Archive for the ‘Alden’ Category

Oedipus at Our House

Last night Alden said, “I’m going to take Daddy’s ring.” He explained that would make him married to me. He’s a sort of Gollum/Oedipus combo these days.

Poor Alden can’t understand how his only girl, his mom, can have three dudes in her immediate orbit. It’s so unfair. Poor Damon can’t understand why his eldest son can be such a turkey sometimes.

While we’ve always tilted a little bit in the “Mommy do it!” direction, things got pretty pronounced there for a while. Even on the hallowed ground of Disney World, there was no peace to be made. I called my mom to break the news that only one of them was coming back and she just said, “Oh, he’s Oedipal right on schedule.” Which was some much needed perspective, and also kind of rhymes.

Understanding the why always helps with the what, and tensions decreased almost immediately. Damon and Alden are buddies again, dedicating afternoons to the monster truck dinosaur ball game. The whole bad business actually left a charming afterglow. Now Alden likes to end his days by telling me the various ways he loves me — “a million”, “to the moon” — and that I am “the sweetest girl” and “so kind.” He puts his hand on my cheek and tells me we will stay together forever. And I say, “Yes. We will.”  Every once in a while he will wake me up in the middle of the night to say, “Mommy, can you turn so I can see you? I love to look at your face.” Gah! I cannot resist! When he asks if we can get married, I tell him we can. By the time he is old enough to call my bluff I suspect these days of uncritical adoration will be long over. From his side, anyway.


Parenting Tip: Say Yes to Everything

One of the unintended consequences of nine days (NINE DAYS!) of all of us living in one small hotel room is Alden’s exposure to commercial television.

Do not misunderstand. We love TV. I’m not going to even pretend. Our kids watch at least some TV almost every day. They watch Nick Jr and PBS and Disney Jr. They also watch Monster Truck Jam and Dancing With the Stars. Through the magic of Tivo, though, the knuckleheads almost never see a commercial.

It would take a mother made of much sterner stuff than I am to deny my kids the TV while we were on vacation. Not only did I let them watch, I encouraged them to watch. An hour of Jake and the Neverland Pirates was sometimes all the stood in the way of me forcibly turning them into Lost Boys and hightailing it back to Knoxville.

So, commercials. To Alden, this was information on countless ways to make his life more wonderful. The first few days I spent a lot of time belaboring points about equity and privilege, thrift and values. Every 12 minutes I delivered a new lecture.

Then, as I tried to reason a 4-year-old out of Dragonball Z or Transformers or Robot Killers from Space, Damon just said, “Sure! You can totally have that!” And the conversation was over. Then another commercial. Another request. Another approval.

That was the key. “Yes” to everything. Every. Single. Thing. Just hearing that he could have that toy discharged his interest, and we were on to the next thing. He was so happy, and he instantly forgot each toy as it vanished off the screen. I tried the same thing as we flew home, with the Sky Mall magazine. To everything he liked, which was everything, I said, “Sure, you can have that.” We got off the plane, and he left the magazine behind.

I absolutely cannot believe that worked. I know it won’t forever. It sure does buy us some peace, though, at the moment.

Deciding to Have a Second Baby

I wanted to be a mother because I felt like a child would make me the best possible version of myself.

The decision to have a second seemed much more academic, and we couldn’t get off the fence for a long time. Then, as often is true, emotional events swept all logic off the table. I found myself facing down a devastating family event without the support of a sibling. Damon was an absolute hero, but he could only walk up to the periphery. He couldn’t be fully in it with me. It wasn’t his family.

We couldn’t tolerate the thought of Alden in that position, and so the decision was made.

When Alden was an only child everything about our relationship felt unique, special, amazing. It wasn’t being close to A baby, it was being close to THIS baby. I knew how fast he breathed, how much he blinked. I could count the flecks of yellow in his iris. I didn’t want anyone to come between us.

