Such A Tender Time

About thirty minutes after Alex went to bed last night, his daddy and I heard what sounded like a little crying going on in his room. And sure enough, when we checked on him, he was wide awake. He said that he couldn’t sleep, and for whatever reason, he seemed pretty upset about that whole not-sleeping thing.

I was overcome with empathy for my little man, so I crawled in the bed, snuggled up beside him, and sighed deeply as he rested his head in the crook of my shoulder.

We laid there quietly for about few minutes, and I thought about the countless times I’ve comforted him in the middle of the night. I thought about when he was three and getting used to his room in our current house. I thought about when he was two and in a “big boy bed” for the first time. I thought about when he was a newborn and I’d rock him back to sleep after a middle-of-the-night feeding.

And I remembered that when he was a baby, I could always rub my hand very gently across his forehead – back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – and after a few minutes, it was impossible for him to keep his eyes open.

I looked over at him and saw that he was still awake. So I whispered:

“Hey, buddy. You know what?”

“What, Mama?”

“When you were a baby, I would rub your forehead to make you fall asleep. Do you want me to try that now?”

“Sure, Mama,” he said. “I would love that.”

So I rubbed his little forehead – back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – and I marveled at how my “baby” is growing up. His legs stretch out almost to the end of a double bed now. His face is angular and thin. His hands look like a boy’s, not a baby’s.

I was so caught up in my reverie – and right on the verge of getting teary-eyed, I might add – that I jumped just a little bit when Alex’s voice interrupted the silence.

“Mama?” he whispered.

“Yes, baby?” I answered as I pulled him closer.

“Um, you know what?”

I waited for him to finish his thought, halfway anticipating that he was about to tell me how much he loves me, how grateful he is that I’m his mama.

“I don’t think I can really sleep anymore when you rub my head.”

Oh.

Well then.

Duly noted.

Reverie over, I reckon.

He Has Some Thoughts About Some Things

In which I interview my little man, age five, because I love this age so much that I can’t decide if I’d rather dip it in vat of chocolate or deep fry it in a vat of peanut oil, though now that I think of it either option would be equally delicious:

What do you want to be when you grow up?
“I want to be a daddy.”

No, I mean, what kind of job do you want to have?
“I JUST WANT TO BE A DADDY.”

Okay. Well. Where do you want to go to college?
“Um, I think I will go to Mississippi State for college.”

Where will you live after college?
“Um, I would like to live in the house with you and Daddy after I get married. I will still call you ‘Mama’ and ‘Daddy,’ but the girl I marry will call you ‘David’ and ‘Sophie.’ I don’t know how to pay for things, but that’ll be okay because she will know how to pay for things.”

[alarmed] You want to get married right after college?
“Oooh, yes, because I want to grow up. I’m growing up like a flower. ‘Cause flowers grow.”

What’s your favorite place in the whole wide world?
“Um, good question, Mama. I say our house.”

Besides that?
“Well, CiCi’s Pizza. But I love our house because it has Wii stuff.”

What’s your favorite thing to do with your daddy?
“Play Lego Star Wars on the Wii.”

What about with me?
“When we make presents for Daddy and go to the grocery store.”

What are your favorite books?
The Go Go Dogs, Chicken Little, Max’s Chocolate Chicken, Rolie Polie Olie’s Big Time Olie.”

What are your favorite toys?
“Buzz Lightyear car, Batman sword / light saber and my spinny light saber. And my Star Wars people.”

What’s your favorite thing to do outside?
“Ride my bike. And goin’ down the hills.”

What’s your favorite song?
“‘You can go / I’m gonna stay’ by Dave Barnes. ‘We can change the world’ by Dave Barnes. ‘He’s Alive’ by Travis.”

[Note: those would be “A Lot Like Me,” “Brothers & Sisters,” and “Alive Forever, Amen” – he’s not so big on the titles.]

What are your favorite movies?
“Say this: Star Wars. Curious George.”

What is your favorite game?
“Sorry and Mouse Trap. ‘Cause that thing? On the crane? That’s my favorite part. That big bad guy goes up and traps somebody.”

Do you know why we help Sharon in Africa?
“‘Cause we have to, Mama. Because people don’t have much money, and we can help to take care of them. Jesus wants us to help take care of people.”

What do you know about God?
“That He always takes care of everybody. He helps people to feel better. He loves us. He made us. He made the whole wide world. He made the earth. And Jesus is in my heart.”

What do you think about kindergarten so far?
“I like going to P.E. I like going to music. I like going to the playground. My favorite part of the playground is sliding and swinging. I like playing and painting. I love my teacher.”

Anything else you want to say?
“I’ll say something after we play football, Mama.”

Well. Fair enough, then.

