Which leaves me today, with very little time to write.
As shocking as it may seem, being in a sort of smallish body and building two babies at once took a toll on what used to be a pretty strong structure. I’ve always thought I was tonka tough. But two little bouncy boy babies have brought me d-o-w-n. I’m finally admitting defeat, and tapping out.
Fortunately, tapping out in this case just means I’m going to try to take care of myself rather than ignore the constant thud of pain in my back. Way back, around two years ago I was told by the surgeon who was fixing my umbilical hernia (another twin-pregnancy smackdown) that I was going to have back problems. My thoughts were as follows:
- Clearly he has no idea who he’s talking to.
- Back pain is for the same type of people who actually get sick.
- If my back hurts there’s always Ibuprofen.
And while I’ve been laying on my back, on the floor, faced with the multitude of marbles and books that have collected under the couch and TV stand over the past two days I have finally had to admit: he could be right. My back not only hurts, but it is a problem. I did nothing weird to tweak it out, simply putting Smitty’s shoes on, bent over in half. While holding Sheppard. As I’ve done seven thousand times before. But that was that and now I cannot even really stand up straight without some real driving effort.
My name is Jodi, and I have a problem with my back. (I also was forced to admit I was sick not more than a few weeks back. Apparently this is a “learning” year for me. YAY!)
So. After admitting that my “ignore this” approach was going nowhere, and taking several fistfuls of ibuprofen which wasn’t even coming close to touching the pain, I made an appointment with an acupuncturist. I have more than a few friends whom I respect that have said this is something that has helped. And in my vulnerable state of only being able to lie down flat, I kind of admitted defeat.
So here’s the spoiler: I’m not sure if I’m into it or not. The session was great: the acupuncturist (is that what they’re called?) was empathetic and warm and attentive. I absolutely felt something during my time there – kind of like a river of pain moving from needle to needle, and then finally disappearing. I particularly enjoyed the sensation of a heat lamp on my back while lying there for around 30 minutes, alone, with needles everywhere, listening to a white noise machine giving me ocean waves simulation. I did love that. And walking home, I felt totally zen’d out. I felt better, for sure. But my caveman skeptical brain wonders if it’s just the actual laying down still for an hour that helped, the psychological boost of actually being proactive against this, time passing, or a combination of everything that was effective.
So I’m going to try more. They suggested that I combine some chiropractic care with acupuncture and I feel like I probably should. I’m trying to place my doubting brain aside and put a little bit of faith in people who spend their lives helping to fix up broken bodies like mine. I figure I’ll follow their plan for one month – maybe two acupuncture sessions and two chiropractic sessions, and if things go well I’ll continue. If they’re not, then I’ll go back to my ignoring this problem solution which is not actually helpful, but is totally free and takes up pretty much no time.
Despite the wealth of writing material born from surviving not one, but two (!) vomiting toddlers at once, I’d prefer not to have to experience it again. However, I have also been baptized by fire (uh, and vomit), and feel like I’ve learned a trick or two. Here’s hoping someone finds this while combing the internet at 3 AM, as I was, trying to see if there is any good way to get through this experience:
Get A Bowl, Make it Be Friends With the Vomiter
I thought possibly Smitty + Shep were too young to understand that throwing up in a bowl is way more awesome than on the carpet, or couch. They totally got it! At age two, these guys learned to let me know when they were going to throw up, and took a great amount of pride in hitting the bowl.
It began with Shep. He threw up on the floor a few times before we got organized enough to read his signs. But sure enough, if he pointed to his mouth or tummy and said, “Ouch” we had T-minus 3 seconds to get it to him. But that was usually enough. And if he was given lots of praise and reassured while getting it in the bowl, it actually seemed less traumatic.
More importantly, Smith took note. After mocking his twin brother over and over, with pantomimes of throwing up complete with wrenching sounds, it was his turn. Smith had a different warning. If he coughed, that was it. One cough, maybe two and he was ready to roll. They each knew that the plastic bowl was the place to hit, and they each started asking for the bowl when they felt it coming on.
I believe that with more hard work and practice, these two toddlers will be ready to join a fraternity by age six due to their throwing up prowess alone. That’s probably not funny. However if you’re reading this at 3 AM your “what’s funny” bar may be a bit lower so I’m leaving it.
