This morning you are at Bible camp with Jacob and lots of friends from our church, learning about Pilgrim’s Progress. The most I could discover of your assimilation of the materials last night as we talked over dinner was that there was a dinosaur. Further inquiry suggests you are referring to Apollyon, the dragon. After VBS yesterday and today you’re spending the day with Mr. Haxton, or “Haxton” as you call him, as in “Haxton, I’m wearing big-girl panties!” or “Haxton look at my booviful dress!” or “I want to go sledding with Haxton and Madi.” Mr. Haxton is a single dad from our church whose 11yo daughter you love. He’s kind of a local grandpa for you and he has shown us so much kindness this year, especially in helping us with you and Jacob.
You’re adorable as ever and then some. Your speech and vocabulary is one of our favorite topics of conversation, and you surprise everyone with the unexpected detail and complexity of what comes out of your little two-year-old mouth. Two of the cutest stories from this month have a common element: baptism. It’s become very real to you not only because of the font at the entrance to our sanctuary, where we touch the water and I remind you “You belong to Jesus,” but because we’ve seen easily half a dozen baptisms this year.
The other day when we were at the pool with Nicole you offered to baptize her, or rather, informed her of what was about to take place: “I’m going to baptize you.” Then you put water on her and said “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen.” This basic scenario happened repeatedly and included the baptism of our baby (my belly).
But even cuter than this was the tiny instant as we entered the sanctuary for church two weeks ago. I almost missed it, it was so understated. I lifted you high enough to reach the water in the font and you touched it to yourself, saying “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” But instead of the sign of the cross – an admittedly confusing ritual for a toddler to internalize – you touched first your head, then your shoulders, then your knees, then your toes. Those were not easy giggles to stifle.
You’re loving summer – popsicles and swimming and long hours outside and lots of friends to play with. A couple weeks ago you spent an entire Saturday outside digging in the dirt while Daddy was digging a trench to lay a drainage system through the yard. I barely saw you and Jacob all day and when you came in you were dog-tired, sweaty, and covered in dirt. I threw you straight in the bath and then put you in jammies for the rest of the day.
That was less than two weeks ago. It’s hard to believe. Things feel so different now, and those final days of pregnancy are like a distant memory from a former life when I could pick you up and run up and down the stairs to check on you. When we would snuggle in your bed together and you would poke my belly or flop onto me and giggle “I’m squishing the baby!” Now he’s here and you are taking it very seriously. Squishing him would never occur to you now. Now you are in deep, blissful love.
I am, too, but I’m also missing you. Seeing the pictures of you from a few weeks ago makes me nostalgic – a little achy for how it felt when you were my baby. You’ve been replaced; there’s no disguising it. It’s not a bad thing, this beautiful new person in our family, or the new rank you have as a big girl, more than you ever were.
What I see in those pictures is my baby who I always came to defend and what I see these last few days – when I see you, which is pretty rare with all the playdates and hospital days – is a little ragamuffin with a snotty nose and a self-administered hair clip who is fending for herself quite nicely. A couple more days of healing for my broken belly and I will be looking for some serious snuggles from my girl.
But as I said, you are in love. The excitement built for you in those last days before the baby arrived. Your eyes would get wider every day as we talked about it: “Two more days!” And then the moment came, and you came running into the room looking for him. I’ve hardly seen you sad since. Your whole world is a big grin and you can’t get enough of him. You proudly announce to everyone, “His name is Doshua Weevi” and you tell them “When he is sad, I give him his paci.” You love to hold him and kiss him and burp him and you’re so good at it, so gentle. I love your air of easy self-confidence around him, no doubt that you have a right to this little baby – that he belongs to us. To you.
Your attention to your own babies has developed and increased, and you treat them with such earnestness. You push them around the house in your baby stroller, put them to bed with blankets, rock them in your rocking chair, sometimes buckle them into Joshua’s carseat. But my favorite of all is watching you hold them. You put them up to your shoulder and stroke their heads and pat their backs. I kept my hands busy crocheting through the winter and spring, making two blankets for Joshua. I had leftover yarn and a few leftover days when I’d finished, so I made you a little dolly afghan to match his, out of the same stitch I used in your own baby blanket three years ago, bordered with the same shiny white yarn. I finished it two hours before I left for the hospital.
Probably the biggest challenge we’ve been dealing with recently is Whining and Complaining. Maybe it takes a back seat to Not Listening Ever, but since that is as much my fault as yours (I need to actually secure your attention before I talk) and not nearly as inspiring to write about, I’ll pass over it. Whining and Complaining happens because you have very clear, specific notions of things. I get it, I really, really do. Not only do I want the couches to be square with the walls, I want the blankets to be square on the couches. It matters to me. And while I’d like to claim to be as invested in my appearance as you are, I get the need for that certain pair of shoes. Some things are better than others.
The way you handle things when they aren’t right is Whining and Complaining. You’ll say absurd, squeaky things like “I don’t like my pink cup,” to which I’ll say “Yes, you do. You just want your straw cup instead.” And then I’ll suggest that perhaps instead of thinking about your straw cup in its absence you should remember that God gave you your pink cup, and be thankful for it.
This business of being thankful is really the ticket. Let me explain, or more accurately, sum up. I’ve been thinking about it a lot the last couple weeks, and especially the last couple days. When you were a newborn I hit a wall. I know it was post-partum depression because it felt like All The Crazy and because there was a day when you were around 10 weeks old when I woke up and it was like someone had finally readjusted the filters on the world and there was everything, normal and OK again. Let me be the first to tell you: hormones are evil little beasts.
Recalling my experience during your first weeks has made me a little on edge about the weeks upon me now, and it was only the second day of Joshua’s life when I first felt the rising craziness: mourning that his first day was already over or waking from a nap to feelings of guilt for being unconscious to his beauty and the beauty of the afternoon sky out my window. Crazy talk. My heart felt like all your squeaky negativity, but with a sober, disturbing dose of grown-up sorry and anxiety.
I called it immediately, voiced it to people who love me, admitted both the absurdity and the reality of these feelings. And while there are various measures I’m taking to ensure that I come through these next few weeks with joy and peace and a few shreds of sanity, hormones or no hormones, the primary one is thankfulness: choosing to see the world rightly, as a worshiper who’s been given so much.
The key to deciphering the crazy things I feel is often to re-interpret them: a crumpled blanket on the back of the couch is evidence that my kids are happy, a long line to use our tiny bathroom is a reminder that we are in our new house, a fussy baby is a ticket to snuggle, headaches resulting from medications is an invitation to rest, and the sound of Daddy’s music and power tools in the basement (and the dust up here from his shoes) is sweet token of the fact that he is HERE during these days, which is more than I can even begin to be thankful for. So I’m taking this season as a chance to practice the discipline of seeing the world this way and I can already tell it’s helping.
I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight – to seeing you bounce right past me to Joshua. Tomorrow I’ll be with you all day for the first time in ten days and I can’t wait. I hope we can snuggle a lot and color with your new markers. And on Sunday there is another big surprise in store for you: that purple bicycle you’ve been saying so much about, a big-sister present from Nana and Papa. I can’t wait to see the look on your face!
I love you.