Out behind their grandmas’ house, my two little boys rocked back and forth on a two-person swing. I smiled as I walked nearer; they’re really growing into friends.
“Don’t take a picture!” commanded my seven-year-old, Li’l D.
“I wasn’t going to,” I said. “I’m trying to take more pictures with my heart these days.”
“That’s good,” Li’l D replied. “Sometimes kids just want their privacy.”
“I hear you,” I said. I do. From now on, I’ll only post about Li’l D with his permission, save perhaps in rare cases where his part in a vignette is peripheral.
Minutes later, I climbed into my car for a rare date with my husband. As I did, my mind was on those two boys swinging in the backyard.
Little by little, they’re getting bigger. Sometimes it aches to see how quickly they’re growing. Times like yesterday, though, my heart simply swells that I get to see them grow into their vocabularies, opinions, and friendship … no pictures required.
“Mama?” my seven-year-old, Li’l D, spoke.
“My friend [M] said that the difference between my hair and [my little brother, Littler J’s] is that his is way bigger because it hasn’t been cut for a while.”
“That’s one difference,” I said. “Another is that his hair is fine, while your hair is …” I searched for the right word, understanding many words that seem neutral in the dictionary are charged in living color.
“Your hair is thick,” I concluded.
“Which is better?” Li’l D asked plaintively.
“Oh, sweetie,” I said, ruffling his thicker curls. “Neither is better. When I was little, my only friend who wasn’t my sibling–Topaz–had curly hair. I was so jealous of her curly hair. Then again, she wished she had my straight hair.”
Li’l D looked at his brother’s hair and half-smiled. “Oh.”
I don’t know if he believes me now. I don’t know if he’ll believe me later. I only know that (1) pre-pregnancy me of eight years ago wouldn’t have understood “dog whistles,” or the ways politicians invoke race without ever explicitly mentioning it, and (2) I believe it through-and-through. His curls are lovely. His brother’s curls are lovely.
One brother’s curls are fine. Another brother’s curls are coarse.
Both brothers are beautiful; either’s hair, only a fraction of that.
Saturday, 11:45 a.m.
As we inched toward Hollywood in traffic, I asked my husband, “Do you have a snack in your car? I need to eat something.” He knows my blood sugar’s been giving me grief recently.
“Don’t you have that apple?” he asked.
“You’re right!” I smiled as I reached into my purse for that green apple.
Saturday, 11:00 a.m.
My husband and I were on our way to our first date in months. We’d almost made it out the door when our seven-year-old, Li’l D, asked me, “Aren’t you going to take the apple with you?” He’d set a green apple in front of me a few minutes earlier.
“I don’t need an apple, sweetie,” I said. “But thank you!”
He looked so crestfallen, I put the apple in my purse. For show.
Saturday, 7 p.m.
My littlest one, Littler J, babbled with overtired zeal as we loaded him into our car. Li’l D was quieter in his sleepiness as he climbed into his car seat.
“Hey. You know what?” I told him. “I ended up needing that apple!”
“Told you!” he cheered. To himself, he murmured, “I helped.” His chest puffed out for a moment, leading my heart to swell in return.
“You sure did,” I said, smiling. “You sure did.”
My little boys love racing each other down a ramp near our house. Yesterday, much to my two-year-old’s chagrin, my seven-year-old, Li’l D, only wanted to run down twice.
“Could you please run down one more time with him?” I asked D. D, seizing the opportunity, said he’d run down it one more time … if I said I was obnoxious.
I weighed his proposal for a moment before mumbling, “I’m obnoxious.”
“What? I couldn’t hear you,” he teased.
“I’m obnoxious!” I said, much louder.
He grinned before racing down the ramp with Littler J.
“Again?!” D asked.
“I’m obnoxious,” I replied.
Both my boys laughed as they raced down the ramp one more time, and I? I laughed, too.
My two-year-old hides behind his hands, then throws his arms out wide while shouting, “Boo!”
I shriek as if startled, which makes him scream in delight before devolving into giggle-fits.
We repeat this over and over. Sometimes, we’ll do it a hundred times in one sitting.
My seven-year-old recently asked, exasperated, why I pretend to be afraid.
I replied, already wistful, “Your brother will understand soon enough that he’s not actually scaring me. So while he still believes it, I’ll keep on shrieking. I’ll keep on cherishing the sweet sound of him laughing, knowing he’ll soon enough be on to other joys.”
“Oh. Will you scream if I do it, too?”
“Sure, if your brother’s around.”
So he tried, too, and I shouted in mock horror.
Now, for at least a little while, both my little boys take turns scaring me, and I’m happy.
My husband and I are trying to make our television a peripheral part of our family life.
While waiting for TV time to start this morning, I pulled out my handwritten journal. I’ve been using it since late 2008, before I was pregnant with my now seven-year-old, Li’l D.
Li’l D sat on my lap as I prepared to write my first 2017 entry. He read my first few sentences aloud before asking to see some old entries.
I found a 2009 movie ticket that made me smile. “This is from the first time I felt you move! There were lots of explosions in this movie, but for some reason, you jumped so much for one that I jumped out of my seat.”
“It’s true,” his dad called from another room. “She did.”
I told Li’l D that my mom loved Star Trek, which he immediately confused with Star Wars.
“They’re different,” I told him. “My mom liked both, but she really loved Star Trek, and its oh-so-super-hot William Shatner.”
Li’l D asked me to read the entry nearest his birth. I showed him the sticker from when I was admitted to the hospital to deliver him, but then got quiet when I saw the actual next entry.
It was from my last entry as a non-orphan. Understandably, Li’l D didn’t want to hear the whole thing.
By the time I concluded my entry, Li’l D and his brother were watching TV. And me? I was sitting with my journal, remembering what it felt like to sit and watch Star Trek with my irrepressible mom.
My older son spent his first three years in an apartment a few blocks from the ocean. We’d often walk to a nearby park just across the street from the ocean.
My husband, Anthony, and I took both our boys and their new digging toys to this park the day after Christmas.
Seven-year-old Li’l D had barely begun using his remote-controlled excavator when a slightly younger girl came up and asked him to use it. My shoulders stiffened a little and I held my breath, hoping no intervention would be required.
(I’m not usually an intervener. Kids learn these ropes by navigating them. Still, sugar coursed through both my boys’ veins and the toy was very new.)
“Sure!” he replied. “This is how you use it.” He gave her a 30-second crash course before scampering off to make friends.
Li’l D and his two-year-old brother, Littler J, spent an hour and a half roaming the playground and laughing with new friends.
Li’l D never did return to his excavator. His dad fetched it after the last kid using it walked away to join Littler with his tiny excavators and trucks.
As our trip wound down, I looked at Li’l D holding his own with a bunch of kids across the park at the see-saw.
“Wow,” I told Anthony. “We don’t need to watch him so close anymore, huh? Always hovering just a few steps away …”
“We don’t,” he agreed. “This is why I take him and let him run.”
I looked just past my feet to Littler, who was busy burying his tiny excavator beneath a mound of sand.
Someday soon, Littler will be big enough to roam further away from Anthony and me.
He’ll do this in preparation for The Big Roam many years ahead.
But for now? For now, with a few asides to chase after his big brother, he is happiest playing just a few feet from Mommy and Daddy.
I’ll savor his nearness now, but when it’s his time to run? I’ll savor that, too, as another part of this whole gorgeous, messy journey of loving little kids hard enough that they’ll someday feel me nearby even when we’re in very different somewheres, far beyond the sandbox.