My lovely boys have turned two. It was a bittersweet occasion for me, celebrating how far they’ve come (they live so LARGE!) and saying goodbye to my last two babies (for REALSIES!). And looking with some anxiety at the struggles ahead– beds, potty training, pacifiers. Helping these little people shed the last vestiges of babydom is not a task for the fainthearted. And I am a little fainthearted.
We already tried the two beds thing. Callum was in a bed for almost a month and doing great; we let Ronan switch over too. This grave mistake unleashed a cascade of naptime and bedtime horrors. Ronan is back in the crib, which has cut the horror by about 25%, but Callum has now fully absorbed the level of shenanigans that are possible at sleep times. I’ve given up trying to clean every puddle of urine. I just damp dry it with plans to lug in the steam cleaner more often. I’ve dragged large items of furniture out of the room. I’ve stood secretly poised for a quarter of an hour at the cracked open door, ready to pounce the second Callum burbles his evil “I’m misbehavin’” cackle on his way out of bed. If I hear one more child shout “Get nakey!” in that bedroom I might start duct taping their diapers to their torsos.
Dr. G. and I commiserate over the fact that docile Abi did not prepare us for parenting actual toddlers. Like, at all. We had to teach her how to open doors, as it never occurred to her to try it herself. Though she has always had a terrible time falling asleep, when we put her in a toddler bed at age 2, she just continued with her usual hour of charming off-key singing and story-telling in bed. Her rare tantrums lasted five minutes. Her biggest rebellion was refusing to eat dinner. She used the same play kitchen for four years, microwaving toys that had gotten on her bad side, and it stayed in near-pristine condition; then the boys started using it, and within six months I didn’t even want to put the kitchen out on the curb with a “free” sign on it, it was so jaggedy and missing so many parts and held together primarily by six months worth of gradually applied duct tape. Crashing it over to ride it like a horsey will do that to a play kitchen. As will dragging it around as a feat of mighty strength, or trying to take pieces off on purpose so it can be “fixed,” or pushing it over to the window to see if it can be used as a ladder to reach the cords of the blinds.
And yet the sweetness of these boys is near-constant. They have a new thing of trying to kiss each other goodnight when they have their pacifiers in– the cutest and most awkward clacking of plastic ever. The other day Ronan was lonely for Callum, who was sleeping much longer than he had, and he asked to look at pictures of his brother on my phone. Abi was out all day today and Callum kept accidentally calling the larger children on the Chick Fil A play structure by her name. He brought a tear to my eye tonight when he and Ronan were struggling for access to my lap; he raised a hand to hit Ronan, thought better of it, and put his hand back down. It was a beautiful display of self-control. Now if only he could extend that to naptime. I’d love for him to think, “I really want to climb into my sleeping brother’s crib and flop down on him,” and then NOT DO IT. Maybe he does heed the still, small voice in that room sometimes, how do I know?
I spend a lot of time lately soothing hurt feelings when one of the boys tries to do something nice for the other and is rejected. They love to practice sharing and helping and hugging each other but they don’t always have the most well-conceived plans. “No, he doesn’t want you to put pecans in his mouth. His mouth is full of water,” I might explain to Ronan. “No, he doesn’t want a hug now, he is fixing the door with his tools,” I might explain to Callum. “But you are such a nice brother!” It is hard to learn to show love by giving others what they want, rather than what you want them to have. I guess they’ve got a few more years to work on it. I could probably use a few more years of work on that myself.