Monday, September 23, 2013

Lessons From My Sons

When I got pregnant with Mason, I was so excited, but I was also scared.

I was scared that my boys wouldn't bond. I was scared that the age difference (5 and a half years) was too big. I was scared that Daniel would be jealous of Mason. I was scared that after being an only child and grandchild for so long Daniel would be bitter and resentful of Mason. I was scared that I would love Mason more because Daniel is not my biological child.

But that's the thing about kids - they so often show us where adulthood has jaded us. Bitterness and resentment are not emotions of childhood (at least they shouldn't be). They teach us that we should live in the moment, as they do so joyously.

When Daniel came to the hospital to meet his little brother for the first time, he was so excited. I will never forget the look of amazement on his face when he held him. It brings tears to my eyes still thinking of the sheer amount of love and pride he had for this little baby that was his brother.

And again when I spoke to him on the phone and told him that we were bringing Mason home that day. He was so excited! His baby brother was coming home to live with him. How cool! I don't think the thought ever crossed his mind that he would now have to share everyone's time and attention with this little creature.

He was so curious about Mason in those early weeks. He watched me breastfeed, and I couldn't help but laugh when he so earnestly asked, "How does milk come out when there's no holes?" He was tickled when Mason's little fists would open and wrap around his finger. He was so proud to bring a picture of his new brother to school and have his teacher hang it on the wall in the classroom.

The first few months were a struggle to find balance. I spent many weeks feeling like Daniel was getting neglected because Mason needed so much. Mason had reflux, a dairy and soy intolerance, and a tendency to get ear infections. All of these things contributed to some very sleep deprived and cranky parents. And since Mason was not terribly interactive yet, there wasn't much Daniel could do with him either. To say it wasn't rough for a little while would be a lie. But we weathered the storm.

Then Mason started to smile, and to laugh. He started to play. And one day I laid Mason on his play mat and put Sponge Bob on for Daniel while I went to the kitchen to get something for breakfast. I walked back into the room to find Daniel kneeling next to him their little hands wrapped in one another's. These little moments happened more and more. I look in my rear view mirror and see the boys grinning at each other. I catch Daniel telling Mason about when the dirty dishes go into the dishwasher.

When Mason was big enough to use his walker, Daniel cheered him on. Now Mason has started crawling and there is Daniel, kneeling on the ground, "Come on Mason, you can do it! You can do it! Come on silly boy!" And Mason looks up at his big brother with his open-mouth gummy grin. And I am at peace because I know that Daniel will be there for Mason as he grows up, showing him the ropes and cheering him on.

I saw a poster that said "Sometimes being a brother is better than being a super hero." But you know? I think they got it wrong. I think being a brother is being a super hero. These two boys are my heroes.

Daniel has taught me about the beautiful capacity for love and trust that children have. He teaches me also that we are born with compassion and the desire to care for those that are more fragile then ourselves. He has taught me to adapt, as he has done so graciously to his role as a big brother. He has taught me that love is not limited and that it can grow and adapt as well.

 Mason has taught me to be patient and not to rush childhood for him or for Daniel. He taught me to remember that Daniel is just a little boy too and that even though he can run and jump and tie his shoes, that he still has needs that he cannot express and that it is my job to figure them out and to help him the best I can.

They have both taught me to smile more often, sing more often, laugh more often, be silly more often, and to cry tears of frustration, sadness, joy, and wonder. And also that when I am done crying that I don't have to hold onto the pain because we are on to the next moment and there are so many glorious things to see and do and explore in this world and really it's a waste of time not to just let things go.

They will continue to teach, I am sure, and I will do my best to keep learning from them, to appreciate the smiles and the giggles, and to be patient when they test my temper because they are my little spiritual guides in this life. I love you boys.