I had to take a moment tonight, to actually look at my children. Each of them in turn and see them as who they are, deep down inside and on the outside. You know that face they show the world each and every day of their lives. It took me a moment. A long moment, to see, that while yes they are different, they are also the same. Some of their characteristics had been taught by the adults in their lives. They emulate us, taking from us the qualities they love and sometimes I wonder at what we project to them, because these qualities can seem quite irritating in children. In fact, some of these qualities are irritating in adults as well. However, let me get back to my children. I have four you know, four amazing little boys, who have growing and changing personalities, characters, abilities. They have different interests and they wear different size clothing, the first three are far enough apart, yet close enough together to be similar in a lot of ways, yet, they are still different.Let us start with Alexander; he is the oldest after all. He is very serious, almost severe in his seriousness. He has always been this way, with a little joke added in here and there for every once in a while, the child that he is does emerge from the blanket shroud of mock adulthood. However, he has always been a little old man. Not a teenager, not “adult” but quite literally the old veteran sitting on his porch, telling the tales of the past to anyone who would listen. I picture him some day, being the soft talker, with a pipe held in his hand, the stories he will tell. He takes the thought of always try and do your best quite seriously, they are words he lives by, and in his mind as long as he is always doing his best, that is how he will succeed in life. He is determined to try and succeed, but he will never be that child driven to stress when he doesn’t do it perfectly. He cares enough about others to get by and he never lacks for friends. He follows the rules to the letter and remembers everything you may have ever said to him. He bottles his hurt up inside of him and pretends things do not bother him, even if they do, because he would rather no one else see him weak or fragile. He also doesn’t want to be a burden, he is always the first to say, “You’ll probably say no anyway.” So he will avoid asking about or for something, just because he figures what’s the point and moves on. He takes everything on! And when I say everything, I mean everything. When I said, you are joining Cub Scouts, he decided he would do it till the end; try his best, get the rewards at the end and keep going. He will never leave a task unfinished and while he may take a long time to get the simplest of chores done, he gets it done in the end. He will show the sign of the child when asked to do something that may seem tedious however, like writing an essay, taking out the millions of pounds of recycling or taking a shower, he would rather not have to do it, but he does it, even if it is with a sigh. He has perfect manners, is always holding doors and saying thank you or please, he is the shining example you want for other children his age or younger. He can sit in a room filled with adults and not act up or out, he will carry a conversation and answer questions directly. However, he can also be a bit of a wiseass, to those who have joked with him before, he is light on his feet when it comes to comebacks and you will not even realize he just turned the tables on you till it’s too late. Sometimes, it annoying, especially when you are the parent and he is the child, but you look at the situation surrounding the moment and realize, hey it could be worse. He is the most respectful and responsible of all my children and it has nothing to do with being the oldest or because it has been expected of him, it is just in his nature to be that way. I honestly do not believe he could be any other way then the way he is. He can act wild and crazy as most kids do, yet if you ask him to stop or tell him this is not the place for that, he immediately reacts, turning back into the serious old man. He is growing up fast as far as age goes, but he has always been mature. Sometimes when I see him acting in the way children should act, it is almost shocking. He is carefree in many ways too. That kid that just goes with the flow- manages to impress and endear people to him just by being himself. There is barely a struggle with him. At the same time, he can anger quickly, quietly, measuring how important the emotions are in that moment and how they will affect him in the long run, he instantly becomes the mediator in most situations and the antagonist in others. I have seen children fight over him, including his own brothers, as if he is the golden one that everyone wants to be around all of the time. I understand it in some ways. There is always that one kid, that when you see him, you can just feel his cool and he doesn’t even have to do anything to prove it. That is my Alexander. He is cool, collected, he knows who he is and what he wants out of life, he is determined but not disappointed with life. He is the kid I will always hear amazing things about, from teachers, parents, administrators, coaches, etc.- and it is not a bad thing, but when you are the oldest of four boys, it is definitely going to be a hard act to follow by the ones coming up after you.