Buy A Snow Cone/Shave Ice Machine
Years ago Anson and Roan bought some cheap snow-cone machine that takes up way way way too much space in our Brooklyn apartment’s valuable cabinet real estate. But it has proven its worth time and again during illnesses. The worst feeling in the world is that one where you cannot keep even a drop of water down, but you are so wickedly thirsty that you drink anyway. As a mom, I know that I cannot let my toddler chug down anything at all, because it dehydrates him even more when he throws it back up. But it’s also incredibly hard to ignore his begging for water.
This machine is better than a blender, because it doesn’t crunch up the ice into chunks, it literally shaves it. So just a few slivers of shaved ice, slowly melting in their mouths seems to trick the body into hanging onto it, and quenches their thirst *just* enough to feel like they are not being tortured. Once they’ve held enough shaved ice pieces down over a few hours, you can even give them a treat and pour Pedialyte over it which helps them hydrate even more. And it resembles a really crappy tasting snow cone.
I can’t seem to find a link for the machine we have (we just bought it at a CVS), but literally it wasn’t more than $20. It is awesome for the sick kiddos. And sick husband. And sick me.
Remember How You Love to Cuddle? Now Is the Time.
Smith started throwing up at around 1 AM. After enduring what I believed was the worst of it, he finally fell asleep in my arms. I wanted to put him in his bed, but was worried that he would throw up in it (again). So Anson tucked me in on the couch, sitting up, with Smitty held upright against my chest. Rocking back and forth, I sang to him for about two hours, keeping a plastic bowl in one hand, and his head secure against my body in the other. For me, (and there’s probably some science to back this up but I just cannot be bothered to Google it) I always feel less queasy if I am upright. Laying down often times causes the world to spin. I assume it’s the same for my two-year-old.
So though I would love to be in bed, asleep, from the hours of 1 AM – 3 AM, it was worth it to me to hold my little pukey boy for a few hours, affording him the time to rest while being held. If nothing else, it was a stolen few hours of extra-sweet hugging time from a baby that desperately wanted and needed his mom. I’m so down with that.
Movies Were Made for Times Like These
I don’t think this even needs to be said, but just in case: during sick times, all TV and Movie and Screen rules are thrown out the window. Essentially, if anyone is sick and conscious, a movie is being played for them. Smitty + Shep love a loop of their three favorites (The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., and various Scooby Doo episodes), but whatever works. I read to them too, if they want, but mostly a little nest on the couch, a movie, and lots of reassurance is the order of the day. Don’t even try to be that guy who doesn’t let their kids watch TV. Don’t be that guy.
I know we’re a nation of over-prescribed pill-poppers, but there are a few things that really do help. Our doctor prescribed an anti-nausea medication that worked really well with Shep and sort of well with Smitty. Smith had a hard time keeping anything at all down, including the medicine (Ondansetron) so we were caught in a little bit of a catch-22 with him. Still, once we got it in him, it helped. This is especially important to me with him because he just doesn’t have a ton of weight available to lose. That kid needs to keep down everything he can. If you have a toddler who is repeatedly throwing up, get on the phone with your pediatrician and have them call it in. It helps.
Get A Good Thermometer
This is sort of a note to myself. I don’t have a good thermometer, so I rely on my intuition. I can tell if my boys have a fever or not, but I’m not great at precisely nailing their temperature. I haven’t found a good answer for toddlers. They’re too old for rectal (and frankly I just cannot do that to them when they’re already feeling awful), but they cannot handle the under-the-tongue kind either.
I’m open to suggestions on this one – anyone have a good recommend? Every time I call the pediatrician, they ask what the boys’ temperature is, and I’m always, “….heh…well…probably over 101….” I’d like to have a better answer.
Most Importantly: Remember It Will All Be Over Soon
It’s so hard to not be able to fix it when our kids are struggling. It’s tempting to feel a little distraught and overreact to what is probably a very normal and non-threatening illness. These things usually work themselves out in less than 24 hours. Remember that. If the night is seeming long and your child is having a hard time, just remember that this is something that we all go through. It is also something that strangely, kids look back upon fondly. Roan still talks about nights I’ve stayed up with him, and the action of putting a blanket over him, even in times of perfect health, is reassuring to him. Kids love to be taken care of, especially when they really need it. Trust your instincts, take a rest when you need it, and buy some bleach for cleaning. As my friend Kara texted to me, “One of the nice things about bleach is that it burns right through your sense of smell and the stench of vomit is at bay for a while.”
She’s not wrong.
Any tips from you? I have a feeling I will be revisiting this over and over and over.
