This past weekend, I made homemade pizza dough. Once mixed together, I set the bowl outside in the warm air to rise. Tom was out in the backyard, mowing the lawn with Audrey in the backpack watching him closely. I was in the kitchen making dinner, and Sean the Cito was running around the backyard "mowing" the lawn with his pint-sized lawn mower. Once tired of this activity, he walked up onto the deck and saw the pizza dough rising in the bowl. He decided to open the plastic wrap, get a closer look, and stick his hands in. Then he scooped some out. Having figured out that this was a sticky, sticky mess, he immediately began scraping it on anything he could find: the deck, the lawn chairs, the table, under the table, etc. When he exhausted all of these options, he then walked to the side of the house and scraped some dough on the siding. It was only when he realized he couldn't get the dough off by himself that he eventually fessed up. He just wanted a closer look at the dough!
Closeness is a funny thing. There are times when I long for it. I love to snuggle with the kids just after they wake up from sleeping. I like to get close when trying to fit all four of us into a house-made fort in the living room. I love getting close by sleeping in a tent out in the woods as a family. I will never begrudge the closeness of having one of my kids sitting in my lap and reading a book. But there's a closeness that can get too close. For example while I'm trying to type an email to someone.
Sean: Mama, I want to come stand under your arms.
me: Eh... (only half listening, while also trying to type coherent sentences)...not... right... now...
Sean: (beginning to wiggle under my arms) But I just want to see what you're doing.
me: I'm typing an email, and then we'll get ready to go.
Sean: (whining) But I just want to see -
me: Sean, please do not touch the keyboard!
Sean: But Mama! (then looking up under my chin and pressing) Hey - you have a boo boo under your chin.
me: Okay, please leave my face alone.
Sean: Why do you have this boo boo?
me: I think it's probably a zit.
Sean: A zit?
me: Yes, please leave it -
That's too close. Or Sunday when Sean had me take him to the potty in the middle of church because he had to poop. And he likes to explain to me - while he's pooping - exactly what's happening for him.
Sean: I think there are two more turds.
me: Great, thanks.
Sean: I think maybe there's one more turd.
me: Ooookay. Are you finished.
Sean: I think maybe it's stuck.
Our dear Audrey is quite close to many things: she's close to figuring out how to say many words. Often when we're speaking, even if not to her, we'll hear her repeat words that have just been said.
me: Okay, guys, it's time for lunch.
me: All right, let's go inside church.
Or hearing a sound overhead while sitting outside:
Or learning her manners:
Or upon seeing her brother first thing in the morning:
We keep trying to reinforce the 'sh' sound that begins Sean's name, but Audrey seems content to call him "Don." Close enough, right? Whether she gets the first consonant right, the most endearing fact is that she knows his name. She knows it's her brother, and her affection runs deep. Equally as charming is that she refers to herself as "Audee" and Sean has picked up on this nickname too. To the outside observer we have two kids named Don and Audee. Delightful.
Their closeness to each other grows each day, and for the most part, we encourage it. However, the tricky moments come into play around nap time. Being in the same room, they often find comfort in knowing the other one is there. But the downfall is when they find humor in the other one being there. After I've left them to quietly go to sleep, sometimes I'll hear shouting, laughter, and then loud thuds. When I go back into the room, I will find Sean clinging to the side of Audrey's crib, perhaps having just thrown a book or doll into her, and Audrey laughing hysterically. It's difficult in these moments to figure out whether to laugh (which I try not to) or gently (and sometimes not so gently) reprimand.
Sometimes I use their closeness to explain to Sean that he's there to teach Audrey things. Like in the middle of quiet times in church, when Audrey is yelping and Sean is smashing toy cars together loudly.
me: Sean I need you to help Audrey learn to be quiet in church.
Sean: (loud whisper) Okay, Mama. I will do it. I will help Audrey. I will tell her to be quiet. (then to Audrey) Shhhhh, Audrey. Be quiet! Shhhh, Audrey!
Last week I was called away from my workout to come pick up Audrey. She was none too happy by the time I reached the childcare area, and there were kids everywhere. The woman holding her stated that she thought Audrey didn't feel well, which is probably true. She has a summer cold, new teeth breaking through; I'm sure the girl doesn't feel good. Thankfully they have this lovely paging system so that they don't have to announce my name over the loud speaker.
Once in my arms, Audrey calmed down. She just needed the closeness of her mother to get her back on course. This warms my heart. Even though I would have loved to have a longer workout, I don't mind being called away if she's really that upset. I'd hate to have her screaming at the top of her lungs for 2 hours. And when the fix is just some closeness from me, I'm happy to provide.
