Lately I feel acutely aware of time. Perhaps it's the pandemic and how we have a sense of hitting the pause button on life or at least "normal" life. It's also having a baby and perhaps especially having a baby along the same seasonal timeline as our first baby. As winter warms into spring I feel an aching nostalgia for the spring Dashiell was born while simultaneously experiencing the joy of having a baby all over again – and a baby that looks so similar to my first baby! The deja vu-nostalgia will catch me as we walk through the same park where I walked with Dash or if the golden afternoon light comes through the trees just so. I sometimes feel as though I am reaching back through time to walk with myself of seven years ago. I'm not sure that I feel seven years older although I have accumulated seven (almost eight) more years of life experience and hopefully a bit more wisdom.
This is what I want to remember from right now:
Maeve, our rainbow girl*, takes two naps a day; she goes down around 9 or 9:30 a.m. and, depending on her first nap, between 1 or 2 p.m. To put Maeve down for a nap we zip her up in her soft sleep sack and then do a little pre-nap routine that Chris created and I often follow: I walk Maeve into our bathroom, point out two postcards on my mirror, and read them aloud, "You are magic," I say to her. And, "High five." Next I show her a Valentine that Dash made for us at school, a dog holding a big heart. Maeve wants to hold it and then give it back to me. Then we turn around and look at my calendar and I tell her the date, "Today is Saturday, February 20th." As we walk out of the bathroom I start to hum a little song that I made up when Dash was a baby. It only has two lines of lyrics and now I use Maeve's name instead of Dashiell's or Cedric's, "All of the animals have already gone to bed / And now it's time for Maeve to lay down her little head"
Next we stop by the instruments Chris made that hang on our bedroom wall. I strum the strings of one of them and Maeve wants to reach out to touch them. From there we walk into the hallway and stop by a painting of Dash and Cedric made by my mother-in-law. I point out Dash and Cedric and she reaches out her little hand, sometimes touching the painting. I say "Goodnight, bye bye," and sometimes she will wave her noodle-wrist wave at them. I continue humming as we walk into her room, dark and filled with the soft woosh of the white noise machine. She lays her head down on my shoulder as we sway in the darkness. I sing her the ABCs or Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. My lullaby repertoire is quite short. When I set her down in her crib she stays sitting and to fall asleep sucks on her hand and moans, "ya, ya, ya", her little pre-sleep habit.
During the day when Maeve is awake we carry her around on our hip as she observes what we're doing. We remark how funny it is that she glides through her day sideways. On the ground Maeve confidently crawls around, slap! slap! slap! on the tile, and then sits back to explore something she's found. She loves cords and will spend several minutes with an unplugged cord (never one that is plugged in). Maeve loves to take Zoom meetings with Chris. If he is on a meeting inside and she hears him she takes off crawling as fast as she can to get to him. If I swoop in behind her and interrupt her journey she is very upset. Whenever Chris can he'll have her sit for a few minutes on a meeting and she beams.
We are amazed at how much Maeve communicates despite not talking. We know her pleading sound for when she wants to bite of whatever you are eating and her worried sound when she sees or hears something loud like the vacuum or stand mixer. To nurse she makes a demanding sound, "Eh!" and slaps at my chest. Very clear if not very polite. If she wants you to pick her up she crawls over and swipes at your foot and says, "Ah!" or recently she head-butted Chris's leg! I can't believe that Maeve is almost a year old. I'm savoring these baby days as I know they won't last. Babies don't keep, as they say.
Cedric, our sunshine boy, seems so big and still so little. As my middle child maybe he will until he's too big to be considered little at all. My baby boy with the plumpest cheeks is now long and lean. Tiny freckles are scattered across his nose. He is naturally so funny and makes me laugh every day. He loves to do silly dances to make Maeve laugh, asks to hold Maeve, and wants to kiss Maeve to say goodbye. Since starting back at school his curiosity has been ignited. He loves listening to Magic Tree House books and after listening to one with Ben Franklin he asked Chris to write down a note, "Learn about Ben Franklin!" And so I bought him the Who Was Ben Franklin? book. He asked to read it every day and came up with a list of topics that he would learn about next including seals and space. Currently we're reading the Who Was Harriet Tubman? book and next will be Who Was Thomas Jefferson? Another passion of Cedric's is basketball. Since Dash started soccer in kindergarten, Cedric has said he wants to play basketball. His kindergarten year was when he would have played on a team for the first time. In the past two weeks he has become obsessed with shooting hoops and wants to do it every day. After school I bring a basketball for him and he spends an hour shooting baskets at the park. I am so impressed at his patience and focus. I also want to remember that Cedric loves to take baths, especially with bubble bombs with little toys hidden inside.