You know what age I was at my dumbest and most awkward? Around fifteen. Maybe sixteen. Obsessed with wanting my hair to look like Martin Gore from Depeche Mode, and loading on more eyeliner than even Boy George would tolerate, my most creative feat was stacking Aqua Net, Extra Super Hold cans around the perimeter of my room. (Ozone layer, I am sorry.) My most productive moment was figuring out that the cloves in the spice cabinet could actually not be smoked. Or maybe they could but definitely not in the notebook paper I was using to roll them in.
I was brilliant like that.
So now I am a seasoned human being, looking at teenagers of today and cannot believe the amazing things they do. Overall, I’d say they’re much better at being in this world than I was. I am a huge fan of a teenager called Emmie. She was super special to me as a sweet infant, chubby-cheeked toddler, big kid, tween and now teen. Emmie is my niece.
Without describing the multitude of ways this girl is on an elevated creative plane, I’m just going to share a book she gave to her cousins, Smitty + Shep for Christmas. Shep + Smith have been obsessed with “Raw Guys” since Halloween. It started with a Grim Reaper figure in our neighbor’s yard. They would go visit him every morning and yell “Rah!!” at him. Because obviously that’s the language the Grim Reaper would speak. The term “Raw Guy” evolved to describe every spooky figure, including zombies, skeletons and decapitated heads hanging from tree branches down our festive Halloween block. Instead of being frightened by these figures, the boys loved with a capital L-O-V-E-D them. They would beg to go see the Raw Guys. And then Halloween ended and there were no more.
A book was given to them by cousin Emmie. It looks like this:
While I’ve done my best to photograph the pages, it doesn’t quite do the book justice. Each animal has been modified by Emmie with googly eyes, and fitted with painted-on extra jagged teeth, colorful Raw Guy approved colors in the fur, and trickles of blood here and there.
Smitty + Sheppy love their Raw Guy book. They love to make their scariest Raw Guy sounds, and pretend they are scared with big “Oh-No!” screams and giggles that build and build as the pages turn.
Beyond the obvious genius of creating this book for my boys, I am just amazed that a sixteen-year-old girl can even be bothered to hook her little cousins up with something so personal and sweet. Emmie rocks my world.
What’s more, Emmie has created a tumblr that is simple and brilliant. It is called “Just Some Doors”. With the tag line, “Really, that’s all it is.”
And really, that’s all it is. Emmie has photographed doors around Brooklyn and somehow it is compelling and beautiful enough to make me keep going back to see what she has seen. The way she has seen it. You should see it. Check it out here. (www.justsomedoors.tumblr.com)
So many things I love about this girl. But mostly it is this old and wise way she has of living in her own skin, proudly being exactly who she is. I’m not going to say it’s all rainbows and sunshine but the truth is, Emmie thrives in the rain. She is the kind of creature who can see all the beauty between the drops, and then translate that for the rest of us to see. At only sixteen, this girl is beautiful and smart, kind with a wicked sarcastic sense, and gifted beyond what’s fair.
I’m guessing you’re exhausted.
After these holidays, most of us are reaching for that extra cuppa, or maybe just breathing a little deeper, trying to revive after all the excitement and fun of the holidays. If you’re like me, you’ve finished load 2,345,949 of laundry because everything in your home has been thrown up on. Several times. By several different people.
So that’s how my family spent the break. Shepz began the throwing up festivities on the day after Christmas. I knew that obviously Smitty would follow suit, because they practically lick each others faces for twelve hours out of the day. Sure enough, at midnight the unmistakable sound of our child losing his everything woke Anson and me up.
A few things about toddlers throwing up:
First off, it’s one of the rare things they do that no matter what, it’s not cute. It’s sad. Shep was absolutely horrified the first time he threw up. This is the twins’ first experience in that genre of being ill. So he was just totally surprised at the whole of it. Smith watched Shep a few times and would sort of laugh, then mimic in a way that felt more mocking than sympathetic, then got bored with it. Until it was his turn. At that point, he shared the horror that Shep had felt, probably to a greater extent. Turns out that Smitty is a heaver. From the moment he began until the moment I could get him back in bed, there was about three hours of sad sad sad heaving in about ten minute cycles. Poor kid. I ended up sitting with him on the couch, holding his head to my chest with one hand, with my other hand on a plastic bowl, singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a loop because if I tried to stop he made the sign language symbol for “more” frantically. This lasted, as I mentioned, for around three hours. At one point I reminded myself that what was happening was actually one of the more delicious times a mother can have with her child. Not the vomiting part, but having her baby (ok, toddler) snuggled up on her like a little ball, with his hands wandering up and down her arm. The weight of a sleeping baby is exactly Heaven on a mother’s body. It feels warm and just perfectly heavy enough. I decided I could sit here with Smitty for hours and be happy. Even if it was occasionally broken up with the violent heaving.
