It’s unbelievable that we’re here already – Sheppard and Smith are eighteen months old. When I brought them home from the hospital, I remember wondering if I was up for this challenge. I knew I could do it: I could keep them alive, I could care for them. But could I do it well? Would we all figure out how to make this family adapt? I was intimidated and a little sad about losing the ease with which my life had been cruising. Anson commented immediately that he already couldn’t imagine the family without them and truthfully, I couldn’t agree at all. I could imagine the family without them because the family had been amazing without them and what if? What if it would never be that amazing again?
But, as children do, they each cast a spell on me. A spell that lets me see how our family is different now, and lets me enjoy that difference. Obviously, I wouldn’t go back. Even in the hardest times, I do not yearn for the ease of “before”. Because the overwhelming needs of my sons, my three sons, gives me a super sense of accomplishment, and if that’s pathetic so be it. But I do feel like I’ve accomplished great things if I even come close to meeting their needs. And at the end of the day, when I lock the door and catalog another day where everyone is healthy and safe, I feel lucky again that we took this chance and it rolled out this way.
Sheppard is an amazing climber. At this point, he has trained me to not jump and rescue him from the predicaments he has placed himself in. Instead, he likes to test them, to see if he can get out of them. Usually he can. He cautiously climbs everything, then squats, rises, places his hands in the air, and states in a lowish-baby voice, “Ta-da.”
Smith is also an amazing climber. At this point, he has trained me to wait for him as well, as he teeters on the inevitable edge of falling and triumph. A boisterous appreciation for applause and attention motivates his declaration of “Ta-da” to be said with at least 4 or 5 exclamation points. He shouts it in a mid-range somewhat nasally voice, which commands the attention of everyone in the room. The inevitable applause always inspires him to shout “Ta-da!!!!!” as many more times as the applause is forthcoming.
The boys are also very affectionate. They kiss each other often, open mouthed with a sound effect of “mmmmuah!” They obviously know it’s cute because they always look around to see who caught it. If there are smiles and squees of delight, they will repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
Roan is their favorite for playtime. Sheppard is the one to call him, with an extended, “Roooooooo” followed by a very short “Ro!” For some reason, Smitty insists on calling him “Da-da”. Roan is the one who can coax a kiss from either boy, he is the one they love to roll around with on the floor. Roan is the one who has figured out systems to make them stop crying, and he is the one who makes my heart ooze with motherly goo when he sits them on his lap and reads to them. Shepz + Smitty are ravenous readers, each with their own favorite book. Sheppy digs Goodnight Moon, and Smitty digs…everything else.
At eighteen months, I declare this my favorite age. But I also know that I declare that at every new developmental jump. The more I get to know who these guys are, the more I fall for them. I had no idea how much I needed them in my life. And I did. And I do. I love their challenges, and I love their rewards. When they try a new food and like it, I love it. When they go down for naps but decide to chit-chat for 1/2 hour instead, I love it. When they need me to just hold them, I love it. And when I see that they trust this world and the people in it, I couldn’t be more proud. Smitty says “Hi!” to each person he passes on the sidewalk. Every single one. And every single person, even the surly teenagers, stop and smile at him, and say hello back. Sheppard has declared his love for Kara, who loves him back. He holds on to her, rests his head on her shoulder, and resists being handed off, even to me. This tells me he has found safety in this world – it tells me I’m doing my job well. (It also tells me that offering Sheppard many tasty snacks is a pretty reliable way to his heart.)
At eighteen months, I am calm. I trust that my boys will sleep, that they will eat, and that they will play. I trust that Roan is a happier boy in this world, and that he loves sharing his world with his brothers. At eighteen months, I absolutely can not imagine this family without Sheppard and Smith. This family is loud and happy and messy and noisy. But we are a family, unimaginable in any other configuration.