As a new mother, it is a wonderful gift to have a good friend who is one step ahead of you in raising children. I was blessed with that gift in Birmingham in my friend Lauren Brooks. Her oldest daughter–Caroline, is a couple of years older than Pace, and her daughter–Natalie, is only 2 months older than Pace. Those first few years of mothering, I came to her often. She had the wisdom of someone who had done what seemed impossible to me at the time–kept a baby alive through infancy–and she was doing it AGAIN alongside me, quite literally across the street. It was on Lauren’s front porch that I first put anything solid into Pace’s mouth (and Pace did not immediately choke as I was certain she would ;)). It was Lauren who reassured me that I would ONE DAY sleep through a whole night again and that Pace’s front two teeth would not always look 4 sizes too big for her head… There were many deeper truths that Lauren shared, but these were the first three that came to mind. I was worried about those big teeth 😉
So when Lauren told me, after Mary Aplin was born, that my children would rotate who would be my most difficult to handle at different times–I believed her. And she was right…for a while. Mary Aplin rocked me senseless as a newborn, but then Pace climbed into the terrible two’s–making the tiny baby who couldn’t move and get into every cabinet in the house, suddenly seem like a breeze. Then Mary Aplin was into everything and Pace was “older” and easy. Then Pace went to school and had things like sight-words and math, so Mary Aplin was easy… Lauren, unfortunately, has not been here in Dothan for Jay Paul, and I feel the need to tell her that one bit of her wisdom has now failed me. Jay Paul has been my most difficult child every day of his life so far. Nobody, including my newborn baby, has usurped him from that throne.
Jeremiah likes to tell me that I spoiled him more, but it is not the truth. Jay Paul may have wrapped my heart up in his tiny little fist at birth, but I did not make him needy and unable to sleep. Mae has reassured me of this fact. I had started to doubt, since there is an (almost) 4 year gap between he and Mary Aplin, if I had done everything the same with him as I had with the girls? Maybe I had gone soft? But no. Now that I have Mae, and I KNOW I’m doing the same things with her as I did with Baybus, I feel reassured that I am not to blame. He was born a handful…and so loveable that you forgive him for it immediately. Maddening!
Until Mae was born, Jay Paul lived on my hip. As long as I was around, he didn’t want anything to do with anybody else. It was exhausting. Utterly exhausting for a woman hugely pregnant, but I consoled myself with the fact that we loved each other–he and I. Then, Mae was born, and Jay Paul was forced to spend some significant time with other people. Through this I saw that it was not so much me that he loved with undying affection, as he needed somebody to cling to. After spending three or four days with Mama B, he will shoo me away and cling to her neck when I come to pick him up. After a weekend spent with Daddy, he is all about trucks and “the shack” and pretends not to notice that I am alive. And so, one by one he takes more people under his spell. Because, you see, to be loved by Jay Paul may be exhausting but it is also exhilarating.
Right now, we are struggling with the fact that he wants to beat and hit on everything. Constantly. And it is all the better if he can use a long lever arm to beat with. The broom is a particular favorite. He grabs the broom and runs through the house, hitting walls, furniture, mirrors–anything that might make a new sounding BOOM when struck. Unfortunately, his hitting does not exclude people, and he gets in trouble almost every time he goes to MMO for hitting and wrestling with the other children. I have tried distracting him. I have tried time outs. I have tried spanking…and none of it seems to work. The beating continues.
On the up side, Jay Paul loves My Mae–as he often calls her. Adores her. Thinks she is the most precious object in the house, and the only object for which he has tried to grasp the term “gentle”. If he can reach her, he’s kissing her hands, her feet, her head. He wants to hold her all the time, and if I prop her in his lap he will sit there with a dreamy grin on his face, still as a statue, until I take her off. It doesn’t matter if she screams and squirms (and she usually does), he wants her right there. Big brother may be even more protective of Mae Baby than Daddy. The Lord be with her.
He’s My Boy–my one and only. His hugs and kisses bring joy and happiness to my life like nothing else. His “Dennis the Menace” qualities exhaust me but who would want a little boy to sit quietly and be good all the time? We want boys to be boys…don’t we? We just want to survive them.