I don’t know what I’m missing, but I do know what I got. Everything that is writ large about motherhood for me is the same with both boys; but the intricate, tiny details are specific to each kid. I can have eloquent, silent conversations with each of them, and that shows me that exquisite connection can be had with more than one child.

I now see that having a brother can help the boys be the best possible versions of themselves, too. I will never know who I would be as a sister, but they at least have the opportunity to be awesome brothers.

Which is not to say they always take advantage of that opportunity. We just returned from a vacation that left me wondering if anyone would notice two more children added to It’s a Small World. Which brings me to the part of having two that I did not adequately anticipate. Having two is so much harder than having one. It’s going from having one small, charming sidekick to having fifteen rabid monkeys living in your house. Or so it often feels. The competition. The fighting. Think two little kids can’t find a difference between two identical Bone Shaker monster truck toys? Think again. “He’s got it” is enough of a reason to prefer the other one.

I would guess that a one-child household has a lot less headbutting.

Still. When I ask Alden whether he wants Elliot in his preschool class he always insists that his brother stay with him. “He’s my friend.” They may slap fight until I want to go into the Witness Protection Program, but heaven help the person who threatens Elli in front of Alden, and that goes for the nurse who is trying to get a vaccine into Elliot’s fat thigh. Bet she didn’t see that waist-level attack coming. Any time Elliot gets loved on, his first questions is “Alden’s turn?” and he never had two mini marshmallows he wasn’t willing to split.

Goodbye to the Baby

Pre-Alden, when I just could not get pregnant, I wasn’t sure what I’d make of motherhood. I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I would work hard to do it well. I believed that, overall, it would be worth it to me. I wanted a baby. I couldn’t get pregnant. We tried to adopt. That failed. I went back to trying to get pregnant. It hurt, but I don’t think it’s the rosy mists of time causing me to minimize that when I say that I don’t think I suffered as badly as some women do. For me (for me!) adoption was a fine solution and so, some day, some way, I could be a mother.

I had a clear-eyed view that not all mother/child bonds erupt with ferocious love the minute the baby makes the scene. I said we’d just see how it goes. I asked Damon to be mindful for signs of post-partum depression. I was eager, but not ecstatic.

Then John Alden arrived and I was every cliche of maternal joy. I would stare at him, fascinated, not counting the time. I laid in the hospital bed with him that first night, and I could feel the world turning. Struggling to describe it, I could only say that he rearranged my atoms and made me into something new.

I flipping love having a baby. I love having one around. I love actually, physically having one. (I got off so, so easy — very talented pelvis.) I would walk barefoot over glass to experience those first 30 seconds of my babies’ arrival into the world — over and over.

Fortune smiled and we had Elliot. The peerless, beautiful experience I had with Alden… totally matched. He came into the world serenely, joyfully and I was so happy that I might have collapsed on myself like a star burning out.

I am so fortunate.

I could, theoretically, have another baby. I’m 40, though. Still so sad from losing my father (and my stepdad before him), I am acutely sensitive to protecting the time my children have to be mothered. Also, if I can be mundane for a minute: I don’t like being pregnant, I don’t think my body would recover very well, the demands may tip me beyond the ability to do my job (which pays our mortgage) well, I have been nursing now for more than four years and am not eager to sign up for a multi-year extention, I like having at least a tiny bit of money, I don’t want to buy a minivan, what if I don’t have a girl, what if I have a girl?

So. I think I am finished.

I never saw it coming that grieving this would be so much harder for me than facing the idea of never having a baby in the first place.

Get It?

Lemon’s account of her kids’ jokes made me wonder if I could teach one to Alden.

Jillian: Hey Alden, why did the lion spit out the clown?
Alden: I don’t know.
Jillian: Ask my why.
Alden: Why?
Jillian: Because he tasted funny!

Then I told him to tell it back to me.

Alden: Mommy, why did the lion spit out the monkey?
Jillian: Why?
Alden: Because he was hurting the monkey [sad face]

Alden, monkey fan