Courage in a Batman Costume

“We will let them be who they are,” we once said to each other as we talked about future children. “We will not try to make them someone they are not. We will celebrate and love each of them for exactly who they are.”

This past Sunday morning, our church had their annual Christmas service that was led by the youth and young children of our church. I love this service. It takes place during our normal 10am Sunday morning church service time rather than make it separate. It follows the liturgy of our regular morning service as well, but it is all led by the children.

Naturally, Eddie loves this service too because he loves to participate and be in front of people. He has always sung in the children’s choir, and last year he had a part as one of the shepherds. This year, he was very excited to join the mostly 4th and 5th graders as one of the narrators of the Christmas story. He read so clearly and was so brave. My heart filled with pride and love for this little boy who knows he has the gift of reading and sharing with others. It’s such an honor to be his mother and watch as our church family helps him nurture these talents.

Charlie is a much different little boy than his older brother. He is quiet–even a bit shy. He does not like to be in front of church at all. Even for the Children’s Message when the little kids go to the front to sit on the floor for a little pow wow during church. No one can really even see the kids, but he won’t do it.

In Sunday school though, just like in preschool, he is very attentive. He loves to sing and because he is so retentive, he learns all the songs and even the motions very quickly. But he doesn’t like to stand up in front of church or have people look at him while he does it.

When the children were told they were going to sing their Christmas songs in front of church and get to wear costumes, Charlie’s first reaction was, “I will be Batman!” He had been Batman for Halloween and he fell in love with the costume. It gave him such confidence to join in with other kids when he was wearing it, and even walk right up to houses to trick or treat–something he didn’t like to do in the years before.

We told him that Batman wasn’t really a Christmas costume. That the costumes available would probably be angels and shepherds and sheep and maybe a cow or donkey. He was resolute that he was going to be Batman.

On the Saturday before the program, we showed up to church for rehearsal. Eddie felt confident of his reading, but Charlie clung to my leg and didn’t want to join the other kids. We went over to look at the available costumes and he shook his head at each angel costume, shepherd’s cloak, or fluffy sheep footies. He wanted to be Batman.

I finally told him it was Ok if he didn’t want to wear any of the costumes. I wouldn’t make him. He went off with the other kids to the sanctuary for practice and I went downstairs to the church kitchen to help prepare for the Christmas Tea that was going to be served after the program on Sunday. When I came back up, I found out that Charlie had refused to practice since he wasn’t Batman.

Sunday morning came. Eddie got all dressed up in his Sunday best, and Charlie talked about how he really wanted to sing with the kids. He wanted to wear a costume. His Batman costume. He couldn’t sing if he didn’t wear his Batman costume.

So.

We let him.

He brought smiles to many faces. No one turned up their nose or made any rude comments. Everyone loved his costume because they all love my Charlie. The costume wasn’t worn for attention or because Charlie was trying to be silly. He wore it because it gave him confidence. He felt brave.

He is brave.

He stood up with the kids and sang the songs, and twirled his ribbon, and did a fabulous job.

And he knew he was loved.

There Should Be More Here

This year is getting away from me. I look back on what I’ve written this year and I am sad because it’s not more. There should be more. More Eddie being a 2nd grader and saying amazing things. More Charlie being in preschool and transforming before our eyes. More of Miss Alice,our last baby, doing toddler things.

Eddie continues to show that he has a soft heart for others. He is my little activist. He worries about kids who might not have food, shelter, or warm coats this winter. He wonders out loud about the kindness of our country and world leaders. I find things like this in his massive stack of doodle and “crafts”:

That is a football they are tossing around, by the way.

When I found a pile of winter coats, hats, and mittens that don’t fit Eddie or Charlie anymore, Eddie wanted to find kids who needed them and just give them. He didn’t want them to have to buy them at Goodwill. Because of that idea of his, our family has decided to collect winter gear at church and donate all of it to the our local Community Action House who will get them straight to people who need them most.

Yesterday I was giving Alice a bath and Cortney and Charlie were downstairs. It was very quiet in the living room; all I could hear was the TV on the news. Because I didn’t want to leave Alice alone in the tub, I called out, “Eddie?”

“Yeah?”

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Watching the news.”

“Is it boring?”

“No. It’s interesting.”

