie (it only takes once….), yogurt, Grey, mama, dada, dinosaur, vroom, up, down, puppy, woof woof. Other periodically expressed words are: blue, noodles, one, two, three, various letter names, leche and agua. He’s getting much better about repeating words back to me. I think he’s hearing much better right now, and I really think he wasn’t hearing well before.
Physically, Thane is the little engine that could. It’s almost impossible to change his diaper. He turns and thrashes and kicks. Not my favorite part. He climbs the stairs. He climbs chairs. He LOVES being up high, and will often demand to be put up on the couch. Then he’ll get down. Up up! Down. Up!!!! He stacks blocks beautifully, and will spend several hours carting around between 2 – 4 little Matchbox cars, carefully passing them from hand to hand, and holding them against his chest. He’s distraught if he loses one of them, and remembers. He loves using (or attempting to use) spoons and forks when I’m feeling courageous enough to let him have them. He eats whatever the rest of us are eating. He loves loves loves playing with water, and will often experiment with the milk served at dinner, to my chagrin. The bathtub is a haven of joy. He is much more patient in the car than Grey ever was, often just clinging to his beloved cars.
The brotherhood of Grey and Thane is an increasing delight to me. Grey plays really beautifully with Thane. Today Grey was blowing on his belly, making him laugh. Then he was playing peek-a-boo with Thane’s socks. Grey often plays much rougher with Thane than I would, but Thane always just laughs and laughs. I’m really struggling, with Thane, to see him as a small person instead of a baby. Grey is way ahead of us in treating Thane as an autonomous person. Last night, Grey decided Thane was hungry, got a cheese stick out of the fridge, unwrapped it and gave it to his brother (after asking me for permission). I mean, how awesome and useful is that? The boys love chasing each other around the house, although there are also the inevitable conflicts when Boy 1 has a toy that suddenly looks fun to Boy 2.
The other night, Grey decided he was a puppy (hardly an unheard of event). As “Puppy” helped me brush Thane’s teeth, Thane started saying “puppy” too, and then “woo(f) woo” just like Grey’s little barks. For a couple minutes, I had two little puppy-boys cavorting around my feet. It was awesome.
As I got dinner ready, Thane was looking particularly cute so I grabbed my cell phone to take a quick Grandma-picture. As I lined it up, Grey came around the side of the high chair and give his brother a quick, sincere hug. I couldn’t wish for a more fun family.
My sons are definitely the greatest source of change and newness in my day to day life, so it makes sense that so many of my posts are about how different they are today than yesterday. But hey! They’re so different!
The biggest milestone moment lately comes with Grey. Those of you who aren’t parents (or wish to be) probably can just skip the entire rest of this post. Really. Because Grey has successfully gone sans-pullups for the last 4 nights without incident! (For those not in the know, incident here means “Having to change the sheets at 4 am”.) The ability to stay dry through the night is actually more a physical one than one he has much control over, but imagine! Having one child completely out of diapers!!! If he makes it to this weekend, I’ll take him to Target (home of all delights) and let him pick out the bedding set of his dreams. I’m thinking it will likely be Spongebob and made of sandpaper, but only because they don’t have Spiderman sheets made of sandpaper.
Grey has been super wonderfully snuggly lately. He wasn’t a snuggly baby or toddler, but he’s an extremely affectionate preschooler. The best part is that it’s not only directed at his father and me, it’s directed at his brother too. He plays very nicely with Thane, bringing him toys, using this hilarious voice to try to talk him into things “Daaaane LOOK! It’s a caaaaar!”, tickling his belly and playing peekaboo. Sometimes when Thane is dead-set on getting into one of Grey’s toys conflict occurs (which, to be fair, a dead-set Thane is a very difficult commodity). The other day I watched Grey sort of herd his brother with these not-quite-pushing body-checks all the way across the room away from Object Of Desire. I’ve never seen Grey do anything unprovoked to his brother, and he usually withstands a great deal of provocation before behaving inappropriately. (And hey, sometimes a guy wants to build a transformer out of blocks and not have his baby brother ruin it. I can dig that.)
On the flip side, Thane is actually pretty solicitous of Grey, when not attempting to eat his block-transformers. The other day Grey was playing with a Bakugan card and then turned and played with something else on the other side. Thane picked up the card and brought it over to Grey and gave it to him. Awwww!
So generally, the whole brother thing is going well.
