Wednesday, September 28, 2011

And So It Begins

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was so excited. I felt as if I had officially ushered myself right into adulthood simply by choosing to procreate. Jason and I had only been married for six months, and we found ourselves in a dual alternate universe of newlyweds and expectant parents. I was a cow by the time our first anniversary rolled around, which helped me feel a lot less guilty about indulging in our frozen wedding cake.

When I checked into the hospital for an induction with Camden, I was stoked instead of scared. I have never been one to back down from a challenge, and at the end of this challenge, I got to hold my son. What could be better? HA! I really should have brushed up on my details of what degrading smaller events within the big event come with delivering a baby, particularly your first baby. After a very effective enema, twenty hours of laboring sans epidural, an impatient jackass anesthesiologist when I caved and got the epidural, four hours of resting, an hour of puking, three hours of pushing, and lots and lots of stitches, my work was done. The reward was still spectacularly grand, even after the loss of my dignity and my modesty. I was holding a nine pound little miracle.

Camden Henry Jones was sunshine incarnate right from the start. We had a mild setback around three weeks thanks to colic, but $9 cans of formula saved the day (and broke our budget). His spit-up smelled even more revolting than average spit-up, but he was all smiles once again. He never wanted to be little. He smiled on command at three weeks, rolled over at five weeks, and carried on full cooing conversations by six weeks. He was walking like a champ by the time he was ten months old, and before he was a year old, he could rattle off sounds for a dozen different animals and speak in full sentences.

I was in love with my son. When I sent him home with my parents the night before my induction with Hudson, I cried bittersweet tears because I realized it would never again be just me and my little buddy at home. Of course, the trade-off for that loss has been an incredibly adventurous gain, and through the years, Camden has proven to be an engaging, energetic, enigma of a kid (okay, so I went a little crazy with the alliteration. Just roll with it).

Once Hudson arrived, and especially after Lawson arrived, Camden naturally settled into his role as big brother and oldest child. Being the oldest implies a certain right to bossiness and a tendency to push the little guys around. It was when these things started happening that I recognized I was dealing with a strong-willed child. Don't get me wrong--he is still sunshine, but now there is a very challenging side to his personality that I've had to learn to navigate along with the sunny sides. In short, he is like a carbon copy of me, only much more confident than I was at his age.

He gives everything he does 100% and seethes when he doesn't come out on top. He's very articulate but knows few boundaries in terms of conversational topics. The first time he met my friend Margie, he introduced himself and declared, "I'm home from school today because I have red poop. But we think it might have just been the spaghetti." His teachers tell me he is an angel at school. Like me, he is always eager to please and receive praise (his love language).

He is also extremely empathetic and sensitive, and things that upset him stay with him for inordinate lengths of time. He worries about the day our animals will go to heaven because he'll miss them so much, and he frets when he feels his brothers are leaving him out. He is an active participant in the world around him. He navigates life with a deep connection to and awareness of his feelings about subjects as trivial as how much he loves climbing trees or as heavy as how sad he felt when a peer was bullied at school.

On Monday, he turned seven years old. I can't believe it's been so long since I checked into the hospital with such a bold naivete of how much he would change my life. It's amazing to me what capacity parents have to love their children and how interesting it is to learn and understand each of their different personalities. I know Camden will bring me incredible joy in the coming years, and I also suspect I will fight many battles with my headstrong, independent, quirky little soul. My tenure as a mom began with him, and it has been a beautiful journey so far.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tales of a Nutbag Working Mom

Three weeks ago I made a difficult choice to go back to work. I've worked sporadically as a freelance writer since we moved here, and while it's been a fantastic job, it's not always the most reliable income. In an effort to have the best of both worlds, I took a position as a part-time Pre-K teacher at the wonderful school Hudson and Lawson attended last year (the best of both worlds part being that it's part-time and allows me to drop off and pick up the boys and still have some time to spend with Scouty P).