Tristan, now here we have the “middle” child- because for the last five years, he has in fact been the middle child. Being the middle of a family is definitely no easy task. Tristan was my calm baby, my laughing all the time, smiling through his big eyes and chubby cheeks child, till about the age of two. He was still the smiling, happy baby, but he became so much more. The showman, the bravado! The tiny terror, all the while looking at the world like it was his stage and we should appreciate the effort behind he every little action. There are still days I look at that round face and I am taken away to just how beautiful he is, how much I love him, and then, the monster comes out. Tristan is my ever changing, emotion driven, act now, think about it later child. He is so smart and so able, but he honestly does not care. When I say he doesn’t care, I mean it in the straightest, most literal sense of the phrase. Tristan does not care! He doesn’t care if you are upset or mad with his actions, he will repeat them. He doesn’t care if his homework is done properly or neatly, as he will state it, “It doesn’t matter anyway.” He doesn’t care if he has four hours to finish something, he will do it in five minutes, whether it is done right or not, just to get it out of the way. If you say no to something, he will ask you over and over and over, then do it anyway, regardless of the consequences, then get mad at you for telling him no again and make the rest of your day a nightmare. However, Tristan is also kind, he has a heart of gold, he will give up the last cookie to someone who has nothing, he has music in his heart, in his head, in his body, he sings and dances, 85% of the time. He can be extremely funny and bright when he wants to be, and on those days the whole world shines with him. He is the best hugger; one hug from Tristan will make a bad day a good one, as long as he wasn’t the one that made you have a bad day to begin with. He is filled with questions and wants to know the answers. He is a big ball of emotional turmoil and he would rather erupt in a fury then listen to what you have to say, he usually isn’t listening to you any way. He is extremely stubborn and if he would apply half that determination and willpower to a task like homework, cleaning his room or following rules, he would be on the borderline of genius. However, because of his stubbornness he allows himself to fall behind, to be noticed more in a negative light, then in the positive. He bases everything on today and not what might happen tomorrow, but will throw tomorrow on the ground and stomp it out. He never takes responsibility, in fact he is determined enough to convince you that everyone else is out to get him and he has never been anything else but himself and nice along the way. But he can love, oh yes, that child can love, and when he is hurt or hurting, you can feel every ounce of that emotion like you are the one that is wounded. He is the first to do a good turn without even realizing he is doing it, something as simple as picking up garbage along the curb, yet he will in the next instant not respect someone else’s property and a plague on those who tell him he is wrong. He will forever be compared to his older brother, this frustrates and infuriates him, yet he is determined to be the complete opposite. He will compare himself and use the word “never” a lot, as if it is already planned out that he will never be half as “wonderful” in his mind and heart, as his brother. He has moments, he flip flops back and forth and I always call it, the two Tristan’s. There is the gentle, giant, with the heart of gold and then there is the tiny terror, with the soul of an active volcano, ready at any moment to erupt with emotion, whether anger, sadness, stubbornness or love, he will at any moment change. He tries my patience and my own emotions, and no matter what I do, say or feel, he will probably always be the Two, not one or the other. I hurt when he hurts, I anger when he angers, and I love when he loves, because we are bound, the two of us. Sometimes we do not understand each other, which is okay, because if we knew all the secrets, it would never work. He is active and crazy and wild, free spirited and willful. He is a mountain, unmoving or unchanging, but he is also like fire, dancing and hot and changing shape depending on the environment. He is sure no one is ever on his side and then in the next breath he will say he doesn’t care. He has also picked up on the sarcasm and since learning what it means, uses it every chance he gets. I have watched him change the last eight years and honestly, it is a daunting task to sit and wait, just hoping the next change in him is leaning more towards the cooling air then the steaming hot water tank that he is. I think he will always be this flip flop child, this middle one, who has to be compared to the older one and an example for the younger too. He feels the pressure, the example; he just doesn’t know what to do with it yet.
