My son, Asher, turned four last week.
Normally, I would have posted a blog on his birthday all about little old Asher T, but as it turned out we were driving up to NY state to attend his great-grandfather's funeral. I also didn't get a chance to celebrate my other son, Micah's, two-year-old birthday, because on his birthday we were flying across the ocean, back home from our vacation in Ireland.
Don't worry, both boys received perfectly adequate birthday celebrations even though they weren't on their actual days of birth. Micah was blessed to have his grandparents around to celebrate his day, and celebrated with a Gaelic Football cake. Besides, how many other people do you know who were able to turn two on two continents?
Asher's birthday was moved up a day in an emergency effort to squeeze it in before we left for NY, but somehow we still managed to decorate a Spiderman cake, arrange for a trip to the movies and allow a handful of kids to splatter each other with water balloons for a couple of hours.
In some ways it is appropriate that my two sons both had their special day (and even more importantly, their ever special birthday blog!) overlooked, because it means that they end up getting squeezed together into one catch up column here.
Now, this sounds terrible doesn't it? The two younger ones getting overlooked like always, right?
Yeah, a little bit, but it also means that they are here together in print, like they are in life. Their older sister was in Kindergarten last year and so, for 8 hours a day, my boys were together. And so, at least for a portion of the day, I would just call out, "come on boys," whenever it was time to move form one place to another. Yep, for a good chunk of the day, it's just me and my boys.
It has a nice ring to it.
It's funny because I never thought I would have boys. My wife was the youngest of three girls and when we had Audra, I sort of got it into my head that we would end up with a family of girls. I don't know why, it just seemed like how things would work out. I remember, during our second pregnancy, having to listen to little old lady after little old lady asking me whether we were hoping for a boy so we could have one of each (like we were collecting burger King Star Wars glasses or something) and I remember replying that I didn't really care. And unlike most people who seem to be lying through their teeth when they say that, I actually meant it. I was going to be perfectly happy with my family of girls.
We would all go to the opera together and I would be the superdad who always brought the Sunny D to their soccer games and we would sit around at night watching the Princess Bride on TV and hoping that each of my Princess buttercups would find their Dread Pirate Roberts.
But it didn't work out that way. I remember going in for the ultrasound and being completely surprised to discover that we were having a boy. And maybe even a little concerned.
You see, I was never much of a guy's guy. I didn't play football (or hell, even ping pong). As a kid, I hated being in the boy scouts. Now, I don't like repairing the engines on 1987 Camaros and I have no desire to sit around in my undershirt and drink Miller Light while ogling women who walk past the construction site. (That is what guy's guys do, isn't it? I believe I learned about all of this in some movie with Charlie Sheen.)
To be honest, I was secretly a little worried that we would somehow give birth to a son who would get big and threaten to beat me up if I didn't hand over my lunch money.
Needless to say, genetics apparently has more to do with a child's development than one's paranoia. And we have been blessed with two wonderful, sweet, rumble tumble, sit and snuggle little boys who have never once tried to threaten me out of my lunch money.
Ok, last week Asher did tell me to give him a cookies “right now” or he would “shoot me with lasers.”
Somehow, I held strong.
I literally can not describe to you how much I love my boys.
They are simultaneously kids who will come up to me and climb into my lap because they need that kind of physical closeness and the kind of kids who will run around the playset turning into dirty sweatballs while they hang upside down and jump off the steps one rung higher than is truly safe.
How did I get so lucky?
Asher is one of those kids who is just endearingly funny without having any idea why. He just says stuff with a matter of fact tone that are anything but matterly factual.'
In the days leading up to his birthday, I asked him what kind of party he wanted to have. He said he wanted to have a Spiderman party.
I thought this was odd because, to my knowledge, he had no idea who Spiderman was. Sure, he had seen the toys in the store, but he had never seen the movies, had never seen the cartoons on TV and I don't even think we had any books with Spiderman in them. Yet, still he knew who Spiderman was and that he was totally cool. I think it was his little boy sense tingling. He just knew.
