Can you make my brother Bo stop squishin on me?
You only gave me this one head, and I’d like to use it one day.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
All you mamas with the little ones– the ones who test you. The ones who have worn you down to a nub, all your nerves exposed. The ones who crawl on you and demand things, even when you’re not sure how these humans have come to live in your house and call you Mommy when it seems like just a second ago you were sitting at your own mama’s kitchen table (making your own demands). You mamas– you are the mamas I hope can understand me.
The rest of you– the mamas with children who do what you say (when you say to do it), who never say NO! I’M NOT GOING TO DO THAT to simple directions like go brush your teeth. The ones who carry their own backpacks instead of slinging their bags at you like the pack mule you clearly were meant to be. The ones who go to sleep when they are tired instead of throwing crazed, demonic tantrums. Or the ones who are not yet old enough to knock the haze of baby preciousness from your eyes– I hope you mamas will understand me, too.
But I’m not holding my breath.
Here’s the thing: when MB was a baby, I was in that haze, too. The everything my baby does is precious haze. And you think that it will last forever, even as you make jokes about not being ready for your baby to be a big girl/boy, or how much of a spitfire your baby will be. You say those things, but you don’t really think it will come to pass.
It has, for me.
Mary Bullock was having quiet time yesterday. That sentence alone kind of impresses me, except that I know that I actually had to bribe her to stay in her room every day last week. (It was a Barbie. I hate Barbie.)
So I stuck my head and arms into her room to drop off some toys that belonged to her. She told me about what she was playing, and I nodded, distracted: mmhmm, sounds good, baby.
I stage whispered on my way out the door: I LOVE YOU.
What did you say? she said.
I SAID I LOVE YOU.
And the way that she ducked her head into her shoulders and smiled her shy smile broke my heart. She actually looked surprised, caught off guard.
Because the truth is that lately, I love you hasn’t been the phrase I have frequented most often. It’s been more like:
RIGHT NOW or
BECAUSE I SAID SO or
TURN IT OFF OR IT’S OFF LIMITS.
And all of those things are right to say, because she needs to know and I need to teach. But I never meant for those words to outnumber the I LOVE YOUS.
But right now, in this season of our life, they do.
I closed the door of her room, gently gently, so as not to wake up the sleeping gremlins in the room next door.
I’LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU, MOMMY is what she said from the other side.
And I’m glad there’s always tomorrow.
(This is a guest post from my brother-in-law Kirby, in honor of our anniversary.)
So there I was, nine years ago today, standing in the sweltering North Carolina August afternoon as a groomsman and witness to my brother Lee’s nuptials to Suz, who I think y’all know. It was a triumphant affair and a beautiful ceremony complete with a flower girl meltdown, perfectly timed thunderstorm, and friendly faces, both old and new—there were tuxedos and pretty girls, and even a little dancing and what have you; certainly, it’s safe to say that we all had a great time at that wedding. But one thing happened that weekend that left me with deep regret, and for which I am still disappointed in myself.
At the rehearsal dinner, I did not make a toast to my brother or his bride. Did not, as in, did not even try. I sat there like a complete fool and let an irretrievable moment pass, one wherein even a few words slurred together in the right order would have been better than my sad failure.
As penance, I made a promise to myself that at all future weddings I would make an effort to toast the bride and groom, without interjecting myself or making a scene. As it turns out, a short sweet story about the couple goes a long way, so long as you mind the short and sweet parts. And so I have spoken at many a wedding, with a profound understanding of this custom’s importance—but I still have not toasted my brother and his wife. So now, the latest toast:
Good evening, my name is Kirby, and I’m one of Lee’s many little brothers.
Lee and Suz, I’m honored to be here to witness your vows, and quite sure that tomorrow will be exactly as you’ve both imagined it—and that the next many thousand days probably won’t be. It’ll be a great adventure, to unfold one day at a time.
One of my fondest memories of growing up was a rainy Saturday or Sunday afternoon when Lee took me to this park down by the river to teach me how to play football. The only problem was that I’m not sure that Lee knew how to play football, because he spent the afternoon throwing me the ball, then tackling me across our impromptu swamp-field. After several hours of throwing me around like a rag doll, Lee said the last one coming up. He threw the ball and I caught it, but fumbled when he hit me, though I grabbed it back before he could get it. I hoped he hadn’t seen because we, of course, had to end on a good one. He brought in the team so I took a knee and we debriefed what we had learned, more about being tough than football. Lee told me he had seen me drop the ball, but that it was alright since I had gotten it back so quickly, and reminded me to hold on to the ball no matter what.
I can’t remember the first time I met Suz, but I do remember the first time that I heard her sing some Dixie Chicks karaoke at an old sports bar in the deep Westside of Jacksonville—and that was the day I learned that some people are born with beer-activated dog whistles stuck in their throats, and also that I can hear certain pitches that mortal men were not meant to hear. It was a loud and passionate version of Wide Open Spaces that didn’t mind what anyone else in that entire establishment thought. At one point, I did hear through the shrieking Lee say that he loved that girl and was going to marry her. I was happy to hear that.
I love you both for the things that you’ve taught me and for the example that you’ve set as the right and best ways to live and love. I’m excited to see what adventures the future holds for y’all, and to be a small part of those, too.
I did it! I survived summer and the first day back to school. If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I probably would have predicted that I’d sooner burst into flames than actually make it till today.
I love these children to within an inch of their lives. But they are loud. And messy. And they want things. All the time. But somehow never at the same time, do you know what I mean? They like to want things in single file, so that I never actually get to be done with the making and the giving of the things.
And then there was the poop. First there was the inability to get poop in the potty. Then, finally! After two months of going pantless, the light came on for my dearest little Boseph. And then I got the poop imagery. To mamas of girls or boy children with cleaner imaginations, let me give you an example:
Mama, I pooped a canoe!
Mama, I pooped an alligator!
But to give Bo some credit, sometimes it really did look like a canoe. Good job, buddy!
The bottom line on summer is this: if they’re not watching TV, they are fighting. If they’re not fighting, they are in cahoots to destroy things. Sometimes, on days that ended in lots of wine, they watched TV, argued over what they were going to watch, came to blows over where they were going to sit, and still managed to agree to destroy things.
We did a lot of other things, too, but I can’t remember any of them because I’m working hard with the two brain cells I have left. I think we swam a lot? There are still wet towels somewhere in my house, I’m sure.
So, although the first day of school is kind of sad in a wow-they’re-getting-older kind of way, I’m also thrilled to reclaim some of my time to think.
Of course, all my thoughts will probably be about them.
But at least when they’re at school, they’ll be nice thoughts.