Clay turns five: “Welcome to the ‘big kid’ years!”

Helping daddy make smoothies

Helping daddy make smoothies this morning

Today is Clay’s fifth birthday, and I just got an email from BabyCenter that nearly made me cry. “Welcome to the ‘big kid’ years!,” the first line said. I guess it’s better than “your baby is going to kindergarten this year, where does the time go?,” which is what I’ve been thinking a lot lately.

I signed up for BabyCenter five years and eight months ago, when I was newly pregnant with Clay. I liked the weekly updates telling me how the baby was growing and comparing his size to various food items, though the shrimp comparison was creepy, and the jicama one had me frantically searching Google images.

As time passed, I no longer needed BabyCenter to tell me how big my baby was getting – I saw it every day. He was so tiny when we brought him home from the hospital five weeks early, but eating every two hours helped him grow quickly. He smiled and laughed and rolled over. All his dark hair fell out and he looked like Uncle Fester before it came back blond. He talked when he was 10 months old (and hasn’t stopped), but he started walking late, which Chase still talks about. “Clay didn’t walk until he was 18 months old, right?,” he’ll ask me. It was 15 months exactly. I’ll never forget. He was home sick, and my dad had spent the prior week practicing with him. He took five steps to me in the kitchen before falling. I screamed with excitement, which scared him. I kept quiet on the second attempt, taking video instead.

Clay is a typical first born. He’s very cautious, thinking about everything before he does it.  He has empathy for everyone and hates conflict, even in Disney movies. He’ll actually leave the room during fighting or “scary” scenes. He loves with all his heart. There is nothing he’d rather do than spend time with friends and family. He leads his cousin and his sister around by the hand, and I’ve seen him put his arm around the waist of his best girl friend when they play together. His teachers tell me he is a natural leader and though that makes me a little nervous (I’ve met Bill Clinton), it also makes me proud when they say he’s very inclusive and everyone likes to be around him.

That’s how I feel about him, too. When I was pregnant, people assumed I would rather be having a girl (which wasn’t the case) and would try to cheer me up by telling me how special a mother-son relationship can be. Watching Chase and his mom and my brother and my mom, I don’t think that bond ever goes away, which makes me smile.

I went to kindergarten information night a few weeks ago and it hit me that my first baby is turning a “big kid.” Watching him help around the house, write sentences at school and especially today, on his fifth birthday, I know in many ways he’s already there. I’m just glad I get to go along for the ride, because we’re going to enjoy the heck out of these “big kid years.”

Happy birthday, Munchkin!

Siblings: best friends forever

kids ticklesWhichever one of my kids wakes up first, immediately asks about the other one, anxious for him/her to wake up, too. They do almost everything together. Maybe that’s why Avery knows she is two, but says she’s four. She can ride a scooter as well as Clay. She climbs walls (and mountains!) with no fear. Most of the time we forget they are 23 months apart because they are so close.

My dad was 15 months older than his sister, and they were the best of friends until the day he died. My mother-in-law and her older brother have the same age difference and were inseparable. Seeing them, I thought 15 months would be a good age difference for our kids. Nursing for 13 months made that impossible, but when Clay was 15 months old, I found out I was pregnant with Avery.

Clay was not yet two when she was born, but he adored her. As she grew, his excitement when she reached milestones was comparable to (or maybe even exceeded) ours. “Avery can crawl, mommy!,” he said, pride in his voice. When Clay plays soccer or t-ball, Avery greets him coming off the field with, “Great game. I’m so proud of you, Clay!”

He’s also protective. When a boy pushed Avery at school, Clay told me “I pushed Sanjay, because he pushed Avery.” The responsible parent in me told him, “it’s nice to protect your sister, but next time just tell the teachers,” while I was thinking, “heck yeah, big brother, stand up for your favorite girl!”

I had two strangers come up to me this week, commenting on the kids’ relationship and love for each other, after watching them interact. I’m not saying they are perfect because they are not. They fight over toys and make each other crazy sometimes. But most of the time, they are the older brother and little sister that my dad and his sister, and Chase’s mom and uncle, were. I have the family I always hoped for.