Thane is driving me less nuts. I think he’s not sick at the moment, which is a great boon. He has two major passions in life right now: cars and dinosaur books. He often carries a Matchbox car in each hand. Yesterday when I took him out of the car to go to Abuela’s, I removed from him his two cars. When I picked him up, as soon as I put him in the carseat he started saying “ca! ca! ca!”. He wanted his cars back. He remembered. The dinosaur books are specifically the “How do Dinosaurs…” with his favorite being “How Do Dinosaurs Go to Bed”. He adores the page “Do dinosaurs ROAR?” and does his own little roar. He also loves the page “Do they up and demand a piggy-back ride?” and always says “Oh!” If you are not fast enough to volunteer to read dinosaur books to him, he will hit you in the head with it, then turn around and plop his heavy little butt into your lap. That, my friends, is clear communication.
His verbal skills are taking off. He can request his favorite foods. He says “Vroom” when playing with his cars. “Up” “down” “more” and “all done” are awfully helpful, but his main discourse is around those two passions of his. I’ll give a more complete update next week for his 15 month checkup!
My mother-in-law bought me a reading chair for our bedroom (from afar) and here’s a picture of how it looks!
Thane’s six month doctor’s appointment isn’t until next week, but no one has informed him that he should continue acting like a 5 month old until then. Thane has changed vastly last month to this month. He’s certainly started to move. He’s still trying to put together all the pieces for crawling. I kept encouraging him yesterday, informing him of the 6 month press deadline, but he hasn’t quite gotten to the first crawling stage. Watch this space, though, because it’s not far off. What he is doing is moving by way of rolling, waving his body, and going around and around like the hands of some chubby, cute clock. And oh does he WANT to move.
Which brings us to milestone two: having very strong opinions. One of the milestones in “What to Worry About: The First Year” is objecting when a toy is taken away. Babies don’t notice when they lose a toy. Proto-toddlers do. (The most hilarious/frustrating stage is when they want a toy, you give it to them, they throw it, and then they cry because jeez! They want that toy! Thane’s not there yet, but very close.) As I was taking these pictures I was attempting to coax Thane into sitting unsupported long enough to get some good pictures of it. (He was doing that before I got the camera!) While doing that, he accidentally pushed away his toy and then burst into heartrending wails of despair because his toy! Was gone! WOE!!!!! So chalk that milestone up as accomplished.
Sitting is not quite there yet. If I prop him up, he can sit for a while. He USUALLY is smart enough to fall to the side, into a comfy crawling position, instead of thumping backwards onto the hard floor. He doesn’t seem to really like sitting unsupported much, and will only do so for as long as he has a neat toy in his lap. I think this is 50/50 ability/desire at this point.
Thane has gotten extremely grabby. I thought he was before but now he REALLY is. Anything within the surprisingly large radius is liable to be pulled towards him. Favorites include the cats, his brother’s hair (both brother and cats are very long-suffering), any noses, earrings, and spoons full of peas and/or prunes. The spoon thing is SO FRUSTRATING. The child will be hungry and piteously wailing about how much he’d please like some yummy sweet potatoes, meanwhile his two waving hands are more effective than anti-aircraft artillery about knocking away incoming sweet-potato-projectiles.
We’re still sort of in flux with food. For a while there we cut way back on solids. They went in fantastically. They came out with less ease. Then he got an ear infection, which prompted a nursing strike which threw my production for a loop. Then he got antibiotics which gave him diarrhea (two rs! That’s it!) which meant we could give him solids. Then he recovered from the ear infection and antibiotics and got REALLY HUNGRY and my production isn’t keeping up and I’m not in the habit of giving him that many solids. Also, he would like you to know that he may be hungry, but he isn’t hungry enough to eat peas, thankyouverymuch.
It’s been very interesting to watch my sweet, smily, sunny child develop opinions. Instead of a default of happy, he now sometimes decides he doesn’t like something. Most of the time, what he doesn’t like is sitting still. We still get the 100 watt gummy smiles (no teeth yet!) but he is also showing more frustration.
Happily, one of the things that makes Thane very happy indeed is Big Brother Grey. The love and affection that already passes between the two of them makes my heart gooey. Grey patiently puts up with having his hair pulled. He distracts a fussy Thane with funny faces, goofy voices or silly games, often without my asking. He restores lost toys with cheer. He talks about all the things Thane will do when Thane is a big boy like Grey. He often wants to play family, where there’s a mommy, a daddy, a Grey and a Thane. His animal babies are all named Thane and all treated with tender lovingcare. For his part, Thane rarely looks anywhere else when he can see his brother. (Less than optimal when one is nursing.) Even between tears, Thane will grin at his big brother. You can see the adoration in his deep blue baby eyes for the hero of the nursery. It warms my heart to see it.
I can tell that the next month will bring big changes. There will be sitting and crawling. Perhaps there will be pulling up to standing. There will be throwing and exploring. He may start encountering foods he can serve himself. My baby is turning into a boy. Oh! I will miss the baby! But I will also enjoy the boy.