I did begin to despair because there was nothing I could do to help him. I wanted to keep him upright, hoping that would be a small assist. I wanted him to be comfortable so we cuddled under the weight of our coziest blanket. I wanted him to know I wasn’t leaving so I kept singing, even after his breath slowed down to a rhythm that suggested he was asleep. But that’s all I could do. Smitty couldn’t keep down even a drop of water so when he begged for water I had to distract him. Not that easy at 2:30 in the morning.
When I finally got him to bed, I collapsed in my bed and then realized that I was next. I was going down. There was no doubt that it was my turn and I spent the next three hours going from my bed to the bathroom with my own horrible episode of this illness. When the sun came up and Anson woke up I told him about the night, that I was sick as well, and then Roan tore out of his room, racing to the bathroom…and…well you can probably guess the rest.
He was in rough shape.
For those of you keeping track, that is four out of five Nelson Calls taken out by a stomach bug in less than twenty-four hours. Ridiculous. Anson was the last man standing and had the weight of many sick and needy people on his shoulders for that day. I disappeared downstairs for a good chunk of the day, just hoping that all was well. A few times I would resurface and do what I could, but honestly, I just wasn’t able to do much. Roan and I cuddled together in his bed for a while and I slept while he texted with his cousins in Utah. When I finally was able to get my feet under me I bathed the twins and put them down to bed. When I came back upstairs to recap the day with Anson, I knew there was trouble. Roan was asleep on the couch and Anson was just staring at the ceiling, clutching his stomach and looked the color of grey that isn’t pretty.
I grabbed Roan, locked the front door, shut the house down and wished Anson good luck with the next twelve hours. We all knew what was coming. That is the earliest the house has ever closed down for the day. Roan and I went to bed at 8:00. Anson was up all night, throwing up all night.
The miracle we all needed happened – everyone slept in. By our house standards that means anything past 7:00 AM. Nobody woke up before 8:00. I felt well enough to take on the sick kiddo-s, and told Anson to stay in bed. Other than a night-time relapse by Smitty, we were all on the mend by nightfall that evening.
As Anson and I finished tucking all the boys into their beds and headed upstairs a weird almost euphoric feeling hit me. We talked about the past 48 hours like a war, one we had come back from as victors. It was overwhelmingly strong, this feeling that we had gotten through something together. I realized I had been on constant alert, trying to figure out who needed me the most, without a break for the last two days. And that we were all ok, almost back to normal, was such a giant relief, it felt like a gift.
Having a sick child, or having sick children, is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. This episode was trivial, I know. No one was ever really in danger, we all knew it would pass. But the vulnerability of being so invested, so tightly wound up with a person’s well-being is brought to light when that person is suffering. But it also shines a light on how a partner eases the burden. It made me so grateful that I am with a person who is equally invested, who is ready to dig in as deep as possible to keep them safe and well.
Being sick as a family, going down one-by-one like dominoes? Not the family vacation I would have planned. But Roan remembering his mama sleeping next to him while we got well, Smitty and Shep possibly being able to recall the comfort they found being close to their Dad and Mom when they needed us, and me always remembering how my husband shines at the times I need him to? These are the bricks of our family, our home.
Maybe you are a dude, a dad. Or possibly a lady wondering if this mothering thing is up your alley. Perhaps you are a mother, trying to figure out if your normal is actually normal, or if you should start pretending a little harder. I’m writing for you, all of you. But be warned: I’m on day eight of an eleven day stretch of single-parenting this ship. Not only that, but two yes two of my three man-children are down with fevers. I’m Xena Warrior Princessing this family currently and am under a little distress.
What better time to break down what it is to be a mother? The stuff you don’t know. Start here:
- Mothers are kind of mean. Mostly to ourselves.
Not including those jealous meanies in the playground who suck their teeth at how we encourage our little ones to successfully climb up the slide because really we are much too smart to even think we can win that battle of “stairs only” when obviously the slide is meant to be climbed, not including those meanies – we beat ourselves up in the most cutting of ways.