This kid. Interested in the news, caring about others, and just this month he was awarded his Duty to God awards, a hiking beltloop, and some prizes for selling so much popcorn for cub scouts. I’m just so proud of him. And he treats his little sister like this:

I was nervous about how Charlie would do with preschool. He has such a temper and a penchant for, um, stripping when he is super mad at us. But this fall at parent/teacher conferences, his teacher told us that he is a “quiet leader” who is always first to sit nicely on the carpet, follows directions to a tee, and listens so well he always has the right answer. I just sat blinking.

His tantrums have slowed considerably–in fact we only see them when he is really tired or hungry or we are rushing him. He likes to do things at his own speed, in his own way. If he is left to himself, he is incredibly mature for a four-year old.

He proudly folds towels and cleans the boys’ bathroom downstairs. He helps with food prep when he can, and picks up without being asked if you leave him to it. He also works hard to make his little sister laugh and smile.

He has become my cuddle bug lately. It almost feels like he knows he’s growing up, so he wants to keep as much little as possible by tucking himself next to me as much as he cane. He is so proud of what he accomplishes, but still wants to stay my littlest guy.

Unlike Eddie who will talk all about what kids did at recess or what kids are singing on the playground, Charlie will rarely tell me about the kids in his class–but he knows all their names. He will tell me what letter he worked on, what he learned, what station he got to do that day. He will be quick to tell me if he was able to be a helper–his favorite.

He also never wears socks if he doesn’t have to. If he comes in your house, shoes come off, but so do the socks. Every time.

My baby girl is shedding the “baby” more each day. She is definitely finding her voice around here. When her brothers are wrestling around or being loud, she puts a little hand out and yells, “TOP! BSS! TOP!” (Stop, boys! Stop!)

She asks for “milky” and “bankie” (blankie). She calls her pacifier a “boppy” just like Charlie did.  She can ask for “buks” (books) and “babees” (babies). She delights at seeing herself on video. She waves “hi” and “bye” and when the phone rings she said, “heh yo.” (hello).

She calls for “MOMMA MOMMY MOMMA MOOOOOMMMAAA!!!” which her brothers never did at this age. She has figured out how to say “Dad dee” quite regularly though too and it’s adorable the way she makes Cortney melt all over the floor with her little voice saying “hi dad dee. hi.”

My favorite thing is how her bedtime routine with me is right now. We rock and she likes me to sing. But she doesn’t know how to say “sing” so she just cuddles in and softly says, “peez, momma. peez,” and that is my cue to start singing. When I finish one song, if I don’t go directly into another (or repeat that same one), she will say, “peez,” again. Even when I think she is completely out, she will whisper, “peez,” from behind that little green pacifier of hers. When I pause and don’t get a “peez” I know I can kiss her and lay her down without a fuss.

She is our hugger, our kisser, and our fancy girl. She loves babies and dresses and pretty bracelets and necklaces and purses. She loves to imitate her brothers and her dad and especially me.

Other than her love of being close and cuddly, it’s sort of like she doesn’t know she’s little. She bosses people and demands things, but she does it with a little “peez” and hands out, you just can’t resist her! I’m doing my best not to spoil her, but my goodness! Look at that face!

These kids are keeping us so busy…maybe that is why I have not written enough. But I do regret it. I have this space and I want to fill it.

Our lives are full: Eddie is busy with scouts, I am busy with scouts as the Religious Emblems Coordinator, Cortney is busy with bowling and consistory (he’s a deacon now). Charlie and Alice are busy being little. Eddie is crazy busy getting older and more dependable. School keeps three of us busy. In fact, I just registered to (re)take the GRE (because it’s been over 5 years since I last took it) so I can apply for a PhD program next year.

But I don’t want to be so busy that I forget to post here.

Because we also have snow days like today, when Eddie made his very first snow man all by himself:

Stuff like that deserves to be recorded because look at that face! And Eddie is cute too!

Feels Like the First Time

When we found out that Charlie was a boy, my very first thought was, Oh thank you, God! 

My very next thought was, Aw jeah. A boy. Not my first rodeo. I can DO this I can be a boy mom!