Then as we got in the car to go home, I began to re-cap what happened with Sean.
me: Audrey had a tough time today, huh?
Sean: Yeah. She did.
me: Did you help her at all? Did you talk to her or play with her?
me: Did you tell her it was going to be okay?
Sean: (after a long pause) I fell on her.
me: You what? Why?
Sean: I fell on her. That's why she was crying.
me: Why did you fall on her?
Sean: I'm not sure.
me: Did the people at the child care talk to you about it?
me: Why did you do that?
Sean: (little hands facing upwards on either side of his torso) I didn't do it many times.
And there you have it. What I initially thought to be Audrey's desire to be close to her mother was not entirely true. Upon closer inspection, she had been injured by her brother: the one person in the room she trusts more than anybody. She expected that because she feels close to this person, she should be safe. And yet, his physical closeness to her in this case actually endangered her creating tears. Life is a paradox.
The doctor was checking my Vitamin D levels today (clearly with my vitamin D deficiency, I am not close enough to the sun), so both kids witnessed me getting blood drawn. This was the closest they've ever been to needles without someone giving them a shot. A good learning experience. After leaving the lab, a very pregnant woman was in front of us walking to the elevator and when she saw Sean
on her heels she backed away from the elevator call button.
(to Sean) Do you want to hit the button? I have a 3.5 year old, and I
know all about the button. If you want to hit it, I won't.
Sean: Yes. I do.
me: What do you say, Seancito?
Sean: Thank you.
He hits the button with fervor.
me: Nice job, buddy.
woman: Are you starting preschool soon? Our son's starting preschool next week.
me: When are you due?
woman: I'm having a C-section a week from Friday.
me: Oh my, very soon! Congratulations!
woman: I don't think I could have made it another two+ weeks, so I'm glad we're having the baby next week.
The elevator arrived, and we all walked in.
me: Is this your second?
woman: It's our third. We have our son, who's 3.5, and then our daughter died when she was 7 months old.
me: Oh - I'm sorry.
She would have been 2 in July. So this baby is our third. And I was
diagnosed with cancer during this pregnancy, so I'm really ready to have
me: Oh no. I'm so sorry to hear that.
The woman spoke with no hint of self-pity. She spoke honestly, directly, and lovingly. She spoke as though close enough to her feelings but not awkwardly or inappropriately sharing with a stranger. Her words brought us closer in just a brief interaction.
woman: Yeah. It's been tough. (smiling and looking at Audrey) How old is this one?
me: Audrey is 16 months.
woman: (placing a hand on her own stomach) This baby would have been
named Audrey if he hadn't been a boy. We're going to have two boys!
me: That's very exciting. And you look beautiful.
woman: Thank you.
With this the elevator doors opened and we all walked out to the lobby.
me: Best of luck with everything ahead.
woman: Thanks. Have a great day. (to Sean) Good luck at school, buddy!
Sean: (waving at the woman, as if she was leaving our house)
Yeah! Thanks! And if I get enough stickers, I get to go on a special
I don't know that Sean understood the exchange that she and I just had, but he seemed to intuit the newly born closeness between us. His waving and saying goodbye carried with it a knowledge of that closeness, and then he felt the urge to share with her his news about his special date. She had no context for this news, and she didn't seem to fully take it in, other than to smile and wave goodbye.
I was struck by the woman's honesty and bravery. I was struck by her courage facing a new pregnancy after so recently having lost a baby. I was struck by her warmth to us as strangers and her ability to create closeness without creating awkwardness.
The other day I was cleaning out our car, and I removed both carseats to vacuum up the cheerios, raisins, bits of dried cheese sticks and crumbled graham crackers. It was disgusting. I had this brief moment where I looked at the clean, empty backseat and felt like I could breathe easier with the space reclaimed. I longed for the days when I could just throw a bunch of stuff back there: no carseats, no kids, no dried chunks of food. I then had this moment of realizing just how much our kids take up our lives and what it will be like to re-gain that empty back seat some day. I am so close to these two human beings right now and I love it. Though there are small trials each day that can send me spinning, I'm also keenly aware that this time is fleeting. They won't always want to snuggle up in my lap with a book. They won't always want to come running to see me when I've been away from the house for a couple hours. So though I may have their carseats filling up my backseat, I have their humanity filling up my life. With all the laughter, challenges, and growth, I am fond of our closeness.