I’ve yet to meet a mother who does not mentally inventory her failures at the end of the day. We all process them differently. Sometimes it shows up as frustration towards the child, sometimes it comes out as anger towards a spouse, and sometimes it just manifests with a huffy breath and backwards fall onto a couch. But we all feel the potency of each disagreement, each mishandled and overreacted bump with our children x1000 at the end of the day. I usually am able to desperately reach for a few wins – maybe I made Smitty laugh more than usual, or maybe Sheppy shared with a stranger. Maybe Roan offered up a sliver of his day that was important to him. Those are wins. I try to bump out all the rain of messy things with those. But as a mother, we hold the responsibility of all wrong things on our shoulders. We teeter between feeling absolutely overwhelmed and wondering if we’re not quite grateful enough for what we have.
This is why we need time alone. Holding the weight of two or three or four or five people’s bad experiences on our shoulders gets heavy. And yeh, we signed up for this. And no, there’s not a lot you can do to help. Just recognize it, appreciate it, and give us a massage gift certificate. That’ll do.
- Mothers are ready to fix it.
Once a child is introduced into a persons life, the world becomes crazy large. Nothing is actually about the mom anymore. Sounds really gross and scary but it’s actually beautiful. A primal switch is flipped, and the center of the universe is no longer the same. Relationships are redefined and love becomes a huge tangible thing, and not an abstract weird smokey ghost.
Part of our power comes from knowing that we have this magical reserve. For instance, I do know that even if I am tired (I am), even if I am grumpy (I am), even if I’ve not had a break from my kids in eight days (I haven’t), I would be happy to have the chance to help anyone I love. And guess what? Mothers love a lot of people.
Ok, even I think I’m getting a little glittery here – what with the love and magic and whatever. And it’s not all sunshine and flower garlands. But the truth is I think my ability to actually love changed once I became a mom. It probably has something to do with that whole “I’m not the center of my world” thing. Getting out of the middle puts me in orbit with everyone else. It’s easier to connect there. There are an infinite amount of ways to get into that orbit, probably. But for me it took the massive change of having a child.
- Moms can smell their children’s fevers.
I’m not actually sure about this one. But I think it’s true for me. There’s probably a smart-guy science-y explanation for this but I can actually smell a change in my children before they get sick. Or right when they do. Pretty cool party trick, right? With Roan, I can actually feel it in his hands – when I hold his hand it feels different, and then BLAMM-O! Two hours later a fever breaks onto the scene.
You don’t have to believe me but it’s true.
And lest I make all the people who are not mothers mad by this post on magical motherhood, let me say that I think the mothering kind of love comes from a certain place in our heart. It’s quite close to the place where we love our animals, and almost shares a chamber with the place where we love the rest of our family. It also harbors a mean and malicious protective sniper that sometimes makes us behave in pretty crazy ways. All of us. Sometimes. And I’m sorry for that. On behalf of mothers everywhere, I’m sorry for when we believe you want to see another picture, watch another video, or hear another story about our precious. I’m also sorry for when we feel entitled to expect you to put our children’s needs/wants/desires in a place of special importance when actually, they are not your priority.
Mothers can be overbearing beasts, it’s true.
And while having a child can sometimes put things in perspective, if you’re a big jerk before you have a kid chances are you’ll be a big jerk after you have a kid right? But I have seen people change into who they really probably were their whole lives – just through the magic of becoming a mother.
Ok ok ok – or becoming a father. Everything I wrote is for you too, ok?
- Mothers really want everyone to be happy.
Anson has gone to sunny posh LA for work and I’m here in NYC with the rain/snow and the wind. I’m feeling a bit slighted in the shakedown of roles we play right now. Anyway, it pretty much sucks while he’s gone, because he’s sort of the good time in this house. Make no mistake, everything would burn to ash and scatter into the wind if I left for ten days. But without the good-time dude here, there are definitely less smiles. Also more post-kids-gone-to-bed Gossip Girl viewings but let’s not admit too much, huh? So I present you with a clip from his last day in town: a morning where clothing was optional, coffee was flowing, an Aerobed was the toy-du-jour, and the Smitty + Shep show was on full blast. (Never you mind about the messy house. Just ignore that part.) Clearly, Dora the Explorer is on heavy rotation here, as well as Scooby Doo, and Batman punctuates damn near everything.
“Sheppard Call, no no no!”
