One Sunday in April your father and I walked into the Primary Children's Hospital auditorium to attend a sacrament meeting. We settled ourselves into some seats behind a man who was sitting next to a little boy about your age. It had been twelve days since I'd last seen you, looking small and frightened with your bag of Conversation Hearts in the corner of the emergency room. I sat quietly for a moment watching the man in the blue sweater try to wrangle his little son into a semblance of reverence. "What a cute little boy," I whispered to your dad. And then, of course, promptly burst into tears. This startled me. It also startled your father, who looked at me like I had maybe just stood up and shouted, "I now declare allegiance to the New Republic of China!" I had only ever spent 24 hours away from you since you were born, and the loss I felt from our long separation had finally slapped me full force. "I miss my boy," I whispered. And cried for the duration of the meeting.
When Liam and I finally came home from the hospital, daddy greeted me at the garage door with this gigantic child in his arms, this blue-eyed boy in striped pajamas I hardly recognized. You grew when I was away. I spent two weeks away from you and you got bigger during those two weeks. I immediately snatched you into my arms. You smiled a little, then wriggled out and ran to inspect the black car, which you had apparently missed more than me.
Or maybe not.
You had seemed fine while we were away. I talked to you on the phone everyday-- usually at you, while you listened and smiled or even occasionally said "No," and pushed the phone back at Grandma. Grandma said that you would frequently ask to go see the doctor, and then cry when she didn't comply-- and that she finally realized you wanted to go to the doctor because that was the last place you had seen me. But other than that, you were sleeping fine and didn't really seem to miss us at all. I thought that maybe you were relieved to have finally ditched those two big mean people who wouldn't let you have ice cream for breakfast-- and that horrible little baby who cried all the time and was a real attention suck.
But that first night when I was home, I tried to rock you and sing to you like I always had before. But you wouldn't have it. You screamed and thrashed in my arms like an injured animal, throatily screaming "MAHMMEEE! MAHMMEEE! MAHMMEEE!" even while I held you in my arms. "Soren!" I said. "I'm right here! I'm your mommy! Soren! Please calm down!" But you wouldn't calm down. You screamed like you had watched your entire family tortured in front of your eyes. You screamed like you had just had your legs amputated without anesthesia. You screamed like you had lost your mind. I finally had to put you down and leave you screaming for this mommy person who just wouldn't come, let you scream until you screamed yourself to sleep.
You did this every night for a week. It was horrible. We wondered if you had lost your mind.
But you finally did recover from whatever separation anxiety/trauma you had experienced in our absence and have been back to your usual antics: taking out all your toys and not playing with them, injuring the baby, smearing poop all over your bedroom walls (and yes, you do this regularly-- as in several times a week regularly), throwing wild and passionate tantrums, scattering various food products across the house, emptying tubes of diaper rash cream, repeating words and requests over and over and over and over again.
But don't get the idea that you're all trouble. You're probably only, say, 50% trouble. The rest of you is split: 35% cute and 15% nice. And each of these components is wrapped up in a whole lot of stubborn. So I'll tell about a couple of cutes and a few nices and conclude with a stubborn story.
The other night during our family prayer, Daddy thanked God that our little Soren had so many interests. You love trains, planes, tractors, and trucks. You'll spend hours playing with the garden hose, wading in Grandpa's irrigating, or splashing around in the kitchen sink. You know the names of many of the animals at the zoo. You are fascinated by numbers and letters. You love to read. You love to go for walks. When I push you extra high in the swing, you say, "Aw nuts!" And when I leave for work, you always ask your dad for fruit loops, your favorite sweet indulgence, which you call "yoops." In fact, you are so interested in life that bedtime has become a real challenge. You hate the fact that people are still up doing things while you are supposed to be unconscious, so after we put you to bed at night, you'll unplug your fan (because it blocks out noise), lie down by the door, and stay awake for hours, babbling to yourself, calling for me, sticking your paws under the doorway like a cat.
