Saturday, August 15, 2015

Things I Love About My Kids #2 - Their Generosity (When I Least Expect It And Most Need It)

My kids definitely have their selfish moments, with us their parents and with each other, but they also each have an amazing generosity of spirit.

Alyx's preschool teacher repeatedly told us about Alyx's predilection for helping. If a classmate was upset or worried, she would hug them and talk to them comfortingly. One of her classmate's mothers spoke to me and my husband gratefully about Alyx helping her daughter through some severe separation anxiety. I remember once we were driving home one night after work and I was in a bad mood, and apologized to her for it, and she said, "It's okay, Mommy; you're probably just tired." So many people saying it, it would have come out condescending and dismissive, but she managed to make it reassuring and somehow even at her age, supportive.

Isaac likes to be funny. When his siblings are sick, he'll cheer them up with toddler humor (a sort of Three Stooges-type physical comedy meets Ren & Stimpy-esque potty humor-- just saying the word "butt" or "poop" repeatedly is apparently hysterical).

And Malcolm-- Malcolm is always the first to ask if you're okay if you indicate in any way that you hurt yourself. He kisses boo-boos and offers hugs, and I frequently hear while snuggling, "Mommy, you a sweetheart!" followed by "I give you a hug," followed by "I give you a kiss too!" He also has a perplexing but endearing habit of offering his food to you, one bite at a time, even if you have a serving of the exact same thing in front of you, being actively eaten. And he will occasionally hand me his current favorite toy and tell me that he wants me to "take it to my work." Whether he wants his toy to sight-see around my office, or he just wants me to have his toy with me, I have no idea, but I put them in my sweater pocket and take them to work with me. Both his Octonaut and his favorite purple car have made repeated trips to my office, and whenever I reach into my pocket for something and feel one of them there, I smile.

All three of them love to bring me "presents," which range from baskets of random small toys (usually introduced to me as candy or pastries of some kind) to full eight-course meals, to flowers, to completely made-up things that they imagine I'd like, like a machine that sweeps the floor and makes ice cream. Sometimes these are brought as offerings to placate the Wrath of Mommy, but other times they are just little surprises for no reason at all.

This morning the kids and I happened to be at Costco, and of course Alyx asked for a smoothie. I don't know how standardized the Costco food court menu is, but in our neck of the woods, you can get a mixed-berry smoothie for $1.45. The smoothies aren't great, but they aren't terrible either, and my kids love them. At that price, I just get them each one; it's worth it not to have them fight over who's drinking more or who got "all of it" (the last of it) or who gets to have it in the car (Alyx, no contest). I didn't get any myself, a decision I regretted the moment we got back to the hot van and took a few minutes to get the air conditioning going before strapping in. I distributed smoothies and churros, unloaded the stuff from the bottom of the stroller, folded it, tossed it in the back (wording it like that does not do that 25 pound monster justice), and then collapsed into the driver's seat, engine running (for the AC) but in park and with the parking brake still on.

Hot, sweaty, and exhausted, I asked Alyx if I could have some of her smoothie. She readily agreed and handed it over. That's when the boys came tumbling down from the very back (where their car seats are) with their own smoothies, almost literally falling over each other to offer me their own smoothies. Folks with no kids, if you want to know how we parents end up catching and/or carrying every infection that comes down the pike, it's because Ebeneezer Scrooge himself would be humbled and grateful at the innocent generosity of a small child. Don't get me wrong, my little con artists can wheel and deal with the best of them. But much of the time, I'm reassured in some measure that we as parents must be doing something right, if their knee-jerk reaction to hurt, upset, or depression is more often than not to comfort, compliment, share, or otherwise try to heal and help. And when a three-year-old little boy earnestly holds out his smoothie to you and urges you to have some (the same boy who, under other circumstances, you would not be surprised to see try to stab someone's eye out with the straw if they tried to take any of said smoothie), you don't care that the straw is covered in fuzz and the cup is sticky and probably at least twenty percent of the liquid inside is backwashed and you don't even particularly like these smoothies to begin with. That cup holds pure love.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Things I Love About My Kids #1: They Love My Singing

In an effort to focus more on the positive, I'm starting a series of "Things I Love About My Kids." That way, when they're being holy terrors, I can read this and find some kind of balance.

So here's #1: they love my singing.

I'm not sure why my singing is so very bad. It's not like I don't practice; I love to sing and always have. But I also have to admit that my enthusiasm for singing has always far, far outstripped my talent. I joined my school chorus in fifth grade, and doggedly kept with it well into high school. A memory sticks out in my head from ninth or tenth grade: I had the misfortune to be seated first row (I'm short) between two of the best singers in the school, a grade or two ahead of me. The ones who always got the solos, who got the starring roles in the school musicals (I couldn't even score a place in the chorus), who performed song-and-dance routines in the talent shows. Anyway, I remember one of them asking me, as nicely as she could, if I could please sing a little quieter-- I was so terribly off-key that it was messing with her own pitch. Deflated and mortified, that was pretty much the beginning of the end of my enjoyment of singing in the school chorus, or really, singing in public at all (the odd birthday song notwithstanding.) I still sing in the car, often loudly; I've been known to hum quietly to myself around the office. But I can't recall anyone actually enjoying listening to me sing, my entire life.

Until now.

A couple hours ago, I was upstairs putting my kids to bed. Our bedtime ritual is pretty crappy, as these things go-- as the kids get older, and harder to wrangle, we keep dropping activities while, if anything, getting to bed later. But one thing they insist on-- along with their water bottles-- is their goodnight songs. They each have their song: Alyx is "Simple Gifts;" Malcolm, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star;" and Isaac "You Are My Sunshine." The boys have had the same songs since they were babies, at least six months, probably around four months when we first separated them while sleeping. Alyx insisted on having her own song after we moved into this apartment. And as far as I can tell, to my kids, I'm the greatest singer that ever lived. Every performance is pronounced "beautiful" by Alyx. When she sings to me, she tries to imitate all my mannerisms, and when she asks me how she did, she compares herself to me. When I sing for my kids, I don't care that I never got the voice lessons I had hoped for, and probably never will now. I'm not just "good enough" for them, I'm amazing. And when someone thinks you're that amazing, you can't help but feel, well, amazing. At least a little.

I know, all too soon, they will get to that age where my mere existence is an embarrassment to them, and I'm sure that then, my singing will elicit eye rolls and howls of "Moooo-ooooom!" So I try not to miss a chance to sing with them now, while I'm still the best singer in the world. And I love them for it.