When A Pronoun Antecedent Makes A World Of Difference

Alex’s teacher this year is Mrs. Cook, only I should probably confess right now that Mrs. Cook is not her real name. And of course this is where the relational side of me wants to say, “Hey, y’all. Her name is actually Mrs. So-And-So. She teaches at Such-And-Such School – do you know her?”

But I realize that might be a bit foolish and somewhat counterproductive in terms of protecting the boy’s privacy. Plus, the whole creating-an-alias-for-the-teacher thing is kind of fun. In fact, it makes me feel a little bit like Sidney Bristow. Except without the hot pink wig and the killer kah-rah-tay kicks.

And, you know, the rock-solid abs.

Mrs. Cook is an absolutely wonderful teacher, so much so that other parents whose children have been in her class get TEARS IN THEIR EYES when they talk about her. Even more remarkable is what someone told me the other day: Mrs. Cook has been teaching for over twenty-five years and has never raised her voice in the classroom.

We should probably pause at this juncture to give the Lord a holy handclap of praise for His goodness in providing an authority figure who just might have a calming influence on our child. Because, quite frankly, his daddy and I have proven to be of no use at all when it comes to convincing Alex to dial down his level of enthusiasm over, say, NOODLES.

Anyway.

Last night Alex and I were saying prayers before his bedtime, and all of the sudden he sat straight up and said, “Mama! Oh, Mama! I have a GOOD WORD for us, Mama!”

Thinking that he’d learned a new word at school, I patted his leg and said, “Okay, baby – and I want you to tell me ALL about it just as soon as we finish praying.”

I started to pray again, and after about five seconds the little man piped up again, only louder: “BUT MAMA! I HAVE A GOOD WORD TO SHARE!”

Something about the way he said it let me know that he wasn’t talking about vocabulary words, so I said, “All right, then – tell me your good word.”

And he bowed his head again, clasped his little hands together, and in the sweetest voice you’ve ever heard, he said, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

Oh, internets.

My heart, it was full.

And I could pretend like I didn’t cry but that would be a lie.

After we finished with prayers and goodnight kisses, I walked to the den to let D know that Alex wanted to tell him goodnight, too. As D started down the hall, I choked back the sobs and said, “Be sure to ask him about his good word.”

A few minutes later D came out of Alex’s room, and as I continued to wipe the tears from my eyes I said, “So – did he tell you his good word?”

“He did,” D answered. “And I think I have a little perspective to add to that.”

“What is it?” I asked, thinking that our sweet boy had probably recited even more of that particular verse for his daddy.

D said, “Well, he said the verse, and I told him how proud I was, and then I asked him WHO is with him.”

“Uh-huh. What did he say?”

“He said, ‘MRS. COOK is with me, Daddy!'”

So.

Alex may still be just a smidge foggy in terms of his theology.

We’ll try to work on that.

But in the meantime, y’all can be encouraged to know that you don’t have to be afraid because Mrs. Cook is with you always.

And she’ll stay calm regardless.

And she’ll teach you stuff, too.

In Which My Nerves Have Proven Themselves To Be Surprisingly Resilient

An incomplete list of objects that were nearly destroyed by the four year-old yesterday:

– a window pane in the dining room
– the glass top of the living room coffee table
– a leg on the breakfast room table
– two remote controls
– the big toe on his left foot
– an arm of one of the living room chairs
– his bed frame
– a glass storm door
– a plastic pirate ship
– several wooden closet doors
– Superman’s cape

And then, at Office Max:

– a display of copier paper
– a faucet in the restroom
– a rack of computer games
– a metal shelving unit
– an upholstered desk chair

Last night on the phone I told Mama that I really don’t think it’ll be any time at all before he starts putting holes in the floors.

Using only the force of his ever-stomping feet.

You Can Call Him Al – Or, You Know, Whatever

Last week Alex started swimming lessons.

I know. It’s a little late in the summer. I have no excuse. I hang my head in shame.

The first day of lessons passed without incident. Alex seemed to love his teacher right away – she was oh-so-sweet, and the little man couldn’t wait to go back the next day.

On the second day of lessons, D. wanted to take the boy to the pool so he could check out A.’s mad swimming skillz, and aside from A. having a bit of resistance to a move they call “the spider,” everything went well.

We were understandably pleased.

On Wednesday I was delighted to take Alex to his lesson since, as we all know, I can’t get enough of SITTING OUTSIDE IN THE STIFLING HEAT. But when we got to the pool, the sweet teacher from the previous two days was nowhere to be found. Another teacher, Miss Emily, was there instead, and Alex, in his typically shy fashion, walked up to her and said, “Hey. My name is Alex.” After a few pleasantries, they hopped in the pool and got started with some kicking.

