Monday, May 23, 2011

It Seems Like Only Yestertime...

My oldest son is about to become a daddy. To twins!

Many 21st century mothers of a twenty-something son might think, "Yikes! Is he ready for that?" Not me. I know my son is ready, and I know he'll be a wonderful father.

When this boy was little, anything that happened before the present moment, even something that happened two minutes ago, happened "yestertime." I just loved that little "ism" of his. And now, he'll have offspring of his own spouting hilarious and adorable "isms" of their own creation. What fun he's going to have!

When he was less than 16 months old, my oldest boy became a big brother for the first time (see photo), and then by the time he was two-and-a-half, a third brother had joined the mix. When he was just over four, brother #4 came along. And when he was just over nine, the last brother was born and he became this baby's godfather. We had to get a special dispensation for our son to take on the godfather role, since he hadn't yet been confirmed; we're glad we were able to get one, because he may have been young for the job, but he certainly wasn't lacking in maturity or faith formation. He'd always been an "old soul," and he was the perfect choice.

Our oldest was obsessed with books pretty much from birth, absorbing information from them like a sponge. As soon as he could toddle around, he would constantly bring them to us and plop them in our laps. At around two, he learned all of his ABC's, thanks to a Little Golden Book called Grover's Alphabet. By two-and-a-half, he could recite every single word, verbatim, of a book called Honey Rabbit. By three and change, we'd read so many dinosaur books to him that he could distinguish a T-Rex from an Allosaurus (his father and I had them confused until he pointed out the slight difference between them). His love of books rubbed off on the younger ones, and bedtime became a reading extravaganza. It was our firstborn who came up with the idea that we should mix it up from time to time by making up original stories instead of reading out of books; he'd say, "Tell a story with your mouth." We were living in Florida at the time and spent a lot of sunny weekend days with our three little guys near the ocean, building sand castles and running away from the surf, screaming with laughter; so one day I decided to tell a story-- "with my mouth"--set at the beach. It was going to be about my oldest and his two younger brothers finding a crab in the sand, and then just as the crab was about to give one of his brothers a little nip on the toe, he--as the big boy, the hero--was going to somehow avert the crisis (I hadn't yet figured out how; I was making it up as I went along). But I never got to finish the story, because suddenly his eyes filled with tears and his lower lip began to tremble. "What's the matter, sweetie? Don't you like this story?" I asked. "No!" Then it dawned on me: he was upset because the story was about the possibility of one of his brothers getting hurt! When I asked him if this was the reason, he nodded in the most pathetic and heartbreaking way. I explained to him that he was going to save the day, the crab was going to be thwarted, and there was going to be a happy ending--but that didn't matter; his senstive little soul couldn't bear the idea of that near-catastrophe. Boy, did I feel awful! I realized that my mouth wasn't a very good storyteller if my stories were going to make my children sad. So unless pushed, from then on I tried to stick to reading them out of books!

Another earlier time, when our oldest was about two and we were flying home from Florida for a family visit with our relatives up north, our second son, who was about six months old, was having trouble with his ears and was crying up a storm. The flight attendant offered to carry him up and down the aisle for a bit to see if that would calm him down (this was back in the good old days, when full meals were served routinely on flights, and flight attendants had a store of coloring books, crayons, and plastic pilots' wings to pass out to bored, restless children). As soon as the woman picked up his baby brother, our firstborn became inconsolable: who was this stranger taking his brother away from us? Now we had two kids crying instead of one! Our oldest wouldn't stop wailing until our baby was back in my lap where he belonged. He always took his role as big brother very seriously--and he still does to this day; when it comes to his brothers, he is fiercely loyal and protective, and a wonderful role model for them.

It seems like only yestertime that this son of ours was the tow-headed, chubby little toddler in this picture, gently holding the hand of his newborn baby brother. And now, he's going to be a father! How is that possible? But as much as I love reminiscing about the past, thank God time marches forward; for what a blessing it is to live long enough to see your children's children!

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