Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Few Pictures

No musings, just a few pictures for the grandparents. Here is Luke pretending to be a ninja.

Here are the boys kind of holding hands, an amazing sight. These days, they are usually trying to use their hands to inflict pain on one another. I think I told them to hold hands and look nice.

Here they are on Halloween, Luke as Batman and Henry as a ladybug.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Difficult Child

When Luke was a baby, we thought he was colicky. When he was one, we thought he was approaching the terrible two's at an advanced pace. At age two, there was some respite. (Well, there was the biting, but what's a little breaking of skin among friends, right Nancy?) But then, when Luke was two years, ten months, Henry was born. As one might imagine, there was a serious "adjustment period." I finally broke down when Luke was three years old and bought a book called The Difficult Child. This was a breakthrough for me.

Up until the time that I bought the book, I couldn't really admit that Luke was difficult. Sure, I was willing to go so far as to say he was spirited, but difficult? Pinning such a label on him didn't seem fair. He has so many nice traits, after all. He is funny. He tells great stories. He makes new friends very easily. I cherish all of these qualities in Luke.

But Luke is difficult, too. In admitting this to myself, I had to let go of the fantasy child that I had been clutching on to. The child that goes through some difficult phases, but that ultimately does not sleep horribly. Or bite other children. Or throw hour-long tantrums. Or pretend to shoot people. Or yell at Craig, "Your consequence for putting me in my room is that I'm going to take away all of your beer!" Because, really, I keep waiting for an easier age to arrive, and it doesn't. Luke is Luke, with some variation to keep us on our toes, but the personality and the challenges remain a constant.

So anyway, I finally bought this book about difficult children, and it is great. I wish that I had bought it sooner. And it has been freeing, to some degree, to read about children just as difficult, or even much more so, than my own. But more than anything, it is just owning the book that has been so good. In owning the book, I am owning my child for what and who he is. And this kid--he's often difficult.

Hi. My name is Ser. I am the mother of a difficult child.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Oh, Henry!

Henry. Oh, Henry. I have written three posts about Luke now, with hardly a word about my Henry. It is so easy for me to write about Luke. I feel like there are so many things with Luke that I want to work through, so many funny stories and so many heartaches I want to detail. But Henry is different. He is a second child. I've done it all before. I think so much less about everything with him and enjoy it all so much more. Not that I enjoy Luke less than I do Henry, but everything is far more intense with my firstborn. My relationship with Luke is a first love. Everything is exciting and new and puzzling and heart-wrenching. With Henry, it is a mature relationship. The first thrills are over, but the comfort and ease make most things more simply enjoyable.

Even the way that they each came into the world was so very different. Luke refused to budge in the birth canal--or perhaps I refused to let him go. I pushed in every way known to woman, for five hours, and still he was pulled from me with forceps. It was painful and disorienting and shocking and, yes, traumatic. And then the life changes that came once we brought him home! We had to become different people. It took us at least a year to resume some semblance of normal life, and what was normal had forever changed. Henry, though, tumbled from me in a short time, at home, and we were all napping a few hours later. Our life carried on almost immediately.

And, because I'm now a disorganized mama of two who can't think straight, because I spend admittedly too much time analyzing my firstborn's every move, because I have no memory left after twice going through the hormone haze of pregnancy and early motherhood, I offer this series of disjointed vignettes about Henry. Because I don't want to forget some of these times with him, and because who knows if I'll ever write in his baby book.

Henry has so much desire for independence. I suppose this is a trait of many second children, but it amazes me still. He unloads the dishwasher. If he can't get a dish out, I cannot take it out myself. I have to pull it out only enough that he can get it. He hands me the dishes, which I put away. But lately, he wants to put the silverware away himself, since he can (barely) reach the drawer. He hurls each piece of silverware up with reckless abandon, hoping it will land in the drawer, as I shudder, hoping the forks and knives won't fall back into his face. His other housekeeping hobbies include vacuuming, mopping, and putting laundry in the washing machine. We're working with him on loading the dishwasher.

He wants to walk everywhere we go. Or, really, not walk so much as trot. My four year old reclines happily in the stroller while my 17 month old trots along on the sidewalk.

Henry is obsessed with shoes, and this is recently spilling over into clothes in general. He gets his mind set on a certain pair of shoes, a certain shirt, and nothing else will do. I recently bought him a pair of black, white and pink cow rain clogs, which he loves. The great thing about them is that he can get them on and off himself, so he can entertain himself for long stretches of time. "Oooh! Shoes! Cow!" he yells. Then he takes them off. Back on. "Ooh! Shoes! Cow!" Repeat. Repeat.

Oh, that Henry.

Fighting the Bad Guys

The other day I was looking at mama-blogs and found a mama writing about her daughter who is obsessed with Superman. Included was a photo of her cutie dressed as her hero. Charming! Subversive! Feminist! And then I think about my own reaction to Luke's love of all things superhero. Not so cute, at least to me.

And, too, I think about how I encourage my sons to browse the little ovens, the tiny princesses at the store, how I glow with pride when Luke plays with the old "My Little Pony" collection that my mom has saved from when her girls were little. How I felt so accomplished when Luke used to say that his favorite color was pink. But, see, then it became pink and red. Then just red. As in red like Spiderman. Red like Superman. Even, yes, red like blood.