Imagine this in a sing-song mockery of a mother’s voice, from the mouth of a two-year-old boy, who happens to be Sheppard Call’s twin brother. I die laughing maybe twelve-hundred times every day because the things that are mirrored back to me by my newly and awesomely communicative baby boys are exactly too much to bear.
They’re not actually babies anymore. I know. Toddlers in full bloom is what they appear to be. And as it turns out, I’m a person who enjoys a fully adaptable toddler. Smith Nelson Call and Sheppard Nelson Call turn two years old today. Let’s face it – I’ve had my arse handed to me more times than I’d like to admit by this circus act I call my sons, but I love being their mom. I was built for this. I have never ever been so enraptured by anything in my life as I am by the science of raising three boys.
Science, you say?
There are logic theorems and flow-charts growing in my head at lightening speed. Recently I found myself in an open park with two exits. Exits which emptied on to busy streets. Smitty and Shep in a predictably synchronized fashion each started running towards opposite ends of the park. Towards the streets. I’d say roughly thirteen scenarios flashed through my head in 1/2 of a second, most of them ending with blood and tears. Taking time to profane in ways that would make my mother cry, I ran towards Sheppard who was a little closer to me, and roughly shoved him to the ground. I theorized that if I pushed him down it would hurt his feelings enough to delaminate him enough into a puddle of tantruming tears. That kind of tantrum stays put, though. Then I ran as fast as I could to Smitty, who was out of the park and about four seconds away from the street.
Obviously, a better scientist would not have put herself in that situation, instead opting to have her kids in a safe spot with a closed-in perimeter.
Aye. I’m a scientist in training.
But I learned and also commended myself for figuring it out on the fly, in the moment, and without injury. (Shepz is a pushover and immediately forgave me when I produced some goldfish crackers and an assault of hugs and kisses. Works every time.)
What does this all have to do with their second birthday? I don’t know. I suppose I’m proud of myself for helping them survive this long, against crazy odds. I’m gonzo crazy in love for these two boys who balance each other out in the most perfect of ways. Smith has taken to kissing me whenever Shep does something naughty. Sheppard has taken to using all of the magic words I’ve taught him at once, employing “Please thank you sorry JUICE?!” as a means to get what he wants. They count together as we read books, Smith saying, “One….” and Sheppard finishing, “Two….”. They adore each other and drive each other bananas. They play together beautifully and crack each other up.
And though I’m prone to putting myself and those I love in dodgy situations, I do believe that I’m at a time where raising these guys is easier rather than harder. They love to color together and push cars around on each other bodies. They take turns trying to win over big brother Roan’s attention and affection. They work together to tackle Dad. And they still will pretend they are baby enough to nuzzle into my body when I bring them in for a way-too-tight cuddle. They are a set, they are a unit. Absolutely individual and with their own set of likes and dislikes. But these two have each other more than most people have anyone.
I love that for them.
Happy birthday to my sweet little Sheppy and Smith. I love you boys one gazillion times more than is possible.
I mean, what are the chances, me just hanging out at the park, and then running into Johnny Depp who then takes an immediate interest in me, shares a few of his toys, and based on almost no conversation at all pretty much implies that I’m his best friend now? Chilling. I’m also pretty sure that based on his reaction to me, I am now his emergency contact for when things get heavy.
This is the only way I can illustrate Smitty’s reaction to a child he saw at the park, dressed head-to-toe in a Batman costume, complete with a mask and obviously, “A KEEEEEP!!” (that would be “cape” to those of you who don’t speak Smitty). Smith spotted him in the swings, being pushed by his Grandfather (or was it Alfred?) right when we entered the park. Smith screamed. He screamed in the same way my head would explode if I saw Johnny Depp swinging in the toddler swings 10 feet away. “Mat-man!” And then again and again, with no subtlety or nuance, pointing to Batman himself who was much shorter in real life than he appears on-screen.
I asked if he wanted to go swing next to him and Smith answered “NO?” because that’s his go-to for when things are exciting. So I placed him on a big statue of an elephant, facing swinging Batman, so he could just stare at him and point. The 3-year-old Batman was eating up the attention, smiling and laughing for Smith. He had his hands in flying position, and would wave at his newest fan about every 20 seconds. Each time he waved, Smitty screamed “Mat-man!” and then in case I wasn’t paying attention, “MaMA!! MAT-MAN!”
Yes. I see. It’s Batman.