Side note: I’ve heard wonderful things about raising daughters. I am not knocking daughters. Shoot, I AM a daughter. But, as someone who thrives on predictability and knowing what to expect, hearing the word “boy” was like God saying, “See? No more surprises.”

No more surprises.

I had my fair share of surprises before Charlie, didn’t I? My first pregnancy was a surprise. Two miscarriages were a surprise. Everything about my labor and delivery with Eddie was a surprise. Shoot, that was such a surprise it left me with a lovely case of PTSD.

Eddie is a dang surprise every day–both in all the good ways and some of the side-eye ways.

So another boy. I can do this. No surprises.

And then God fell off his chair laughing at me.  For the millionth time in my life, probably.

Yes, Charlie is a boy. Other than that, almost nothing has been the same as his older brother. From his birth, I kept waiting for Charlie to become colicky, have digestive issues, not sleep, but that never happened. He was–dare I say it–easy as a baby. He ate and slept and pooped. If he cried it was because he was hungry, tired, or poopy.  Ok, he didn’t even cry when he was poopy. He was even content to sit in his own dump.

Charlie was a laid back baby and trouble-maker toddler.

I haz it dat bowl peez?

I haz it dat bowl peez?

He is a charmer and knows that his big blue eyes and tiny polite voice can twist many a person around his little finger.

“peez I have it dat juice?”

“peez I have it dat cookie?

“peez I have it dessert?”

The last one he said through big crocodile tears just the other night after we told him no, because he didn’t even try his pork. Cortney was sitting next time him and set the ONE bite he needed to take in front of him and said, “If you want dessert, you need to take this one bite.” Charlie proceeded to yell, “NO!” in his tantrumy two-year old voice, cry and then look at me with two tears strategically placed under each eye, just about to drop. He turned his little mouth into a sad pouty frown, made his eyes huge, put his little hand out to me and whimpered, “I haz it peez, dessert?”

I so badly wanted to give him the damn dessert.

But Cortney held firm.

Eddie is my rule follower. You bet he ate the required dinner for the elusive, not-every-day dessert treat (not without massive whining, but he’s almost five, so you know). Charlie threw that tantrum just as far as it would go until he realized his daddy was NOT going to budge.

In fact, Charlie can be so stubborn, the very next night he ate zero dinner other than a couple raspberries and when asked if he wanted dessert he said, “NO!”

While his fits are loud and tearful, they are quick. If you just avoid saying, “no” to him, you can avoid the major meltdowns.

Yeah, about that.

“No” tends to be a dare for Charlie.

“Charlie, no no. Don’t stand on the couch.”

He will look at me as if I am making the world’s silliest request and say, “yes, mommy.”  As in, “duh, you stupid lady.”

He will fling himself off furniture. He will tumble down cement steps. He will fall backward off toys. He will jump…on and off anything. And then he will laugh his deep chuckly belly laugh.

He will see Eddie sitting nicely watching TV and tackle him. He will spy Eddie watching something on the tablet and stick his face in front of him. He will see Eddie playing with something and snatch it.

He is the button pusher, and Eddie is the button.

But he is a ball of love. He likes to sit on laps and hold hands and rub my arm and snuggle into my neck. He likes me to sing to him and rock him at bedtime. He likes to hold my face and push his to mine: nose to nose. He likes to whisper, “I yuv you, momma.”

His fine motor skills are ridiculous for a kid of his age.

I watch a lot of kids play with toys however they want, but Charlie likes to figure out how to play with them the way they are made to be played with, if that makes sense. He can manipulate twisting small parts and fitting puzzles together.

And he wants to be helpful. If I need him to come in the house, just saying “it’s time to come in,” will result in a meltdown. If I say, “Charlie, I need your help!” He will come RUNNING.

always fixing things for mommy.

always fixing things for mommy.

 

He says all the words and just 2 years and 3 month.

“I yuv you, mommy, daddy, Eddie,” unprompted, is probably my favorite. He listens and repeats absolutely everything and Cortney and I find ourselves cracking up and not at all keeping up with all his new words and phrases each day.

I want to find a way to bottle his tiny voice and keep it forever. I want to hear “bye bye mommy. I yuv you. have gate day!” every day for as long as I live.

I love the way he sees Cortney’s car in the garage as we pull in after daycare and announces, “YAY! Daddy home! Yay!”