Cedric loves to be tickled and to play "pillow time" which is where he stands on our bed we throw pillows at each other. He loves to connect in physical ways and I try to remember that even when I am tired and just want to do something quiet and calm. Recently he has been more cuddly. He gives me a big hug, unprompted, when I pick him up among the kindergarteners. He says, "I love you," more often. For years we've played a game with both boys but Cedric is the one who loves it the most. Out of the blue we say, "Cedric do you know what?" And then it's a race to see who can remember the game and say, "I love you!" first. He is so fun to talk to and comes up with such creative things. The other morning at breakfast he asked, "If our school was turned on its side it would probably reach a mile up into the sky." And then he returned to his toast.
I want to remember that Dashiell, our radiant boy, often sleeps in a box in his room. We had a big box from a chair that we put in the studio and Dash brought the box into his room where he used it as a fort. So in love with his cozy space, he put a pillow in there and decided to sleep in the box. It should be noted that our boys usually prefer to sleep in their birthday suits and so when I went to tuck Dash in one night I found him crawling into his box with nothing on. He laid directly on the cardboard and pulled a blanket over him. Laughing I said, "Don't you at least want to put something soft on the ground?" A look of happy revelation crossed his face as he said, "Oh! Yeah, I guess that would be nice." So we put a blanket down on the cardboard ground and he slept on that marginally softer surface. He likes for the box to face his bedside table and lamp such that from the doorway of his room all we can see is a big box and Dash's empty bed. I laugh softly to myself every time I see that scene. He has since migrated back to his bed occasionally but often still crawls into his box to go to sleep.
Dashiell is so passionate about whatever it is he is into. He reminds me of Chris in that way. In chronological order his passions since kindergarten have been: soccer, How To Train Your Dragon, tether ball, Harry Potter, and beyblades. Since starting back at school I haven't heard him talk about beyblades as much so I'm not sure if that love is fading but it might just be that he's so busy and absorbed with school. He does still love playing soccer and is eager to play on his old team again. Dash loves being with friends and although he can be competitive I see that competition coming from his passion and not from wanting to best someone else. Recently I was watching our boys play with neighborhood kids. There was a bit of an us-versus-them vibe emerging in which one group of kids was trying to get away from the other. And then I heard Dash announce, "Hey, I think maybe we're being kind of mean. Let's be nice. Let's be the Nice and Fun Club. Who's with me?" And then my heart swelled until my chest could not contain it.
Dash has big emotions and strong opinions. Chris and I are learning how to honor those and to "walk alongside him" in his emotions. The book Parenting Without Power Struggles has been the best resource and most aligned with our parenting style. Part of Dash's big emotions is showing his love. Especially at the end of the day when he's tucked in bed (or his box) he loves to snuggle and profess his love, "I love you so much and you are the best mama there ever was." Dashiell will also come to us and apologize if he lost his temper and that feels like a big emotional intelligence win. Dashiell is also incredibly sweet and doting with Maeve. I am continually amazed at how delighted he is to play with her. One day I watched Dash crawl behind Maeve as they emerged from the hallway, both laughing in delight – he had started playing follow the leader with her. Seeing that I realized they were two kids playing together instead of Dash seeing Maeve as a baby he could not relate to. No matter their age, kids know how to play together! If Maeve is crawling around while Dash is sitting on the couch he'll get down to pick her up and bring her to sit with him. Recently Maeve had a small toy piece in her mouth and although she was never choking on it the incident really worried Dash. Now he is very attentive if she is ever coughing or is near anything that could remotely be a choking hazard.
Now that Dash is almost eight we have real conversations and I sit in awe thinking about how I was just holding him as a little baby and now here he is with his own thoughts. Recently I had so much fun taking him out for a date. We got take out pizza that we ate in the car (parked, both sitting in the front seat) and then getting frozen yogurt. Dash has a sweet tooth to rival Chris's (which is saying something) and he was over the moon to put all the toppings that he wanted on his yogurt, including a giant gummy butterfly.
Recently, Chris said, "You know, we're nearly half-way through the time that Dash is going to live at home with us." And then we both felt the weight of that as well as the strange concept of time. The days are long but the years are short: yes, yes, yes. As a parent I try not to feel too sad about our children growing up. It was inevitable from the start after all. We have made the most of every year, we have cherished them at every stage, and we are only more marveled at getting to raise these humans with each passing year.
*Although I call Maeve our rainbow girl I want to share that she is not a rainbow baby, a baby born after a miscarriage.