I was only halfway paying attention to what they were doing because I was making a to-do list in an effort to distract myself from the realization that THE HEAT, IT JUST MIGHT KILL ME, but you can imagine my surprise when, a few minutes later, I distinctly heard Miss Emily say, “Okay, Howard. Let’s work with the kickboard.”

Howard??

I sort of shrugged internally and decided that it had to be a one-time slip-up – after all, there’s no telling how many kids cross her path in a day. Plus, she had such a huge smile on her face that it was hard to fault her.

But then:

“Great job with the kickboard, Howard!”

Which led me to an all-but-certain conclusion:

My child’s swimming instructor believed that his name was Howard.

I mean, it’s a perfectly lovely name, but, you know, NOT HIS.

Being the good Southern girl that I am, I offered correction via the semi-passive-aggressive route: by offering a little parental encouragement from my lounge chair. I said, “Way to go, ALEX” as loud as I dared, but I didn’t want to go overboard, lest the other mamas get the impression that I am a woman who attends her child’s Mother’s Day Out programs and mouths the words to the Thanksgiving songs while simultaneously offering cues for the next round of hand motions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.

And since the next few laps were uneventful, I thought maybe the issue had resolved itself.

Until Miss Emily asked Howard if he wanted to swim to the deep end of the pool.

Clearly we had a misunderstanding.

At the end of the lesson, I really wanted to set the record straight. The only problem is that as a result of All The Southernness I have a very difficult time being assertive, because what if it makes the other person uncomfortable? What if the other person thinks I’m rude?

I know, internets. I KNOW.

So I walked up to the little man and his teacher and said, “ALEX, have you thanked Miss Emily for the lesson?”

“Oh yes ma’am, Mama,” he replied.

“Well, ALEX – let’s tell Miss Emily good-bye!”

The very picture of Southern parental subtlety, I was.

The next day D. took swimming lesson duty again so that I could take care of some bloggy business, and when he came home he gave me a re-cap of the lesson over lunch. He was almost finished with his chicken tenders dinner (oh, we eat fancy around here. REAL fancy.) when he said, “Hey – here’s something sort of strange. Do you know what I think I heard Alex’s swim teacher call him during his lesson?”

“Oh, no. HOWARD?”

“Yes!” he answered. “Where in the world did ‘Howard’ come from?”

At that point I told him the whole story with which I have already bored you.

Alex didn’t have a lesson on Friday, but several times over the weekend D. and I told him that if his teacher calls him ‘Howard’ when they’re in the pool and we’re not nearby to correct her, it is perfectly fine for him to say, “My name is not Howard. My name is Alex.”

When I gave Alex these instructions for the forty seventh time, he looked at me and said, “But Mama! My teacher calls me Howard ALL DAY LONG!”

So yesterday morning, D. took Alex to swimming so that I could try to get some writing done. When they got to the pool, the little man marched right up to his teacher and said, “My name is NOT HOWARD. My name is ALEX.”

Only he said it to the first teacher. The oh-so-sweet one. The one who has never had a second’s trouble remembering his name.

And praise the Lord, she was back at the pool today.

But tomorrow? If Miss Emily is his teacher again? I’m going to make Alex a big ole “NOT HOWARD” sign. Or maybe I’ll just draw a name tag on his chest with a Sharpie:

“HELLO, MY NAME IS NOT HOWARD.”

And in little tiny letters underneath:

“My mama is sitting over there in a lounge chair. And she’s hot. So I bet she’d really appreciate it if you called me ‘Alex.’ Because IT’S MY NAME.”

And then:

“Thanks a whole bunch, sweet thing. You have a super great day.”

Four And A Quarter

– “Mama? I want a SUPER BIG HUG!”

– “Mama, I love you all much.”

– “I DID IT! Because I CAN DO! ALL THINGS! THROUGH CHRIST! WHO STRENGTHUMS ME!”

– “Oh, I MISSED YOU when you went to the store and before you came back and I’m SO glad you’re home.”

– “Let’s dance.”

– “I love movies, Mama. They’re my favorite.”

– “I love bananas, Mama. They’re my favorite.”

– “I love quesadillas, Mama. They’re my favorite.”

– “I love milk, Mama. It’s my favorite.”

– “YES MA’AM, Your Highness!” (I promise I didn’t teach him the “your highness” thing. Promise.)

– “Well, we certainly CAN have a snack when we get home. That will be fun!”

– “Dear God. Thank you for Boo and BooAlex and Alex. Thank you for Mama and BooMama and S. Thank you for Daddy and BooDaddy and D.”

– “Mama? You’re my favorite girl in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD.”

And you know what? He’s my favorite boy.

Feel free to share your favorite young’un one-liners in the comments.

And then go give said young’un lots of sweet sugar. And a SUPER BIG HUG.