My children are alive. They burst with sounds and action. They cannot be stilled.
My son is four years old. He’s four years old and forty-one pounds. His bedroom is an arsenal of swords, guns, and armor. He is a fighter.
The other day we had company coming for dinner. This company was coming in the form of a family blessed to have four boys, and the prospect of war games throughout the night was clearly on my son’s mind. A little while before the guests arrived, my wife and I found him in the living room lining up the guns and swords and various pieces of armor. I could almost hear him saying to himself, ‘And we might need this, and this, and this…’ Of course his mother ordered him to return the weapons to his room; he could display them there to his heart’s content.
It was not long after that when my son tore into the room where I was standing. He was armed to the teeth and brandishing a sword over his head and cried out in his fiercest voice, “I’ll cut you in half, and leave you in one piece!” After I had laughed a good bit, I explained what he had just said, and he thought it was good fun too and has since made it part of his regular warrior litany.
But my son is not just a fighter. He’s also a teacher. I was blessed to overhear a recent conversation he was having with his 2 year old sister that went something like this:
“Felicity, do you know about mosquitoes?”
“You know that they suck your blood?”
“You have blood under all your skin.”
“And there’s bones that are hard under your skin.
“Skin goes all over your body.”
“And you have bones too, under your skin.”
And at this point, River began striking various bones on his chest and arms and head to demonstrate, and Felicity thought this was hilarious and began mimicking her masochistic brother. But I was pleased that blood-sucking mosquitoes turned into a fairly worthwhile conversation about human anatomy.
My daughter still defies most story telling. She sucks a pacifier like Maggie Simpson, and although she does speak, it is still in fairly simple, disjointed sentences. So much of her style is in the tone of her voice, the expressions on her face, and the legacy she has created in emotions and creativity.
Sometime last spring she amazed us with her sleeping trick:
My daughter is not the most plump of toddler girls. In fact, I would describe her as on the petite side of petite. And this is probably related in some degree to the fact that she is fairly particular about her eating habits. Which is to say that she is often not interested in eating. Undeterred, her mother and I, are nevertheless convinced that eating is one of those things that isn’t as optional as she would prefer, and thus, we often find ourselves at dinner tables together negotiating with spoons and forks and whatever edible substances we can maneuver into her mouth. On one occasion while we were working our way through the dinner liturgy, my daughter suddenly leaned her head back in the high chair, closed her eyes, and went suddenly still. She was asleep. Of course this was a daring and completely unexpected theatrical stunt, and we all approved of its creativity. After some cheers and approbation, we told her to fall asleep again, and then told her to open her mouth. We found that she was still able to take bites while sleeping upright in her high chair.
Of course there are three of them now: Tovia Ann has been this side of the uterus for just over five months. For those of you keeping stats at home, she’s just about ready to push over eleven pounds. She has elbow dimples and happy thigh rolls to prove her mother’s milk goodness. Today however, we reached an even more significant threshold. I must say that this little lady has already outdone herself in the smile department. A few words, a hello, or a smile in her direction is all it takes for a big open-mouthed grin to break across her face. And when this woman smiles, her body gets into it. When she smiles, most of her body writhes with joy. Smiling is a full contact sport for Tovia. And of course she’s also very capable of various joyful noises as well. She ‘talks’ and coos and babbles like the best of infants, and Jenny has even had moments where her happy cooing is something very close to a giggle. But all of that was put behind us today. Today we arrived in the real world: wide-open, full-bodied laughter. We should have known that it would be the kids. River and Felicity are so much more funny than we are. And so it was bath time and the kids were doing their thing in the tub, and the next thing you know, Tovia is giggling and chuckling at her older siblings. They were laughing at her and she was laughing at them, and Jenny and I were laughing at them all. Her laugh sounds like it was pre-recorded. It’s such a small, tiny baby laugh, and of course on her body, that’s not too surprising.
I continue to be amazed by these three people that live in my home. They’ve moved into our lives and taken up residence; it really is quite the trip. These three semi-permanent guests really are full of life, and our home is so much more lively with them. Our dinner table is a constant ruckus, our living room often looks like the remains of elementary school classroom with crayons and books and papers scattered about. The house just sounds alive; those precious few hours of silence at night with a possible pause in the afternoon are just the recharging hours. They’re just getting ready to live again. They’re just getting ready to come back from the dead, getting ready to teach us resurrection life again. And really, sometimes I wonder if they aren’t all just being nice to us. Maybe they’re all like my daughter, and they’ve just decided to act like their sleeping. They’re just being nice to their tired old parents and humoring us for a bit. They close their eyes and lean back in their beds and pretend to sleep. But it’s really just part of the show. They’re really alive.