So Smith finally got the nerve to go swing next to his hero, whose cape was catching the wind just so perfectly it almost looked like a CGI special effect. Smith sat next to Batman, sideways in his seat and kept saying “Hi.” Eventually Batman grew tired of his swinging time, and went to go play with some filthy awful park toys that give me cause to shudder each time my boys play with them. I look away when they lick them because I just can’t with that. Obviously if you’re Batman these things don’t scare you. But he kept looking for Smith, who had eyes locked on him and would always give a salute, or a flying mime for my boy.
Eventually Batman had to go home for a bath, dinner, story and bed. But recognizing the depth of his power, Batman walked up to Smith and gave him a hug goodbye. This pretty much freaked Smitty out because even though it’s Batman, dude. Personal space. Still, the story was told for days after by Smitty, and went something like “Mat-man swing!” or “Mat-man park!” or “Mat-man Keeeeeeeeep!” It’s Smitty’s first star-sighting and his mother can certainly commiserate on the the exciting nature of these things. No one loves a good brush with celebrity more than me. I recognize Smithy’s enthusiasm for it, and am just glad that he met child-Batman and not dark tortured crime-fighting Batman. I also believe I have a thing or two to learn from my boy. Instead of just playing it cool and hoping the hamsters running around in my brain don’t howl too loud when in the presence of great celebrity-ness, I can apparently just go ahead and stare, point, stalk, follow and say “Hi!” approximately infinity times to them, with stellar results.
Every night, Roan sticks his bottom lip out and makes a very sad face before Smitty kisses him goodnight. “Roro is sad. Roro needs a kiss” he says, and Smith, large with the power to grant happiness to his older brother always rushes over and plants a giant smackeroo on Roan’s sad face. He doubles-down with a hug and caps it with his version of “I love you”. (Roughly: “I-yu-yo”). This has become so much a routine that Smitty will not kiss him goodnight until Roan pretends he’s sad. If Roan just asks for a kiss, Smith replies with “Sad? Sad. SAD? SAD!!”
He wants to make things better.
Sheppard on the other hand, has created what I can only describe as baby swear words. They are not imitations of his father or me swearing (because obviously we never swear.) Nope – my Shepz has found some sounds that go together and roll off the tongue that express extreme frustration, anger and sometimes sadness. Sheppard’s swears are not random either. They are consistently used and eloquently placed in his sentences. To wit: “Mama? Mom? MOM! Sheppy snack? Nack? NACK! NACK!” And then….”BALLA-BALLA-BALLA-BALLA NACK!”
Or if Smith takes a toy? “BALLA-BALLA-BALLA-TOY. S-s-s-s-s-mith balla-balla-balla-toy. SAD!”
(I suppose I should be writing BA$#A-BA$#A-BA$#A so the swears aren’t spelled out so graphically but we’re all adults here are we not?)
But these two creatures are also learning the super important and impossible lessons of sharing etiquette. Toddlers hate to share. Hell, I’d say it’s safe to say that most adults hate to share. But Sheppy and Smith are getting it down at lightning speed with only a few minor tweaks needed at this point. To illuminate some nature vs. nurture stuff, some kids are just built to share. Smith is one of those kids. He can have a toy and 8 out of 10 times if Sheppy wants it, he’ll give it up and move on to the next. This is great news for me because Sheppy is built in a way where he wants pretty much everything that Smith has his hands on. So we’ve tried to implement a process where Shep doesn’t turn into a bulldozer grabbing machine. He has to ask, using the words “trade” or “share”, and he has to either sign the word “please” or say it. After he (always) gets what he wants, he has to say “thank you”. And it’s pretty smooth for the most part. Except that Sheppy in his brilliant boy mind has been able to bend a few rules so that he will at times bypass the sharing and trading step, grab a toy, run away with it yelling “thank you” over his shoulder.
Balla-balla-balla toy thief.
They are best friends though, and that is without a doubt. When it is time for bed, they run to their cribs. I am being totally literal here. They run. We put them in and sing a quick song, get an “I-yu-yo” from each of them and make an exit. There are no tears. There are not pleadings for us to stay. There is only the sound of bouncing springs and the mimicking of each other’s speech. There is always laughter and when it finally stops, there are two boys splayed out on top of blankets with sweaty necks. I check on them before I go to sleep and cannot believe my stupid dumb luck that I actually get to have these two ridiculous love bombs in my life. Sheppard and Smith could not be more different from each other, but they also just could not be more perfect for each other. I am one lucky balla-balla-balla mother.