Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20, 2011 ~ Day 192
Oranges and Apple Pie

As I settled into the couch with my laptop to (at last) begin writing today's blog post, my four year old son popped his little head around the corner.

"Mommy -"

"Honey, what are you doing awake? It's almost 10pm! Your daddy put you to bed a long time ago."

"I can't sleep."

He grinned a little mischievously, and held his cup out to me. "I'm thirsty."

"Hmmmmm.... buddy, you know how much I love you but this is the LAST cup of water you're going to have before bedtime. Okay?"

Happily he scampered over to the couch where I half-sat, half-lay and sat next to me.

"I missed you tonight, mommy."

"I'm sorry I was gone this evening honey. I was tutoring a big high school boy. Did you have a nice time with your dad?"

"Yes, we had a very great time. We ate a lot of cake!"

"Oh, I see..."
I twinkled. "That's nice. How is everything else going for you right now? Are you liking your new school?"

"Yep. It's good."

"Are you making friends there yet?"

"Yes. Today I played with Lily*, the one from my very first school."

"Oh, that's nice. Does she remember you?"


"Well I'm so glad you had a good day. I missed you tonight while I was tutoring. It's really good to hear that you had a special evening with your dad, brother and sister."

"It was good mommy. But don't worry, I still love you."

"Well of course, honey. I wasn't worried about that. I still love you too! You know, you and me - we're like peas and carrots right? Or was it pancakes and syrup?"

he shook his head.


"No mommy. We're like ORANGES and APPLE PIE!"

"Oranges and apple pie? Really?"

"Yep! Oranges and apple pie. My favorite."

"I see. So which of us is oranges, and which of us is apple pie?"

"You are the orange, mommy. And I am the apple pie!"

He snuggled his little body into my side and gave me a big, big hug. I breathed in his scent of shampoo and hoped I would always remember those genuine, sweet moments of connection.

* * * * * * *

I really appreciated this small slice of heaven tonight, because lately I've sensed a shift in my relationship with my little guy.

The shift is natural, and it's called Growing Up.

A year ago when my son had only just turned three years old, he relied upon me for everything - not just his hierarchy of basic needs (food, water, shelter, clothing) but also the more intangible but equally vital needs - entertainment, conversation, information, playtime and Love.

He'd always been particularly attached to me, perhaps in part because of his elder brother's clear and frequently stated preference for my husband. From the beginning of our younger son's life and entrance into our family, the two brothers sort of "divided" us up - i.e. "You get Dad and I'll take Mom", and for a long while that is how it was.

My husband and I did not even tacitly agree to their agreement, but try as we might to keep things 'even-Steven', they stuck to their guns. Each of them had a parent preference. The little guy preferred mommy.

I suppose it makes sense - he'd never really been away from me or had the chance to experience the world on his own. I was his lifeline to the outside, the conduit to all of his one, two and three year old dreams. "You are my princess, Mommy!" he would say. "And I am your prince!"

Over the past year though, our son has been asked to make a number of significant life changes very quickly. He'd only just potty trained himself when it was time to start school. This was a big deal for him - leaving me for the entire morning every day. For the first several weeks he'd felt and expressed jealousy toward his little sister who got to stay at home.

Just as soon as he'd fully adjusted to preschool and made three "best" friends, our family moved to a new neighborhood (that we love!) where we assured him that his new school would be outstanding. Amazing. The Best Ever.

We made a lot of promises around that second school (Note to self - never do that again!) with the hope that they'd all come true. Unfortunately, as noted in many previous blogs, the new school turned out to be a terrible, expensive letdown and our son languished there for four months. Sure, he made a few friends and did a lot of art projects; but all in all, it was a huge bummer.

Just when he'd mainly adapted to his second school, we gave him the chance of trying out a third - totally different - school. He tentatively tried it, loved it, and now we are entering our third week of summer school at this new, third facility. Getting there involves a long drive on the freeway twice a day... an hour total spent in the car. It is a long time for a little boy to sit still.

All this to say, that my little 'tied-to-the-apron-strings" buddy has been forced by circumstance to mature quickly. Over the past year he's become so adaptable and confident - a totally different child than the clinging, Mommy-centric boy of the past. He's learned how to make friends - again, and Again, and AGAIN - to the point where he if we run into a buddy at the park... he can no longer remember where he knows them from - everyone is just 'a kid he knows from somewhere'.

Since he started attending school, a whole lot of new things have been added to his vocabulary. We hear a lot of "No!" now, coupled with a lot of potty jokes and hysterical giggling. He has started to disagree with my perspective pretty frequently, and to argue back loudly when his father or I ask him to help with a chore or do something he doesn't feel like doing.

He isn't a pleaser either. If I say, "Hey, could you please go get me a diaper for your sister," he'll flat out deny me.

"Nope, I'm too busy coloring and I don't feel like doing that right now," he'll say matter-of-factly.

We've also gone head-to-head lately about being responsible for messes... for example, when he leaves crud or messes on the bathroom floor and expects me to clean it up. "You're four years old now," I find myself saying, "and I am not your maid."

"What about Sonia*?"
he asks.

"The housecleaner is not your maid either. Grab a cloth and clean this up, buddy!"

"FINE!" he shouts, grumbling all the way.

I love this kid to pieces and when I see his little face these days, I can't help but notice that it's losing its chubby baby cuddle and taking on the definition and cheekbones of an actual boy. A growing child. Someone testing his own limits - and ours.

Recently I overheard this son playing with his little sister.

"Let's play bum-bum Star Wars!" he smiled. "Bum bum, like where your poop comes out."

"Bum Bum!" his little sister laughed.

"We don't play with our bum-bums," I called out. "That isn't polite."

he retorted, annoyed. "We're not REALLY playing with our bum-bums or our poop. We're only PRETENDING. It's just what we WISH we were playing right now."

Soon however he accommodated me and changed the theme. "Sister, get out of that corner!" he giggled. "There are spiders over there! Darth Vader spiders! But I am the dragon, and I will save you, princess!"

Smiling, I took a deep breath and realized that I am no longer my son's princess-in-shining-armor, but rather some benevolent but strict Queen from whom the real princess, his little sister, must be rescued and taken on adventures.

Just as it was meant to be.

I'll always be his mommy though... the orange to his apple pie.

*Name changed to protect the privacy of the people in question

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