Ian…. Ah, my Ian, my little bullheaded, stubborn boy. He is still young yet, but there is the brat in him. I love his story telling, action packed attitude, but he is definitely in the running for next child to try my nervous system and stretch it to the breaking point. Right now there are very few defining characteristics. He can be sweet when he has to be, but he has shown favoritism for Daddy from the beginning. He doesn’t like to be touched, kissed or held, unless it his idea. He wants everyone and no one to play with him. He has his own rules for everything and if it doesn’t immediately benefit him in some way, he will not do it. He is my only picky eater, so that should say a lot about his willful stubbornness. He is easy to upset and will hold out as long as possible, till you are broken and bent and give in. I have learned through the last five years, just how strong I am, between the second volcano and the third. He doesn’t understand why he should follow the same rules as everyone else, he acts like a prince to this castle and everyone else must bend to his will. He is quite convincing when he needs or wants something. He will wait the whole day, till his father comes home, before he asks the women folk for something. Yet, he is endearing. He has learned quickly, how to use his good manners, he is quick with the please, the thank you and the your welcome. He waits his turn patiently enough and is never in a hurry unless it is something he wants really badly. He is cautious in some ways, daring in others. He always wants to learn something new, yet he does not want to change his way. He has a gigantic imagination, plays well by himself; he needs no one else to entertain him. I have watched him dance all the way to school to pick up his brothers, to the sound of drums in his head. I have seen him turn his fingers into monsters that are attacking unseen armies. When it is just me and him, he will do more things for himself, he will try, but he can quickly turn back into the baby whenever daddy is around. He pretends he cannot see you, when you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do, yet if you can convince him, just that once, he will try, grudgingly, but he will try. He is the wind and the rain, the sleet and the snow. Sometimes, it is hard to face the fact that your child can be the one person that might not care if you are in the room, regardless of the fact you have been sitting with him all day. He doesn’t like to talk about things that make him uncomfortable, like going to school or eating new foods, but he will talk to you for hours about something he likes, just don’t ask him to repeat himself if you couldn’t follow along. I have two very mercurial children. Fire and Ice, they both are, and I have to show every ounce of strength and patience with them, and sometimes that is just hard.
Then there is Noah, ah my baby, I love this baby stage, when they start developing little personalities, it takes you back to the infant/toddler stage of the others. You start comparing and contrasting. He is just starting to crawl more securely, already attempting to pull himself up on things. He already got his first tooth, started clapping his hands. His laugh is amazing and he makes sounds that almost sound like words, like Ca for cat and Dada. When you say mommy to him, he laughs and claps his hands. He is starting to get the concept of peek-a-boo, and while he jumps, he will shove your hand back to hide your face again. He cries still, for almost everything and once he gets it, he laughs and claps his hands. You can start to see the person he will be in the next six months, but because he is cramming so much learning into this first year, you cannot determine who he will be for sure. I can see the differences in each of my boys and while my job is no easier because of them, I would never want little Alexander clones.
I cherish Alexander’s seriousness, Tristan’s emotions, Ian’s indifference and Noah’s growing character. I learn from them and I love them the same and different. I am linked to them, their budding personalities that are part mine and part their own, because where else did they learn from then me. I feel their pain and I see their futures, I can only carefully guide them on the path. Do I sometimes think I can do without the sass, the stubbornness and borderline bipolar natures of my children? Sure, who can’t? We all have weaknesses, mine is sometimes my emotions are too bound up, my nerves get shot to crap from time to time and my patience gets shattered, but I manage and keep going. We understand each other in this way. They know that I love them, just like when they are fighting me or shouting, crying or throwing a fit, smiling and laughing, I know they love me too. I only expect from them the do your best mentality. I can only hope they will keep learning and changing and doubling back, taking hints from their pasts to better their futures. I can only guide them so far, while holding their hands. Eventually, they will grow past that and let go, by then they will still look back from time to time, pull me too them and hold my hand again, only to repeat the steps, until the space is divided. I can only hope that they will always know that my arms are always here, to hold them when they need me, to reach out, to guide them, to tell them no or yes, to give them my opinions on their actions and know when to hold my tongue. It’s funny now, looking back, how I see a bit of myself in each of them. It just shows me a bit of pride in myself, but it also shows me how much we hold on to of our personalities and how we are always changing. We are children still. Learning and adapting, rearranging, projecting, imagining and filled with wonder. We are reactors and withholders and it is quite amazing, really, when you think about it, how much our children teach us about ourselves, while showing us themselves. It is a vow and a promise, a moment frozen in time, and yet it is a river always flowing in one direction.
In that moment, looking at them and learning from them, I had changed. I will not grow patience like the leaves on a tree, but I have gained insight. I know enough to know to take each day as it comes, not to rush them or change them before they happen. I will keep watching these four boys as they change and grow and with each change I will learn a bit more. These are my children, my heart and my soul and my world. They are here for me to protect and watch over, but not to influence fully to change who they are meant to be, but influence enough that they will know they can do it, no matter what “it” is, they can. I see that now, I understand it better, just by being the observer to their world. Does it change who I am as a mother? No not really, I will still be who I am, but it helps me know them more, just by watching. I accept the challenge, I will continue on this road with them.