I have three kids.
Never planned to have three kids...
In all honesty couldn't see myself ever getting married....
The reason for that being I said that I wouldn't get married until I could find an honest man.
It was like I dared the universe.
Then the fates threw Ross in my path blew that all to hell (not that being married to a man that's pretty honest all the time makes it roses and Victoria's Secret on the daily)...and here I am sixteen years later...with three kids.
So fast forward to 7 years ago...I was three years into parenthood...husband deployed scrambling to makes sense of my daily life...trying to learn how to let go of shit that didn't matter...not always successfully...oh hell ...not successful much of the time.
In those years I have met the basic parenting level success. I mean they're alive right? And I find I know a few fundamental truths.
1) I love my kids. They are wonderful. They are busy. They are challenging. They are my life and I would willingly kill or die to protect them. Period.
2) I love my husband and my mother...ask Ross who has the worst temper in the fam...get Yaya to tell you about the crowbar/Golden Girls incident...or the little old lady in line in Garmisch. I will bite if provoked when it comes to them. As hard headed and independent as I am I need them...I depend on them to help me stay sane...and I am a better person because of them. Period.
3) My family needs me. Pretty much the central hub of all laundry done, doctors seen, schoolwork accomplished, groceries bought, all boo boos kissed and things lost, all advise given, all spanking doled out and all "bring hell to breakfast" mother bear actions here. They need me. Period.
Having said all that and having said it before ..I am an only child with a medium/large size family and fequently I find myself mentally scratching my head..(or ass as the case my be) ..and thinking ... . "Well f__k...now what?"
That goes for all my children. They each come with their unique challenges, but I handle it generally instinctually in a similar fashion...in this way I treat them the same.
1) First instinct ..Comfort...if no immediate hugs or ass whoopings required I proceeed to my next instict. I establish a connection..it's pretty simple.
2) Read something...the science person in me. Someone somewhere has had to have encountered this shit before? What's the data say? What are alternatives? What's rational? What does my heart say? It may seem silly to some but information is power...and having no experience then I can listen to others and learn.
3) Remember what I am put here for...what I am building...Can I be the human that I want my kids to grow up to be? How can I lead?
Usually after that little Phil Donahue talk I can discern a direction pretty easily. If not I let it lie...wait ...pull a yogi move and sink deeper into the questions. So far...I haven't ever been let down finding a way to follow.
Now...have a screwed up? You betcha...but usually they are reparable...I can only think of one time...one time when I thought.."Boy I messed that one up big time."...And I assure you..that will never happen again.
So let me let you peek in how they're unique to themselves..and how that makes me juggle the bowling pins a little differently with each kid.
Coop: The easiest baby. Talked a million miles a minute. Way past verbal norms at age 2. Compliant, curious, perceptive, loving, rarely rambunctious..a dream baby. School age..wonderful. This is the kid you rationally speak to and he gets it. Use reason and he understands. Now..he's brilliant. Effing scary brilliant. Socially he's ten. Awkward, moody, odd, but his heart still shines through..He is a good soul. Challenges: He stuffs and blows...unsure of how to talk about his feelings he struggles and would rather avoid some things...luckily he still comes to me and whispers his questions in the dark before he falls asleep and I can reach him... He sucks at change (re: video when I bought him a new computer mouse for Chrissakes) and he can pitch one heck of a fit when he's in a snit. He is a huge dreamer and it's hard to give him the challenges that he needs cognitively. So I depend on those that have expertise in his areas of interest. I challenge him to change every once in a while and I use reason reason reason with him. Coop will also happily disappear into the wall if allowed. I will not allow it.
Deacon: Cantankerous from the get go. Kicked and tossed in the womb and out of the womb. Refused to be alone. Refused to sleep alone. Refused to ride in the car. Pretty much flipping the bird at any reasonable expectations since conception. Ask Yaya about the playpen punishment incident. He knew how to hold a grudge before he could walk good. He had his first CAT scan before he was three. He's physically confident. He's a master at sneak, prank and pick. It's how he communicates....drive you batshit as a method of affection...He also has what I suspect as a moderate social anxiety disorder, won't talk in front of adults, won't defy authority at school..<-----------Well I guess that covers challenges. As for me..Deacon is loyal, clever, sensitive and has a freakin adult sense of comedic timing. He's hilarious. He misses NO-thing....so if you say it by God you better do it. He's got an overactive sense of justice and parity. He is fearless when it comes to his siblings even stepping in front of me or taking the rap for them when I know good and damn well he didn't do it. Counterintuitively he needs protection. School has beaten this child down and broken his spirit. He has had a series of really poor teachers that couldn't see him...and we have paid the price. It is my one regret..and I am afraid I will spend the rest of his school career correcting it.
Gracie May (Grady): I can't express how adorable this baby was...an even split between the brothers..even keeled yet talkative, active and a rule follower...ready for school, socially confident, charming, friendly, laughs all the time... Just a happy happy baby in the middle personality and temperament. He's a flash of sunshine wrapped in cute...sweet natured, giving and a wee bit sassy.
Challenges: Gracie has always liked girl things. My kids have gone through the heels and dress stage...and exited after a few months as the novelty wore off...coming back to it then leaving...but Gracie stayed. She chose stereotypical girl items without fail...Even when she finally relented to play guns she chose the pink ones...but really it wasn't as fun. As her brothers Deacon moved on to play with the neighbor kids (because honestly Coop would rather read and build nuclear reactors or electron colliders etc..on his computer) ..she lamented that there was no one to play with. The girls don't see her as a girl...the boys well..they're boys. So we're in a limbo level many times ..birthday parties, sleepovers...it's gotten complicated..And frankly sometimes the fits that get pitched are reminiscent of a 13 year old girl in that 7.5 year old body..Lord have mercy..Please let me not be raising a little Lohan up in here...And that's the regular raising of a child stuff.....we haven't touched on the sheer challenge of having a potentially (likely?) transgendered child. Who can you trust with the info? How will it be taken? Who are our true friends?...How do we logisticaly navigate these waters...How do we handle child bullies? adult bullies? Would I mind going back to jail? (KIDDING! sort of) The worries and concerns could easily overwhelm everything else in a family. And I can tell you that we have a long way to go...in uncharted waters. Although I have many friends that have children with needs in the physical beyond my understanding or comprehension for sure I feel like it's socially more recognizable and understood to have a special needs child...I feel frustrated and fortunate in that way... because let me be clear about this...THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH MY CHILD.... or any of my children...That's a blessing.
Speaking of blessings...our family. Ross, Grandma Nancy, YaYa, Yoyo and many of our friends have seen our family and made it clear that they commend us..and are there if we need them. We are all fundamentally on the same page. We love this child...these children. That is so comforting. So far we've met with more understanding than ignorance. Knowing that I don't have to deal with an internal struggle and an external battle makes this unique situation so much more surmountable. So those of you out there...you know who you are....we love you. Thank you!
So ...in the end ..as a parent..they are mine....they are loved...they are not the same...and thank God for that...I am a lucky girl.