I went to look at the ducks without you guys this morning.
It’s raining. I don’t see any. You would have gotten bored really fast, anyway.
We used to come here every two weeks on Monday mornings, to spend some time together before I would take you to school. To be honest with you, it was more about keeping you buckled in than actually looking at ducks, but I’m pretty sure you never realized that. Maybe you did, though, you are very smart.
One time when we were here, during the time you were potty training, Z, you suddenly had to go potty. I drove the car over to the building, parked, went around and got baby G out, went around again and got you out (see, I couldn’t have gotten you out before getting G out because you would have made a run for it), then holding G in one arm and your hand in the other, we somehow made it into the bathroom. I helped you get all situated, using my one free hand and trying not to drop your brother with the other. Then … you didn’t go.
I see a bird. It’s not a duck, but it’s walking in the water right next to the shore. See it? It would have held your attention for a few seconds. Maybe.
Then you would have shouted at it to get it to fly away.
Or maybe reached over to take G’s sock off. Or hit him, even.
G loves you, Z. He loves you as purely as any person has ever loved another. We can see it in his face when he looks at you. You need him, to connect with, to attach, to love. He needs you, too. He’s your baby brother, and most of the time baby brothers get taken care of by their big sisters. But he needs to be protected from his sometimes.
It’s not your fault. It’s just that your love is out of whack. Your attachments don’t connect like other people’s. You will be gentle and sweet one second, tenderly stroking G’s head and cooing “It’s okay” to him, and the very next second something makes you push him over, or poke him in the eye, or dig your fingers into his head, or hit him.
You did that to us a lot, too. And it was really, really hard for us when you did.
One time you showed your worker your pretty picture you had colored at school. When she told you how pretty it was and what a good job you did, you tore it up.
It’s raining pretty hard now. I wonder if sitting and listening to the rain, watching it splash in the lake, if that would hold your attention for a few more tenuous moments.
We called you Pinball sometimes, Z, because you bounced from naughty thing to naughty thing so quickly. Grab the cell phone - touch the TV - run with the juice - back to the cell phone again. You were very frustrating. You made us very angry a lot of the time. Because we loved you, you see. We didn’t want to be angry, and we’re pretty sure you didn’t want to make us angry, it’s just that you couldn’t really figure out how not to. And we could never figure out how to make it so that you didn’t always try to. We did our best, but I guess we kind of failed you on that one.
We called you Pinball, also because you could barely stand up sometimes. Your balance, or your legs, your hips maybe - nobody could really figure out what was going on with that, even the big shots at Children’s Mercy. So you had casts for a while to try to bend your legs into shape, then braces. We called them your “boots” and they had Disney princesses on them, so you would think they were fun. You didn’t. You really liked to take them off and be barefoot.
Actually, you really liked to take all your clothes off and put different ones on - flannel pajamas in the backyard on an 80 degree day was not uncommon. Or a nightgown for a shirt and leggings for pants, with a fleece sweater over the top for good measure.
“Daddy may I fwing me on de fwing,” you said. When I gave you a “thumbs up,” you would put your pointer finger up and it made me smile.
Z, you lived with us for 21 months. And we loved you for every single moment of that time. We loved you anyway.
Our longest one.
Our hardest one.
Our wild one.
Not you G. You lived with us your whole life, all 11 months of it. As rough as your sister was, that’s how sweet you were. You were even sweet there in the NICU where you spent the first few days of your life. We came to see you there, we held you, we rocked you, we sang to you. We loved you from the very start. You were a giant compared to the other babies there!
We were scared of having a newborn baby again, a little bit. But you made it so easy. You slept, you ate, you pooped, you slept again. Easy.
Once you learned how to smile, G, it’s like you never stopped. You smiled with your whole body - your face beamed, your eyes danced, your head shook, your hands waved. Every time you smiled, everyone with you smiled too.
You loved to shake your head back and forth, mouth open, saying “ahh” in a silly voice, and get people to laugh at you. You even liked doing this for the other babies in your daycare class. Class clown already. And you can clap, too, which was also fun because everybody said “YEA” whenever you did it.
Sometimes Z would come up to you and get up in your face and say, “It’s bl-bl-bl time!” (I don’t know how to spell the sound she was making, flicking her tongue in and out of her mouth.) You don’t know the term “unconditional love” yet, but you know exactly what it means, because it’s how you love your sister. When she was in the room, your eyes tracked her every move.
You had a bunch of expressions, G. And the one that completely killed us was your “saddest face ever” expression. It was the lower lip out, mouth curled down, eyes filling with tears expression that just absolutely melted us down into blubbering lumps. It was like what an artist would draw to create a caricature of a sad baby face. You owned it!
And listen - you learned stuff at you own pace, G. You are not on anyone else’s timeframe, and don’t ever think you have to be. You were going to sit up when you were ready to, and not any sooner than that. We would prop you up on your hands and knees and rock you back and forth to try to teach you about how to crawl, and you would collapse in a heap.
But you did it. You figured it out. And now you are a crawler.
And you will, too. You will figure it out. It will be by your own time frame and in your own way, but you’ll figure it all out.
Hey, there’s a goose. It’s just swimming by, right there. See it? That’s right, the goose says, “haw haw.”
It’s weird without you guys. It’s quieter. I hate it. I love it. It’s weird.
We really miss being so angry at you, Z.
We really miss you wiping your snotty drool all over our clothes, G.
That’s right. It’s wonderful. It’s awful.
Your Daddy S gave me a hug when I dropped you off. He told me thank you for taking such good care of you. Your Mommy C did too, and she said that she wants us to stay in touch, so that we can still be a part of your lives somehow. That would be nice.
The rain stopped. Still no ducks. It’s time to go.
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