Let me first say the job is a huge blessing on multiple levels (some more reliable income, great faculty and staff, awesome little dudes and dudettes). Let me then say the job is a huge adjustment. As a former middle school and high school teacher, I was a little awestruck by the preparation and pre-planning that goes into walking a group of fourteen four-year-olds through the construction of a paper bag frog puppet. I am in week two of my new gig, and every day is a bit of a learning experience.

For example, do not let four-year-olds use green tempura paint to turn a brown paper bag into a green paper bag, which will later serve as the body of a frog puppet. The result is a gloppy, torn mess that is too glued together to allow little hands to open the bag and animate their puppets. Epic fail for Mrs. Jones. Now, on a positive note, the little ones seem to find my dorky personality pretty funny. Score one for Mrs. Jones. Finally an audience who appreciates my childish sense of humor and willingness to humiliate myself in front of crowds.

The ultimate lesson I'm learning is that transitions are hard for preschoolers. Whether it's moving from a coloring center to a cutting and gluing center or giving up a favorite toy once I start belting out the cleanup song, four-year-olds don't like to transition. In many ways I sympathize. Sometimes grownups don't like to transition either, despite how necessary the change may be.

I hope my four kids aren't too greatly damaged psychologically by the frantic mess their mommy has been the past few weeks, and I hope the guilt I feel for being tired or frustrated with them eases once I really get in a groove and better master the art of balancing work and motherhood. They're going through big changes, too. As a first grader, Camden has homework every night. Hudson is adjusting to being at school for kindergarten every day for seven hours a day, and Lawson is preparing to start Pre-k at his big brother's school in exactly one week. Scout is going with the flow as the fourth child always finds a way to do.

They are the core of my heart, and I pray each day they'll eventually learn to shake their heads knowingly, roll their eyes, and say "Watch out, everyone. Mom is just being a little bit of nutbag right now." And then maybe give me their ultimate best behavior until the nutbag moments pass. Hey, a mom can dream, right?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Scouty P Strikes Again

My daughter is an interesting creature. Not only does she entertain us with the daily influx of knowledge she displays, but she is also a strange mixture of femininity and tomboy. She is on one hand a cuddle bug, and on the other hand prepared to straight up cut someone who tries to mess with her Pooh bear (security!). In fact, her second full sentence was spoken last week. It was "those are my Pooh bears."

Scout has what I like to call a multi-faceted personality. She twirls adorably to music, tries on clothes and shoes when she is supposed to be napping, and squeals out a girly "no" like it was a six syllable word. Then there is street punk Scout who bit a chunk out of Lawson's back for no apparent reason a few days ago, bitch slapped another baby girl at a recent photo shoot, and head butted me tonight in a toddler wrestling move gone wrong. Maybe I can start calling her Diamond Dallas Scout.

The tomboy side of her is probably inevitable considering we humans are in some part who we are because of the environment in which we are reared. (Anyone up for a spirited nature versus nurture debate will find a boring adversary in me as I put great stock in both sides of the coin.) While many of my friends' daughters comb my house looking for baby dolls and strollers when they visit, Scout loves to sit and play with monster trucks or the boys' toy race track. This week I found her holding two giant plastic insects and reenacting an epic bug battle. Not long ago Jason bought her little fairy dolls with brushes and combs, but they were quickly tossed aside for a GI doll.

God bless the boy who tries to date her one day. She is one tough, loud, cute, and spoiled little cookie. She is also the sun around which four planets in this house revolve. They're called Planet Daddy and Planet Big Brothers 1 through 3. I foresee some melodramatic scene playing out in fifteen years or so that involves a justifiably frustrated Scout standing on the front porch fuming and gesticulating wildly because the Jones men have driven away yet another school chum she would like to call her boyfriend. In the meantime I will try my hardest to instill in her boundless love and some sense of awareness that she is not, in fact, the center of the universe. Yeah, I know. Good luck with that.