Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Boys: A Post in Three Parts

Explanation: I haven't posted much here in the last few months. When I allow myself to worry about it, I fast forward years from now when the boys are reading our archives (if they do such a thing) and Evan notices that my blog post right after his birth has been significantly slower than when Tobin was born. The pace of our household is significantly different with two boys than when it was just T. That isn't a complaint; it's the reality. Most of my summer was spent trying to occupy Tobin while Allison attended to Evan. T's curiosity borders on unquenchable, and it seemed at times like Allison and I were working exclusive full-time parenting jobs. I guess this is the struggle all parents have with second children. Unless we space them at 8-year intervals, their needs overlap--and their needs are vastly different. That said, Tobin is as gentle and loving a big brother as we could hope for. And Evan is a delight. His giggles and smiles have lit up our house. He also has outdone his brother in at least one department: whether its my skill or his generosity, I haven't been, ahem, "splashed" during diaper changes more than two or three times. Maybe it was the shock of T's regular changing-table surprises, but I felt like his mission was to keep me on my toes. Evan doesn't seem too concerned with such things.

Baby Boy: Evan is an observer. His eyes (huge) have been struggling to absorb the world since we brought him home. When he wakes up from naps, there is no such thing as heavy eyelids; he barely seems to have eyelids. His eyelashes project from little folds above and below the whites of his eyes. Even before his eyes adjusted and he began tracking movement, he seemed to take in everything, wide eyed and eager. There is nothing timid about his manner, though. When he is uncomfortable or upset, he lets us know more passionately (and loudly) than I remember Tobin ever doing. Their moments of birth foretold this aspect of their babyhoods: Tobin was born wide-eyed and quiet. Evan was born wide-eyed and yelling.

Evan has begun to laugh--that inexplicably infectious baby laugh that can carry a room with it. At least half a dozen times, Evan has begun to laugh, making Tobin and me laugh. Our laughter makes his redouble and it continues until we all ache a bit and leak from the eyes (or T overdoes it just a smidge with a hammering, affected laugh). Evan's coos and smiles create in me an awareness of the present and its immediacy that transcends everything else in my day, week, or mind. He has begun to reach out and grab, bat, push and pull with his hands--always with eyes wide open. I am awed by him and the gift that he is, even more so because I appreciate the preciousness of life at this point in my own life more than I ever have before. He adores his Mama. And he seems to think I'm pretty neat. But he saves his biggest wide-eyed, slack-jawed looks of engrossed wonder for his brother. Tobin sings songs to Evan and tells him stories; he kisses him and hugs him. Evan responds with giggles and a look of pure fascination the intensity of which I've never seen. If Mama hung the moon in his eyes, Tobin hung it, then broke it into a million sparkling, giggling shards of refracted amazingness. Which brings me to part three of my post.

Big Boy: Tobin is his own person. It's probably clearer to me because of Evan's dependence on Allison and me, but he is simply an amazing, increasingly independent boy. An example: He is steadfast in his refusal to adopt my favorite college basketball team as his own. A sample exchange usually goes like this:

Me: "I like Kentucky. Don't you like Kentucky, too? They're my favorite team."
Tobin: "No, I like North Carolina. They are my favorite. They will beat Kentucky."
He loves to play football and basketball, baseball and golf. He plays each in a goal-oriented way. He usually pronounces one of us the winner after a contest. When one of us hits a home run, both of us get to run around imaginary bases. Sunday, when we came in from hitting golf balls in the yard, he told Allison "Daddy had fifty-five and I had zero, so he won today. But I will win next time." He loves to tackle, and often uses that skill in sports and activities that don't traditionally feature running tackles.

But he has been into sports for a while. His newest and most amazing developments are in his storytelling, his mastery of numbers, and his fascination with letters and language. Last night at the dinner table, he told me a story that went like this:
"Once upon a time there were four acorns. There were three acorns ready to fall from their tree and one that was still a little green. The three brown acorns were named Mama, Daddy, and Tobin. The little green acorn was named Evan. He was green because he needed to stay in the tree so he could eat and grow more."
Tonight when we were spelling words on the fridge (more on that in a bit), he left the letters "G-O-L-F C-A-T" up (after we had spelled "golf cart"). I asked him what it said and he said "Golf cat." I asked him what that was and he responded with a lilt of concern at my inability to grasp the idea: "A Golf Cat is a cat that plays golf. I saw one one time at the golf course. You should not go near them because they bite." I asked if they always bite and he said only when they are playing golf. When I asked if they played with little clubs, he replied patiently "No, they play with medium clubs because they are medium cats. Little clubs are too small for them."

This kind of storytelling springs from words Tobin can spell. He can identify and spell more than a dozen words. He also understands letter combinations and how compound words work. Tonight, we were using his magnetic letters on the fridge to spell words. One of the words he can spell out with his magnets is "ball." Tonight, he said he wanted to spell "football." I asked him what it sounded like it began with and he correctly said "F." He even guessed the "oo" part correctly since one of his favorite words to spell this week has been "books." The "t" was a no-brainer at the end. At first he had "foot ball" spelled out on the fridge, but he changed it to "football" saying "I need to take the space out because it is just one word." He has entire books memorized and recognizes words in print that neither Allison nor I can remember specifically pointing out or teaching him. He has become an independent learner, driven by curiosity and a remarkably consistent deductive ability.

We learned about his independent application of ideas one afternoon on the way home from work (Allison and the boys pick me up most days). Allison and I were talking in the front seat when T's voice piped up from the back "That bus says four hundred and twelve, huh?" Sure enough, bus 412 has just passed us on the left. During the rest of the ride home, Allison wrote down more random three-digit numbers (I was driving, don't worry) for him and he got them all right. Again, Allison and I haven't really set out to teach him his numbers beyond 20, but he has put all of our discussions together into a working knowledge of the way they're arranged. The next natural step was thousands. He identifies most 4-digit numbers correctly, saying them in his own charming way, like this: "Four thousands, seven hundreds, and twenty-six." To me, it's all the more remarkable because Tobin has learned numbers because he wants to. His intellectual curiosity matches his interest in shooting hoops or romping around in the yard. In a different way from the awe I feel at Evan, Tobin's integration of his role as big brother and his wholehearted pursuit of his curiosity awe me as well.

As this lengthy post (and probably embarrassingly gushing tone) attests, my boys mean the world to me. I appreciate all of you and what you have done for them directly and through Allison and me. I'll try to find more time to post and share with you, because ours is often a little house bursting with joy. But now is time for me to go to bed; I've probably got a football game and spelling-story time ahead of me tomorrow.