I even love the way he laughs at me when I ask him if he is my boy, “nooo! Nae’s boy!” (Renae, his daycare mom. He might have her wrapped tightly around his finger. He truly is her boy.)

Every day he pulls another stunt, defies us in a new way, and laughs with abandon at something I didn’t know he was paying attention to, I think, “Man. This is NOTHING like the first time around. In many ways, THIS feels like the first time too!”

Because of course it does.

This is the first time I am Charlie’s mom.

always mommy's boy.

always mommy’s boy.

Love Bird

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I was mistaken when I thought Eddie was a cuddly child.

He doesn’t really like to cuddle.  He likes closeness.  He doesn’t like to be alone.

As a baby he liked be rocked (every night), but what he wanted was someone there with him, even just sitting in the rocker while he fell asleep in his bed.  At almost four-years-old he is still this way.  After we read books, he just wants one of us to lay by him.  It’s how he feels safe.

I only realized the difference between needing closeness and being a cuddler because of Charlie.

Charlie has never been needy like Eddie.  I don’t mean needy in a bad way, but Eddie does need us–to lay by him, to sit by him, to go downstairs with him, to color with him–more than Charlie does.  Eddie will play by himself…as long as someone is in the room with him.

Charlie does his own thing.  He will play by himself, sit in a totally different room by himself, and when it’s bedtime all I have to say is “nigh nigh?” and he grabs his glow worm under his arm and trucks down to his nursery.  No fuss.  Hugs and kisses and down he goes.

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I missed out on a lot of the first year of Eddie’s life.  I was emotionally distant and, after I went back to work when he was 3 months old, physically distant.  I was sick and don’t remember much of his first year.  Charlie’s first year made that even more painfully obvious to me because I just couldn’t remember what Eddie was like at that age.

One thing I know is that while I rocked Eddie to sleep almost every single night, he didn’t really spend all that much time in my arms.  He and I cried together often and fell asleep in a pile in the chair out of sheer exhaustion, but not because we just couldn’t stop cuddling.

Charlie and I were inseparable during his first 6 months. I had 3 months of maternity leave followed by 3 months of summer break.  He slept easily and I wasn’t fiending to put him down. I let myself heal and relax.  And because my anxiety was under control, I was Ok to take him out in public with me.

I wore Charlie wherever we went.  If we weren’t at home with him sleeping next to me or on me, we were out and about with him sleeping in the Moby.

And now?  Eddie needs us to be there and Charlie does not.

Except…

Charlie is our Love Bird.

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He gives kisses.  Seriously, they are so sweet I die a little bit.  He leans in and says “mmmmmmmuah!” and lays an open-mouth wet one on your mouth, nose, chin, eye…wherever that sloppy mouth lands.

Eddie never did that.  He is just starting to give us kisses now. I think it’s because Charlie does it.  I’m not kidding.

Charlie gives random hugs.  He will barrel over and just fling his arms around us and then truck off like it ain’t no thang.

Charlie wants to sit on a lap. All the time.  If you are on the floor, your lap is his seat.  He just sort of comes over, turns around, and backs up until his behind is on you.  If you don’t make room for him, he will wiggle around on you until you do.

He will crawl up on the couch or chair and mountain goat his way all over me until he can get himself nuzzled in and then lean back like I’m his recliner.

He will find the one little cranny in Cort’s arms and wiggle his way in and just chill.

He will hold my hand just to hold it.

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And he will press his face to my face or his head to my nose…like he knows I love to take in the sweet smell of lavender in his hair.

He will softly repeat “ma ma ma ma” while he lays his face on my shoulder.

Both of my boys are love bugs, but Charlie is our cuddle monster.

It never ceases to amaze me how they can be so similar and so different at the same time both in big and small ways.

Most people would say that both of my boys are cuddlers, but Cort and I know there is a difference ever so slight. While Eddie drifts to sleep to the slow breathing of a parent next to him, Charlie thrives on morning hugs and kisses.  While Eddie feels safe with a parent in the room, Charlie recharges on lap-sitting and Eskimo kisses.

It’s even hard to describe here.

Both of my boys have their hearts on their sleeves: they both love to give and get love from us and from each other.  Their love languages are just a bit different.

Each perfectly theirs.

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