Friday, June 29, 2012

In tuned

Sean saw a bird's nest outside the other day.  It was on the ground and we were examining it.

Sean: Why is the nest on the ground?

me: I think it fell out the tree?

Sean: How does the nest stay in the tree, Mama?

me: They are very good builders, and when they build with their sticks, they make sure to position the nest in the branches so it won't fall.  Exept for this nest... which fell...

Sean: The birds should have used tape on their nests.

me: Ehhh... (laughing)...that's a good idea.  Maybe they could find some tape somewhere...

Sean: Can we call all the birds, and tell them that there nest is here and that they can put it back in the tree?  Be all warm and cozy inside their nest?

He was so pleased with his idea; his face was aglow thinking about it.  I love how in-tuned Sean is with his creativity and ideas.  A simple joy of childhood, no doubt, is the lack of censor on his ideas.  Whatever comes into his mind he allows to play out using his creativity and imagination.

I've encouraged him to be equally tuned into his need to go potty.  So much so that the other day at the park I applauded him for letting me know that he had to go potty.  However, once inside the port-a-potty, I was overcome by the disgusting state the potty was in.  The pile of excrement floating just below the potty's hole was too close for comfort, and though Sean is now standing to pee (which he delightfully tells most anyone who will listen) I still felt like germs were just crawling out of that hole waiting to get us.  I was balancing Audrey on my left hip, and lifting Sean on the right - all precariously balanced over the pile of shit that was waiting to eat my sunglasses if they inched too far down my head.  After we finished the business in the port-a-potty, Sean told me 5 minutes later that he needed to poop.  I told him that meant we were headed home from the park so he could poop at home.  Upon returning home 10 minutes later I asked Sean to use the potty before going back outside to play.

Sean: (whining) I don't need to use the potty!

me: The whole reason we came home was because you said you had to poop!  Please go sit on the potty and try to go. Then we can go back outside.

Sean:  (more whining) No, Mama!  I don't need to use the potty!

me: Sean, please just sit and give it a try.

Sean:  Nooooo!  The poop went away!

Interesting.  The poop went away.  To where, one might ask?  I have no idea.  Then moments later I  heard Sean running into the bathroom.

Sean:  The poop came back!

Very in tuned with his bowels obviously.

Audrey has recently mastered the word "no" and she's using it at appropriate times.  We realize that our window is short as to how long we'll find this endearing, but for now, it always brings a smile on our faces when she comes out with "nnnnooo" in a high-pitched, Audrey-voice.  She's becoming in-tuned with her sense of "no."

She got in trouble today at the grocery store for biting Sean on the shoulder (some might hint that she's becoming in-tuned with her mother's childhood way of dealing with conflict, but I will refrain from writing about that here.  No need to incriminate myself.)  Either because she's teething or she just finds it to be funny (or both), Audrey has been finding things to bite: clothes, dolls, toys, my arm, and then Sean's shoulder.  Seated next to each other in the play-car attached to the front of the grocery cart, both kids were playfully pushing and shoving back and forth.  (Side note: when to step in as a parent and tell them that this rough-housing could become hurtful, and when to just back off and let it become hurtful and deal with the consequences?  Most of the time I try to back off and let the chips fall as they may, but then I deal with crying children, bite marks, bumped heads, etc.  Such is life.)  When Audrey bit Sean's shoulder, he began crying, and I knew that I needed to reprimand Audrey- if not for her understanding then for Sean's comfort. 

me: Audrey, NO.  No biting!

Audrey: (as if understanding the word, but not context, she intently responds) Nnnnnooo.

Sean is still crying as if Audrey removed his shoulder from the socket.

me: Audrey, you now lose the privilege of being in the car. (I have become my mother using these words.)  Now you have to come ride up by me.  No biting!

Audrey: (earnestly) Nnnnoooo. 

After each of these repeated "no's" Audrey smiles.  She's proud of her word recognition.  She's proud of getting to use her word loudly.  She has no idea that she's done something wrong.  Sean, on the other hand, is checking himself into the hospital in his mind, gripping the toy-car steering wheel for dear life, mouth wide open in pain and agony, screaming at the top of his lungs.  He's in tuned with his own suffering.

Something that I struggled with while working full time was feeling completely out of sync with Sean.  I worked inconsistent hours during the days, nights and weekends, and I felt like I didn't have a good rhythm with my own child.  It was heartbreaking.  In turn what I have found so beautiful about this time at home with our kids is to feel in tuned with their everyday.  I have a sense of what time things happen: naps, lunch, snacks.  I know what they like and dislike, and I try to push the envelope for them on new experiences (aka their dislikes).  I have become so in-tuned that I can proudly say I predicted Audrey's poop before it came out the other night.  Perhaps not the common accomplishment to tout, but it's mine all the same.  The kids were in the bathtub, and Audrey started bearing down.  I lifted her out of the tub and plopped her down on the toilet seat.  Her small baby body was nearly enveloped by the seat, and she shivered going from the warm bath to the cold toilet.  She didn't look scared, though, and instead a moment later I heard a plop in the water below.  Sean, Audrey and I had a little celebration that Audrey "pooped on the potty!" 

As a parent I search for the moments (be they banal or extraordinary) where I feel perfectly in-tuned with my kids.  The enjoyment I get out of knowing the context of Sean's statements ("oh, he's talking about going down the slide today at Greta's house" or "we visited Charlotte today and got to see her new baby brother"), or recognizing Audrey's attempts at baby sign is indescribable.  I have taught Audrey the sign for "train" because each time we hear a train in the distance, Sean gets excited and therefore so does Audrey.  She's become so in-tuned with the sign for train that while driving into our garage the other day Audrey woke briefly from a nap long enough to hear the train whistle, do the sign, and fall back asleep.  Precious.

My Aunt Jeanne is currently walking through the stages of dying.  As my mom mentioned the other day, Jeanne's always been in-tuned with her spirituality in such a way that she's almost clairvoyant.  One of the biggest gifts Jeanne's given to me and our whole extended family is being ever-present in our lives.  Hence the heartbreak we are all feeling knowing that we have to say goodbye to this woman we love so dearly.  Her gift of presence has meant that she's been in-tuned with what's going on with me even when I've lived away from St. Louis for the past 13 years.  She's made trips to Dallas, Chicago, and South Bend, just to be a part of the occasions and life events that have meant the most to me.  Her perseverance in staying present in my life is admirable, palpable and I will miss it more than words can say.  Yet the gift, the pain and the gift, is that she is teaching me what's most important in this life.  She is teaching me, even now, that presence is all we have.  Each day and every breath is truly the only thing we know.  All of my anxiety about what will happen in the future is really self-inflicted, because all I really have is this moment and this breath.

Which is why I can say my most precious moments with my kids are like the one I had the other night. They were both sitting in the bath, quietly playing with some bath toys.  They weren't looking at each other or talking, they were intensely focused on their toy.  Each was shooting water out of the toy back into the bath.  There was nothing more profound in that moment than the fact that I felt confident I knew what was going through their minds: quite simply, they were thinking of nothing else than that bath toy or the warmth of the water, or the presence of the three of us nestled on the floor of a 60s-style decorated bathroom.  We were breathing in and out, being present to the moment.  It felt in-tuned and quiet and peaceful.