“Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth.” — Peter Ustinov

photo (7)
photo (8)

I realize I never write anymore, and trust me, little reminders loop around the calendar weeks as mid-month turns into late in the month which turns into the next month. (When did September happen?!) And it’s not that there isn’t any time: the kids go to bed and I remain up, clicking on nothing in particular and watching nothing in particular and certainly doing nothing in particular. I have a job where I talk a lot, fielding questions and listening to concerns, so when 8:00 pm hits I am done thinking in any meaningful way. So I lay on the couch and refresh Facebook and page through other peoples’ blogs and go to bed.

It’s a privilege and a headache documenting our little corner of the Earth, but I know I’d hit myself upside the head if I didn’t have the chance to read this on the other side of age 60. Maybe as a grandparent. Maybe not. So, with that, here’s what’s been happening in our house, in our little town, between those lazy summer nights:

My relationship with Annie can be summed up by Matt, who said this week, “You get on each other’s nerves because you’re one in the same.” We can both be prideful and sensitive and emotional and damnit, when we want to use the YELLOW cup we want to use the YELLOW cup (okay, the last one is Annie). She challenges me and just today I said to Matt, “What if she is a mean girl?” This was right after she told me, “Be quiet! I don’t want to hear you! Stop talking!” And an hour after Matt got the daily report from daycare saying she has been instigating little battles — monopolizing the one computer the kids all use, standing in front the slide and swings so the kids can’t play — and about 30 seconds after she kicked her brother in the face. Yes, we are there, people. Older parents, thinking they’re so sage, say, “Oh, wait until she is a teenager!” Uh, really? Because the girl already told me she needs “alone time”, to get out of her room, and is already stealing my stuff (everything she likes — which is really any adult item in the house — is now, apparently, hers.

I whispered to Matt, “Is this normal?” And he assures me these obnoxious mean-girl antics are, and it’s toddlerhood, and this is how it might be for a while. So we parent with the best intentions. We institute timeouts. We walk the walk and demonstrate kindness. We correct, we reward, we reprimand when necessary. And with the bad there is so much good (and this isn’t me getting all Stockholm Syndrome-y): she really radiates such light. Such compassion, such a desire to help and nurture and experience it all.

You know, when she’s not being a raging you know what.

I kid, I kid.

We’re also getting more hugs than ever, more “I love you’s”, more “let me help you”’s, more of all the good stuff. She walked around all last week asking people, “Guess what?,” and then saying she was going to the BEACH! with such zeal and zest and she packed her little lime green backpack with odds and ends from the kitchen and the bedroom and I was like, “OK, this kid is pretty great.”

Then she probably told me off. Corrected me. Stashed another pair of my earrings in her many “purses” but it’s okay. She’s learning, I’m learning, and we’re both growing older together.

And then there’s Sam. Sam, who gets kicked in the face and squeezed by the boa constrictor-like arms of his sister and just keeps on tickin’. Sam is the ying to Annie’s yang. Sam is the Matt to Annie’s Kathryn.

He loves his sister even when she’s beating him up. He looks at her like she’s the bee’s knees. Matt and I think Annie may be acting out because Sam is coming into his own — is crawling like a madman and smiling these dazzling, 1,000 megawatt grins — but the thing is, Sam doesn’t get it: he honestly looks at his sister like, “What do you have to be jealous about? Don’t you get it, kid? I want to be exactly like you!” So he follows her and grins at her with his two bottom teeth flashing and she comes over to him and does her half hug / half strangle bear hug type of thing (who knows if the latter half is on purpose or not) and then he’s off again, exploring, climbing, and grunting (you know, all typical male stuff going on here).

Sam is a happy baby. He still nurses and seeks us out for comfort and laughs easily and the dimples. Oh, the dimples. We took Sam to the ocean and he crawled with abandon right up to the waves. He did it probably ten times. With conviction. With not an iota of concern. I love the purity of that infant innocence.

Annie taught him how to wave. She takes such delight in his little accomplishments. She loves feeding him and cheers him on as he cruises or babbles or chuckles. “Oh, Sammy, Sammy, my little Sammy,” she’ll murmer, rubbing her head into his chest. Then telling him she loves him as she presses down on him in excitement (“not too hard — delicate touch, Annie!” we always say). But when we dote on him more than she likes, she centers us with saying she has a boo boo or something else in her arsenal of tricks needs attention. And I get it, I do: just as she’s getting a foothold in this world, this family, there’s a blue-eyed charmer of a baby whose flirting with center stage. Sam is no longer a bystander: he’s making his own waves and we’re all adjusting to the new dynamic. Annie, having to share the limelight, and Matt and me, who are constantly startled with the sheer physicality of having a little boy who is nonstop and will stop at nothing until he’s awash in the waves (I mean literally, boy kept crawling into that damn ocean).

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