Because the blood is what I'm resisting here. I don't want my sons to be typical, this is true. I want to have kids that stay firmly outside the cultural pressures for them to play with certain toys, act certain ways. I would like my sons to feel as free to play with dolls as with guns. And maybe, hopefully, they do. But what I'm more scared of, I think, is that Luke is so interested in not just superheroes, but guns, shooting, killing. Why? What have I done wrong as a parent?

Of course, the answer is probably nothing. It just goes against everything inside me as a mom to hear my little boy, my sweet little guy, say "I'm blowing up the head of the bad guy!" What am I supposed to do? Say, "Okay dear, time for breakfast"? Or give him a lecture on gun control and educating our criminals? Probably the former. I should not lecture so much as tolerate. I'm sure he's working through all sorts of things when he plays like this.

I think in the big picture this is all a part of the huge letting go that is parenting. Our babes are born so innocent, and we have so much in our hearts and minds for them. But they continually go beyond, outside, around our expectations. They are people, more and more every day, with their own ideas and interests. Each day we are forced to let go a little bit more. And even though some of the things that my kids do scare me, I'm trying let my children go little by little, bit by bit, without fear.

I'm fighting the bad guys, too.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Flavor of a Birthday

Last month, Luke celebrated his birthday at school. I asked him what type of cake he wanted me to bake. "X-Men," he replied without a thought, as though he had been planning for the day I would ask him this question. "Actually, I meant the flavor," I replied, "since you aren't allowed to have characters on your cake." After a long pause, Luke responded. "Okay, punch." Punch as in punch-flavored. Here's where I remind everyone that Luke attends a Waldorf school. A school where he wears a crown for his birthday celebration, listens to a sweet story about how he chose his parents from heaven, and receives a beeswax candle and homemade cards in a basket. The cake I bake will be eaten after their standard Friday snack of homemade, organic soup.

And do punch-flavored cakes even exist? I'm envisioning a garish, red-colored cake, store-bought of course, with Red#32 as one of its primary ingredients. Maybe we could take Spongebob ice cream bars (anyone seen these things? they leave black and yellow dye streaming down a kids arm) and Spiderman fruit snacks to serve with the cake. Actually, while Luke has, unfortunately, had the latter two, he has not, to my knowledge, ever eaten a punch-flavored cake. (Nor has he seen X-Men, the angel on my insecure shoulder tells me to add.)

Something about birthdays inspires the American consumer superhero junkfood freak in Luke, although I must admit that it doesn't always take a birthday to inspire his, shall we say, less Waldorfy traits. One of Luke's school friends, Anna, recently invited him to her birthday party. I asked him what he would like to give her, envisioning a great old fashioned book or some homemade finger puppets. "A remote control princess!" was his enthusiastic reply. Oh how I didn't want him to give me this gendered, technology-heavy reply.

And yet. And yet. He was so sweet. He wanted to think of something sparkly and exactly perfect for Anna. He dreams of a remote control robot for himself. But, since she is a girl, what better gift than a remote control princess? Really, aren't birthdays supposed to be a little indulgent and fantastic? And, really, what could be better than a day celebrated with a dayglo, punch-flavored cake and a remote control princess?

Monday, November 13, 2006


This is just a test. I'm setting this blog up in hopes that I will record some of the daily chaos of our family life, some of the laughs and the tears that are a part of my parenting experience. As my (quite original) blog title indicates, I will focus on mothering. This is both necessary, as mothering is the thing I do most, and fun, because mothering provides me with my best material.

I mother my two boys, Luke, age 4, and Henry, age 17 months.
They are both--what shall we say?--a handful, headstrong, active, willful, or my favorite, spirited. Luke thinks he is Spiderman at least half the time and at school pretends the little ironing board is a cannon, the chunks of pretty driftwood, guns. Did I mention that he attends a Waldorf school? Henry is obsessed with shoes and is beginning to assert his will (usually regarding said shoes) by throwing lusty tantrums. They are both much more fun outside, which is why we spend a great deal of time at the park.

Speaking of testing, I guess I could mention testing of another kind, since I seem to have mastered the basics of composing text, inserting pictures and such. Testing of the kid kind. The four-year-old kid kind. When I was lamenting all of the fantasy gun play to a friend of mine while we were (where else?) at the park she told me that she thought a lot of it was just testing, since the kids know we don't really approve. (We can't. We live in an ultra-crunchy university neighborhood. Luke attends a Waldorf school. I cringe every time I hear "gunpowder" or "enemy" or "conquer." But more on that subject in another post.) Luke was playing while we talked, but he must have heard, or his timing is just naturally dramatic, because not moments later he said, "We are shooting animals." Normally this is where I would insert, "Because you are hungry, and you thank the animals for giving life so you can eat, right?" We are from Alaska, after all, where many people, Luke's dad and grandfather included, hunt so they can stock the freezer with meat. But I didn't say it this time, and after a dramatic pause, Luke said, "Killing them for no reason!"

Testing, testing. This is a test.