I’m sure they’ll fight more as they grow up, but in a time when preschool teachers tell me Clay needs to work on his listening and Avery still sneaks out of her room at bedtime, it makes me think we’re doing something right. And gives me hope that whatever mistakes we make in parenting along the way, they’ll have each other. Those two will be best friends forever.

Christmas at great-grandma’s

xmas

We are back to work and school today, but I came across this picture on my phone this morning. The kids had a blast running around Chase’s grandma’s yard with their cousins on Christmas day. It is pretty amazing that Chase and his family played the same games, in that same yard, for the past 35+ years. Sometimes I get jealous that all of his relatives live nearby, because I miss mine so much, but I married into a great family.

Empathy

I’ve cried for other people’s children twice today. First, on my way to work listening to a radio telethon for our local children’s hospital. Then again now, reading the news of the horrible tragedy in Newtown, CT.

Before I had kids, when I heard stories about sick children or tragic deaths, I felt bad for the families involved, but I didn’t get that pit in my stomach that I have right now. I loved my family and my friends, yet the love I have for my children is unlike anything I’d ever imagined. A parent’s love goes so deep, and I would do anything to keep them safe and happy and healthy.

Along with the love I feel for my own children, I feel protective of all kids, knowing that they have parents who feel the same way about them as I do about Avery and Clay. The empathy I have for other parents has also multiplied. I cried today for the parents of the sick kids here in San Diego and those of the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Even the survivors go through more than any child or parent should have to deal with.

Avery was whiny this morning. I was irritated with her and the hospital telethon made me realize how lucky I am to have a healthy child. I was stressed about a work deadline before hearing about the school shooting. The news quickly reminded me that things could be so much worse. Who cares about work? Clay is safe at school. Avery is too. I am heartbroken for the parents who took their kids to school and went on with their day, in very similar ways to me. Their kids were supposed to be safe, but they weren’t.

I’ve seen calls for gun control and mental health policy discussions, but today isn’t the day for it. Just hug your children and think of those parents, who, just like me, wanted nothing more in life than happy and healthy kids. I have that. My kids are everything to me and I am praying for those who, today, lost their everything.

Dad saves the day

Pajama day at preschool

Pajama day at preschool

Like everyone else, this time of year is crazy for our family. We had plans every night this week, so that left us packing lunches late at night and doing homework early in the morning. Everyone has crazy weeks and we’re making it work. When I say “we,” I mean “we.”

On Wednesdays, I take the kids to school and we strolled up in Clay’s normal winter ensemble of a long sleeve sports-themed t-shirt and jeans. I wondered why kids were wearing their pajamas, then had a flashback to something Clay mentioned the night before: “Mommy, tomorrow is pajama day.” I told him he must be confused because I hadn’t received an email about it, but that I would write his teacher and ask. I should have emailed from the parking lot, rather than thinking I would do it when I got home. Somehow it slipped my mind while I did five loads of laundry, wrote Christmas cards and made dinner.

The elementary school where Clay attends preschool sends out a lot of email. I only skim over most of them, but I do read the ones I get each Friday discussing the upcoming week. Nowhere in Friday’s email was information about “pajama day,” which, as it turns out, was yesterday. Even his teacher was dressed in her pajamas (i.e. a Juicy sweat suit). I felt terrible. We are four months into preschool and because of the weekly emails, I’ve remembered inside out day, favorite college day and sports day. There Clay was with no jammies and a sad face. I thought about running home, but getting Avery in and out of the car three more times would have made me late. I apologized before leaving and Clay smiled, because that’s the kind of kid he is.

I told Chase about my “mommy fail” when I got to work and fortunately he had a meeting near our house. He ran home before his meeting and got Clay’s pajamas and took them to him at school. Clay lit up when he saw Chase and they went to the bathroom to get changed. He had the same pj’s as a friend at school (thanks to Costco), which they both thought was pretty cool.

It was the first time we missed something at school, but with two busy parents, it won’t be the last. This time, Chase saved the day! Next time it might be me.