When I asked him why he liked Spiderman, he said, "because he's cool and because he can shoot noodles out of his arms."
I say again:
“He can shoot noodles out of his arms.”
How could you not love a super hero who could do that? You could call him Carb Man and have him fight the evil Dr. Atkins.
So, of course, when it came time to buy birthday presents for Asher, I went and found this massive contraption that you strap to your fore arm and that shoots silly string.
Hey, it's not a web, but it's at least as close as noodles.
Needless to say, Asher loved it and spent hours running around the yard, jumping, posing, and firing strings of chemically engineered blue foamy string after string of chemically engineered blue foamy string into the Rhodendron until our whole yard looked as if it had been host to some kind of smurf tickertape parade.
I assumed that whatever this Dow Industrial compound web goo was, that it would biodegrade after a few days.
This does not appear to be the case.
It will apparently still be lying in our yard when the only thing left on this planet is cockroaches, old pampers and twinkies – an eternal reminder of a birthday well enjoyed
Micah has long been our special little boy. He has some developmental delays that mean that, even at age 2, he is much more like an 18month old, well, at least as speech goes. He can climb a play structure like a 10 year old and has managed to escape his crib about 6 months earlier than either of his other siblings were ever able to.
That would have been a delay I could have lobbied for.
But, in many ways he is younger than his age and while there are times when this can be frustrating (such as trying to figure out exactly what in the world his whining cries are asking for) there are times when it seems like a blessing.
If my wife gets her way, Micah will be our last child. And seeing as how Sarah, ahem, “controls the means of production” it seems likely that he will be. So, in this way, I am not so sad to have a few extra months of babyhood with a little boy who still likes to cuddle in my lap when he wakes up and who screams my name repetitively “Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da, Da-da!” on those rare occasions when I return after we are separated.
When I look at my two wonderfully independent older kids, it’s hard not to get a little weepy about the moments that are quickly passing of having children who truly need their parents for more than simply our ability to arrange playdates and fund their chik-fil-a habit.
So I treasure Micah’s babyness. I love watching him toddle around sucking his thumb and dragging his blanket, linus-like, through the yard.
I have to suppress my desire to laugh when he runs up to me with all of the seriousness of a securities banker and says, “bah du goo sa bah, duh LAH wa, ga wuh, su da du WAY!” and then runs off in the other direction.
He is funny and stubborn and daring and endearing. It’s hard to know what he’ll be like when he’s older, but I love what he’s like now.
Both my boys are wonderful. And it is a blessing that much of the time, my boys play well together.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are lots of squabbles and lots of moments when one of them is crying because the other one hit them or pulled their hair (almost always, Asher suffering at the tyrannical hands of his little brother) but there are far more moments of pushing trains around the table or rolling around the carpet - wrestling, hugging, chasing and laughing.
I love my daughter, and I have thoroughly enjoyed these past few summer months of having all three of my kids together, but I have to admit, I also enjoy those times with just a couple of them.
It seems that each permutation of my children brings new joys and experiences. I love the stolen moments with my two older kids – the ease with which you can do things with two children that speak, follow directions, and know how to make their father laugh. I also cherish the rare moments of getting to spend time alone with my kids. And there is something wonderful about watching Audra “mother” her baby brother.
But I do love the times I have with my boys.
Audra is going back to school in another week (where DID the summer go?)
And it will once again be just the guys of the house hanging out together. And with Asher starting preschool a couple of mornings a week, there will even be moments when I am a Dad to just one.
My life is changing. My kids are growing. And I am increasingly aware that the family I have today is likely to be very different from the family I have a year from now.
I try to ignore the frustrations of the present, knowing that most of them will solve themselves with age and maturity, and focus on the unique passing joys that this summer, this month – this singular moment in this singular day present, knowing that it may never happen quite like this again.
And so, for as long as I am able to say it, I am going to try to treasure pulling into the parking lot at the grocery store, opening up the van door and saying:
“Come on boys, let’s go.”