You've also developed an interest in gender. For several weeks you really struggled with the idea that you and I were not the same sex.
"Soneen: boy," you would say,"Mommy: boy."
"No, sweetie, Mommy's a girl."
"Soneen's a girl."
"No, honey, Soren's a boy."
"Mommy's a boy."
But you've pretty much got the on-sight identification of gender thing down now. We'll see a girl at the zoo and you'll say, "Girl! Girl!" We'll see a boy at church and you'll say, "That's a boy. That's a boy!" There are still some abiguities for you, but there will always be people whose gender will remain a mystery to you and, perhaps, even to themselves.
I've always hated kids who didn't have any manners, so since you were capable of forming words, we've been working with you on saying "Please" and "Thank you." This has backfired, unfortunately. This is what has happened: you would ask for something, we would say, "What do you say?", you would say, "'ease!" and we would say, "There!" and give it to you. But you've decided to fill in our part of the conversation for us, which means that our conversations now go something like this: "I want sisso (cereal)!" "What do you say?" "'easeTHERE!" Which, to the untrained ear, sounds something like, "THERE! ARE YOU HAPPY? I SAID YOUR GOSH DANG WORD! NOW FORK OVER THE GOODS!"
You also fill in our part of the conversation when you're saying something we don't understand, as though your having a moment of enlightenment will bring understanding to our minds.
This sprang from conversations like this:
Soren: Go atessashaus.
Mom: Go atessashaus?
Mom: Oh! You want to go to Tessa's house!
So now we have conversations like this:
Soren: I want a peebu'er mammert!
Daddy:You want what?
Soren: A peebu'er mammert!
Daddy: I don't understand
Soren: Ooooh! Peebu'er mammert! Oooh!
(You wanted a peanut butter sandwich, by the way.)
You've also taken to counting things. You can count up to ten or so, but your favorite is when things come in twos. You'll point at a picture of me, say "Mommy," then point at me and say, "Mommy. Two, three....two mommies!" One day you came charging out of your bedroom, tripped, got up, resumed running, tripped again, got up again, and blithely announced: "Two falls!"
A few days ago, Grandma sneezed while holding Liam. Grandma is not a gentle sneezer and Liam is not fond of loud noises. He looked betrayed, got out his famous quivering bottom lip, and was about to cry when you came and diagnosed: "Liam needs a hug." Also, you continue to be sweet whenever I cry in front of you: 'Mommy crying? Need a hug?"
It's become very important to me that you wear pants to bed. This is because of your nasty habit of removing your diaper and smearing poop all over the bedroom. Shorts add an extra barrier to this occurrence, so I've made it mandatory that you wear shorts for bedtime. One night a couple weeks ago, you decided that you did not want to wear shorts to bed. "This isn't an option," I told you. What ensued was something like a good old fashioned Southern catfish wrestling match. I'd pick you up and pin you to the floor; you'd flip and flop around until you escaped; I'd snatch you and wrestle you back down to the floor, and you'd thrash around until you could get away again. I was trying to put your legs into the pant legs and you were kicking them out and pushing the pants down. In the end, I triumphed. I held you down and forced those shorts onto your wiry little legs. I showed you who was boss. The whole encounter upset me so much that I immediately left your room and called my mother, who came over to offer support and commiseration. And when I came in to check on you later that night, you were only wearing a shirt.
This picture was taken the day after Michael Jackson died. Sue is introducing you to the Black and White music video.
But last night when I tucked you in, you were nothing but a twinkling little star. As I sang you a song, and stroked your hair, I noticed a little bit of drool sliding down your chin. You didn't notice it at all, so sweet and guileless are you. You just stared at me from your pillow with those huge blue eyes. There was something about that little string of drool that made my heart feel like it was being squeezed tight. I looked at you for a moment: small fingers stroking your own hair, wide forehead, big eyes, little nose, little mouth, and that tiny rivulet of saliva. I gently wiped it off your chin, kissed you, and left.
I sure love you, little boy.