The boys are getting bigger (and bigger and bigger). I realized the other night when I picked up an untimely-awakened Urp that his head no longer fits nicely under my chin, and he is all long limbs and knobby corners, with a bottom which has gone from delicious squishiness to delectable firmness. He talks now; he even makes polite conversation. He'll pitter-pat into the kitchen, holding up some new find like a dead ladybug, and ask, "What's that?" On being informed that it's an insect, he'll chirp, "Oh, that's nice." I offered him a bit of my bread salad the other day, and he peered at it earnestly, then sat back and announced, "That's disgusting!" On the other end of the spectrum, he'll sometimes announce, "I'm delicious!" which is all too true. He can sing the alphabet song and Row Row Row Your Boat, and he has the usual passion for Thomas the Tank Engine. He also likes to have me dump flour or sugar into a bowl, then give him another bowl or two and some measuring cups so he can transfer staple foods from bowl to bowl, then to the floor, for half an hour at a time. The kitchen floor after this activity is unspeakable, and so are the Urpclothes, but his happiness and seriousness are so complete that I cannot resist indulging him.
As much as he loves sugar, he hates clothing. The child hates shoes. He hates coats. He hates gloves, and snowpants, and mittens and socks. He hates turtlenecks and most sweaters. And forget a snowsuit: just forget it. We have quit fighting the battle, unless we're going sledding or out for some other activity where shoelessness would result in frozen feet, but we do get some strange looks at the mall as I run from the parking lot with a barefoot, T-shirt-clad limpet clinging to my chest and yelling, "Cold, Mama!" while violently resisting my attempts to wrap him in my jacket and his Lovey.
He also throws tantrums, which distress him more than they do us because he doesn't quite know how to stop himself. My mother says she remembers doing this as a child, and being quite frightened because she couldn't stop. So when the Urplet hits the deck, purple and shrieking with snot pouring out of his nose and his spine arced in a bow, I stand by and wait for a break in the storm, then try to offer comfort if he can handle it. If he can't, well, then I pick him up and remove him from the store, or wherever, if necessary; if we're home, I just go into another room and check back in a few minutes. Presently he'll come to me sadly, thumb in mouth, and ask for Lovey and want to be held. A few minutes later he'll sit up, smile, and announce, "Feel better now."
Rabbit is a different story. We thought he was four, but apparently he's fourteen, because the drama in our house? Has a distinctly adolescent flavor. The strangest things throw him into a state of high dudgeon--a wayward pea mixed with the rice: the wrong sippy cup at dinner: not being allowed to bonk his brother on the head a third time--and then, if he hasn't managed to get himself put in time out, he puts HIMSELF into the equivalent by storming off to the downstairs bathroom, dragging a kitchen stool in with him, and locking the door from the inside by standing on the stool to reach the little hook-and-eye lock. Then he either hides behind the toilet or amuses himself by placing my back issues of VOGUE carefully between the screen and storm windows behind the toilet. Eventually he comes back out.
He's a much more mysterious person than Urp, more prone to silences and private joys and sorrows. He likes to be alone in his room, playing quietly; he likes to have a door to shut (this is how we know he's definitely related to both TTD and me). He looks out for his little brother, shepherding him through the maze at the McDonald's play pit and unbuckling his car seat belt when we arrive home, and then spends the rest of his time tormenting same by snatching toys, disturbing little worlds Urp's created with three plastic easter eggs, a metal dump truck, and a sock, and fighting for room in Mama's lap, which is not getting any bigger even though the boys most certainly are. He veers from mature, thoughtful, sweet and funny to annoying, rude, loud, rough, and aggressive. One moment he's cuddled in my lap, observing some streaks of cloud far overhead and concluding they are "God's footprints," and the next he's knocking the Urp's Leggo's over and zooming away, giggling maniacally and pretending he can't hear a word I say, which makes me CRAZY MAD. Off on a car trip with just me, he trots around the grocery store happily and helps me load the shopping cart: going to bed, he moves with snail-like slowness (if snails were passive-aggressive) and just...can't...quite...bring...himself...to...do...anything...he's...told. Until Time Out appears on the menu or I start shrieking, whichever comes first.
In other words, Urplet is now two, and Rabbit is four.
And the hardest thing for me is that now they're older, more complex, and demand more thoughtful discipline and response from me, and while I love that (I am not so much with the infants), I find it demands a balance of detachment and attachment which is hard hard hard. On the one hand, I am attached to these children as I am to no one else in the world. I feel their pain and disappointment and frustration deep within not only my heart but my gut, as though someone's tugging on a cable which connects me to them from a region which has nothing to do with my brain. When they get hurt physically, the soles of my feet tingle; when they cry in sadness or disapointment, my heart breaks. My heart often gets tired of feeling not only my emotions but theirs too. Not that I co-opt their right to their own emotions, not at all: it's just that right now, they're so young and so close to me that their pain is sort of simple and immediate and in my face, so it's easy to experience it viscerally.
On the other hand, I'm the mother, not the child. I'm the grown-up in this equation, and while of course I'm allowed my emotions, I'm also required to use my brain and my judgement and all that good stuff. To survive, I need a modicum of detachment, both for my own sake--I have to be able to walk out the door to work sometimes, even when there's a child crying for me, and not have it destroy me--and for theirs (if I respond to a fraternal quarrel with some kind of thought and reason and control, things work out a lot better than if I react the way I'd LIKE to, which is to scream bloody murder and lock myself in the bedroom with a bottle of gin and PEOPLE magazine). To be any kind of a good mother, I need skill as well as heart.
I don't have this down. I suspect I never will. Because it's not as though I can just make rules and that's that; there are a million factors which go into every decision, all day, every day, ranging from how tired Urplet is to what kind of day Rabbit's had at precshool to how crappy I feel after a work shift. There's a continuum, and I slide back and forth along it, from hugs to tirades, and so do the children. Often we collide.
But sometimes, sometimes, sometimes.....we dance.