Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bunny Races

Two days ago my favorite middle son turned three.

Of course, I love all my children equally, but I feel a special bond with Peter. Sam is the oldest; he will do most things first and, in that, be a constant source of wonder, surprise and pride. Of course, as the oldest I hold him to higher expectations, and as he begins to exert his independence of thought, I face a new challenge, a boy with whom I have to reason and explain. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is insufferable in the fact that “because I said so” just doesn’t work anymore, not that I was ever a believer in exerting my parental will just because I could. I believe many parents abuse their power. I have no ego to feed and do not need to dominate my children to prop my self-importance. Having to explain my rationale makes me accountable, which I appreciate. It forces my actions as a parent to make sense, and when I explain the reasoning behind what I ask of Sam he usually understands the underlying logic and then acquiesces. Usually. Explanations are also very exhausting.

Clementine is the girl. I am only just beginning to understand how wondrous a bond the father-daughter connection is. It might not mean much yet; she is still a baby, but it will. Of this, I am sure as her games of peek-a-boo are already timeless and it tickles me to be sought out by someone who up until recently didn’t realize I existed because I don’t make milk.

But Peter….Peter….Peter could be the quintessential middle boy. If he wasn’t so….so….Foosa-like. In his first year, which coincided with our stressful move to Washington, DC when he was eight weeks old, eight months living in corporate housing on the eighteenth floor of a high-rise, and was capped off by our first international move to Brazil, to me, Peter was a beacon. I will always clearly remember his smile which at the time had the power to crack any stress like an ice-wrecker cleaving through glaciers.

Since then, Peter has become brilliant, engaging and prone to episodes of extreme low blood-sugar resulting in nearly psychotic meltdowns. Peter is an emotional roller coaster. His highs are stratospheric so that his peals of laughter sting dog ears and his wit cracks up everyone, including himself. His highs are high, high, high. His lows, often precipitated by lack of food, are dire. Like the R.E.M. song, "Low, low, low."

I have written about Peter’s first week in the United States and his subsequent mellowing. As he turns three, he continues to impress and amaze me.

As we did for Sam a few years ago, we hosted a family birthday party for Sam and Peter at the playground in Nanny’s neighborhood in Abacoa. Elise asked San and Peter what they wanted to do at their birthday party, even prompting them by suggesting, “Gunny sack races?”

“Bunny races!” Pete squealed.

So, as his only real birthday wish, everyone lined up for Pete’s version of bunny races which he was happy 
to demonstrate for everyone, as well.

When the pizza delivery man arrived, Peter and I were the only ones there to greet him. “THANK YOU!” Pete blurted, genuinely appreciative. In fact, Peter is easily the most appreciative of the three. He never forgets to thank me for a juice box or after-nap snack.

He is also the most apologetic. We have yet to get him out of this bad habit of pooping in his nap-time pull-up, no matter how many times I ask him if he needs to poop before nap. He pooped twice today before nap, soiling two pull-ups. That’s okay, I’ll just take it out of his college fund.

Every single time, he apologizes profusely and genuinely. It is hard to stay mad at him, though I remind him, “Foosa, if you were sorry, you’d just stop doing it!”

Peter also had the uncanny ability to find beauty in unsuspecting places. When we turn on a Curious George DVD, Peter coos, “Beautiful!” at the opening Universal Pictures sequence. It may not immediately spring to mind, but it is the one with the sun rising over an orb supposedly meant to represent the Earth.

Pete has even begun kissing and hugging his younger sister. When Elise took him to Target the other day, he pointed to tiny girls clothes and awwed, adding, "This would be cute for Clementine."

There are mental images of Peter I will always carry with me. A new one was taken Sunday afternoon midst all his family swirling about him, a lone boy played with a plastic red Lightning McQueen car that topped his birthday cake, rolling it through the wood chips of the playground alone. Peter likes to lay on the ground as he plays, to get eye level with the wheel of his Hot Wheels. A few minutes later, though several tried, no one would suffice when he bumped his chin on the slide. No matter who comes to his party or who plays with him, he always comes to Elise or I when he is hurt.

I hope this remains the case. Though I don’t want him to come to harm, I know he will still need me for awhile, and I am fond of telling Sam and Peter that they will leave us and stop needing us long before we will leave or stop needing them.  

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