Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sister in a stocking and other adventures of siblinghood

"She's wiggling," Noah used to say during those few sweet moments after I'd handed him the baby, surrounding them both with pillows and stepping back. "I felt her wiggle." Those really were the first observations he had about his baby sister, that mostly she just lay there sleeping and sometimes she moved a little. She was also always drinking milk, which was probably the most interesting thing about her. He asked me one day if one side I fed her from was chocolate milk and the other side just regular.

He wanted to know when she was going back where she came from, when she could talk, when she would play with him, when she would run around. The answers were frustrating: She's staying, she'll talk later, just wait longer, not for awhile. And all in all, in the nearly three year old's head, she was a pretty easy one to ignore.

One glorious night, we maneuvered her entire tiny body into a giant Christmas stocking and handed the whole package to Noah for our 2011 Holiday picture. We saw a sparkle, an "I am loving this" moment that took over him entirely, so that he exhaled the most raw and delighted laughter we'd heard in awhile from him.

That poor baby, who does that to their baby?

But then he had to hand her back and the moment was over and she was just lying there again, not in a stocking, ready to sleep or eat or poop. And he was empty handed and ready to move onto the next game.

She's a year and a half older now. She walks, plays, runs. She had her first real cup of chocolate milk the other day. She says things. And she says "Nooooooooah" most of all (to which he says, "What, Gra? Graaaaaa.... what? what is it?" To which she is silent and then eventually says, "Nooooooah" in a louder voice. And he responds, "What, Gra? I said, 'What' like a thousand times, Gra". And then she says, "Hi." So he says, "Hi, Gra."). He calls her Gra (read: Grey), but when he's mad, she's GRACE. When he's feeling sweet, she's Grace-a, and when he speaks of her in the third person, she's usually Gracie. He doesn't know it, but he's created his own little dictionary of Grace terminology. He doesn't know it, but she is now part of him, infused into his little growing bones, wired into his overactive little brain, showing up in all his thoughts. Wake up (Gra!) - Eat breakfast (Gra!) - Run around (Gra!) - Toys Play Sleep Eat Grow Laugh Cry (Gra Gra Gra!). He can't hand her back now and he never ever would.

She's the first thing he wants when he wakes up in the morning. "Is she up yet? Oh... I'm sure I just heard her, mommy. She's awake. Let me go keep her company before you come get her." When he gets mad at her, which is a normal amount of the time (I think?), it is almost always for good reason (hour long project of setting up a Lego fire station with 10 firemen sleeping on 10 individually created beds in the sleeping quarters? SMASH. 100 piece puzzle, first 100 piece puzzle ever done without help? DEMOLITION. Tiny sandle-footed wrecking ball will go where he goes, add her "touch" to his work). And he gets angry and says, "GRACE. I'll never be your friend again, EVER!" Moments later, he is calm, and she always becomes his friend again. There is no choice here and I think he knows that, but that's not why he goes back to her.

We walk a lot, as she rejects the carriage more and insists on being with him and with me. She steps on to the sidewalk, puts up her hands on each side, and we each grab onto her, as she tightens one hand around one of my fingers and places the other hand into his. He doesn't love it (she does) or resist it. It's just what he does now, what I do, what all of us do when we walk. Linked hand to hand to hand to hand.

We're together all the time, we three, especially these days, now that it's summer break (woohoo!). Days can get long and evenings often bring a sense that things are starting to unravel. This sense turns immediately into reality, as one child (me included in that category) falls to pieces and the other two (me included) follow shortly behind. One falls down, we all fall down.

Monday night was one of these nights, Grace with an oncoming cold, refusing to eat anything at all. Me in one of those exhausted dazes that so often come on at 5:00 at night, the kind of zoned out that has me separating piles of mail into Recycle and Keep and then recycling the Keep and keeping the Recycle... and then not even laughing about it when I realize it.

And at the dinner table, tears that I don't often see from Grace now dissolving into sobs. Desperate for her to feel better, I decide to give her a bath. And then Noah appears in the bathroom with us, also in tears. "I'm sick! I'm sick too, Mama! And I'm hungry and I don't want that food that you gave me!" And me, head in hands, blood boiling hotter, haze breaking into fed-up clarity and "HELLO, FAMILY? WHERE'S MY FAMILY?"  (yes, he says that).


John's home.

Our broken pieces, like silly, singing giddy cartoon characters, immediately dance ourselves back together. Our collapse becomes comical and we embrace our hero (though we think of him only as daddy), the final set of this family's hands wrapped tightly around us.

Grace wiggles out, unbathed and naked, and runs into her brother's room, with him not far behind.

And...what does an upside-down
peace sign mean? Because that's what I'm doing here.
I hope it's nothing bad.