unexpected

He had just given me my toilet back. Now he was telling me we would be without water for another 24 hours. Or more.

“But……we are going to have a baby…..tomorrow morning.” The plumber already knew that. They had been working long hours to get me working pipes before I popped.

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Later that night there was a drug bust across the street.

The next day four different shifts of women rallied around our older boys to care for them while we birthed their brother.

The omen was clear. Chaos would abound.

Which is exactly why I never planned on having a third child. In my opinion control is preferable to chaos.

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Lucky for me, life does not always go according to my plan.

Because chaos has, indeed, abounded since that day five years ago when our third boy entered this world. But so has endless amounts of love.

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And somehow the fact that he is a whole hand old today is making me pause extra-long and think about the enormity of it all. (That and the fact that we did all of his celebrating this past weekend so there is nothing left for me to do but be sentimental.)

An era is ending. And that era lasted much longer than I thought it would. About five years longer. But what a beautiful era it was. Hard. Gruelingly hard. But simultaneously boundlessly beautiful.

Zachary was my gift to get to do it all over again, one last time. To live in different skin than I did the first two times. More comfortable skin. Completely imperfect and still quite messy skin, but somehow more peaceful skin.

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The one thing I wanted to do more than anything with my life was be a mom. But once I got there all of my “stuff” came to the surface and it was like breathing through mud. Slowly, very slowly, I have been working through all of that stuff. Learning to be loved. Learning to love.

And I have nothing but gratitude. Because somehow, the third time around I was free to enjoy the process. Somehow I was enjoying not only Zachary growing up but all three of my boys at the same time, in this new skin.

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And although my children are not out of the nest yet, the fact that all are now out of the formative years seems significant. And today I have not only been delighting in this child and all of who he is, but also in all he brought to me.

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Happy birthday Little Z. And thank you.

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whistle baby!

Keep a straight face, keep a straight face, keep a straight face! The whole thing will be blown if your oldest sees you smirking.

He is sitting shotgun right next to me. And he doesn’t miss a thing. So if I and his younger brother, my middle son, are going to continue to enjoy this moment, I must keep from showing my grin.

I have no idea what it must be like to grow up in the middle of the family. My best friend growing up was the middle child and after watching how much she struggled with her place in the family I vowed I would never do that to someone.

Then I had a surprise that turned my baby into the middle child. And my heart has ached for this tension in his life ever since.

To be fair, sometimes I think I struggle more with Colby being a middle child than he does. He certainly loves his brothers with a depth I am not sure any of us can fathom.

But sometimes I can tell it wears on him. Someone always going ahead of him, learning everything first, excelling at everything he tries. And someone constantly behind him being cute and adorable and the youngest.

Then a few weeks ago, I realized I had been hearing a new sound. A sound I had never heard from a child in our home before.

Whistling.

Our oldest whistles through his teeth. It qualifies, I have reassured him, but there is not a whole lot of umph behind it.

I called the whistler over to me and said in a stealthy but clearly exuberant voice, “Colby! YOU are whistling!!!”

“I know.” His notorious deadpan.

I cup his face in my hands. “Do that again.” My eyes dance with delight as the air goes from his lungs and passes through his pursed lips, making a song as it goes.

I look around and then I say very quietly, “You know…..your brother doesn’t know how to whistle. Not like that.”

“I know.” His smirk and twinkle tell me everything I need to know. He knows. He learned to do something his brother can’t do.

I would love for my children to be satisfied in who they are without comparing themselves to one another. But the fight for alpha exists anyway. So I work with it and try to celebrate their individual strengths anyway.

So a few days later as we drive in the car and my oldest starts whistling in his own special way in the front seat and a minute later I hear a (real) whistle coming from the back, keeping up, fluffing his feathers, and I know it is completely intentional, my heart does a little happy dance.

This middle child now has one thing he did first. He can do better. And in his sweet little non-confrontational way, he is celebrating. And so am I.

And it’s our little secret.

As long as I can keep a straight face.

a new mantra

Her words sank in and offered me a whole new way of looking at things. Previously I would have seen my shortcomings, my failures as a mother. On top of that I would have inflated the emotions of my son to eclipse anything else.

Now I saw an opportunity to empower him.

I find it so amazing how just one little thing, just one little sentence can turn a light on in a room I didn’t even realize was dark.

But Zachary, you did just the right thing, didn’t you? You called out and mom heard you and you found each other. You took care of yourself.”

This was new.

Not the chatty mom who made a pit-stop on our way out of school. My poor children are quite accustomed to my tendency to find and stop at any opportunity to have a meaningful connection with someone.

But when I make such a pause and my children are young enough to not realize this and they keep going, they loose me. They look around and mom has mysteriously disappeared. Panic may set in to their small little hearts.

Thus what happened to Zachary this day. And when his nervous holler for mom found it’s way to my ears, I responded how I always did. “I’m so sorry, honey! I stopped and didn’t tell you. You must have been scared. I am so sorry.” Because, of course, this is all about me and how terrible I am.

But then she affirmed my son and his ability to find his way out of a sticky situation.

He took care of himself. Wow. That is something that has taken me almost 40 years and a lot of therapy to do. And my then three-year-old did it without even really thinking about it.

Children solve problems. All the time. And I WANT my children to be problem solvers. I want them to know how capable they are. But I realized in this moment that sometimes I take away their natural problem solving skills because I am so wrapped up in my own self.

This became my new mantra. My eyes were opened to how my children solve problems all the time, all over the place. And I could point that out to them. So that then they know they have this very important skill. And hopefully it grows.