At least once a month, I threaten to set my sproutlings on the porch and send them off with the rodeo folks. I never actually do it. I realize the ongoing show at our home is much more entertaining than the rodeo would be, even if they could acquire my four stars.
My oldest is twenty, and I raised him as a single parent for five years. When I first brought him home from the hospital, I was terrified I could never raise my perfect baby. He was born five weeks early, and for some reason, I really thought if I’d had those last five weeks I would have been prepared for mommyhood. Not sure that would have done any good.
The first night we were home from the hospital, I called the NICU because I couldn’t comfort him and he cried incessantly. The nurses knew exactly who I was—this was before the days of caller identification. I never could figure out if that was a good thing or not, because as glad as I was that they knew me by name and could help me out, it also seemed like they’d been expecting me to call. As if they knew I didn’t know what I was doing. At any rate, I found out about swaddling and it changed our lives.
My son got older and we became fast buddies. Since it was only the two of us, we played together all the time and he grew into an inquisitive yet cautious child. He made me laugh with his impersonations, and observations about things I was sure he shouldn’t know anything about just yet. Then I married my now ex husband and soon after, my son got the chance to utter what became his refrain for the following pregnancies: You’re pregnant again?
This one is the comedian.
With the birth of my daughter, my magic swaddling trick was useless. She sustained brain injury during birth and as a result has some disabilities. I was truly in unknown waters with the situation, but what I did know was that I loved my little princess more than anything (except my oldest son—that was a tie). I’d do whatever I needed to do to give her the best care possible.
Instead of swaddling, I used baby swings. The motion was the only thing that calmed her. I know I owned more baby swings for one baby than most people have for three kids. We burned through so many motors and batteries. She stayed in that swing for seventeen months, when she was already so tall her feet dragged the floor and the swing barely moved back and forth under her weight.
Her disabilities didn’t stop her from getting into things. She couldn’t crawl or scoot as a young child, but she did figure out how to flip over her feeding seat. While she was still strapped in it. I remember the morning I peeked into the living room from the kitchen and saw the chair flipped over where it sat on the floor and her hanging upside down by the straps. I was already pregnant with number three and could only move so fast, but I hurried over, frantic.
When I finally got the chair turned over and went to un-strap her, she giggled at me. The daring didn’t stop there. Once she got old enough for her first wheelchair, she figured out how to wiggle from around the pommel and slide down the side of the chair, towards the floor. While she was still strapped in the chair, with the chest strap pressed against her neck as she hung from it.
This one is the daredevil.
My second daughter was born a couple of years after the first, and she arrived with her eyes wide open, taking in the world around her. I remember holding her and looking down at her in my arms directly after her birth and she stared back at me with otherworldly knowledge. When she first started to talk, we were in awe at how she enunciated her words, in an exaggerated manner, to make sure we could understand what she was saying. She still does this.
At just a year old, she stood in the middle of the living room floor while we watched an awards show on television and sang the chorus of one of the performers’ songs, with her own dance move: pedaling around on one foot while patting her heart with extreme emotion. She also performed other tricks. Once her baby brother was born, she dragged him from the bed and pulled him around on the floor on the comforter.
This one is the all around entertainer.
Sproutling number last is the most patient and slow moving of the four. As a baby, he had absolutely no interest in making the physical strides other children worked on. At eight months, he couldn’t sit unassisted. But he could sit in his little seat and drop his ball from varying heights, solemnly noting how differently it fell each time. He was talking and drawing before he was walking. Upon first meeting him, his daycare provider said he was “full of words”.
He’s also full of ideas. He writes books, builds models using whatever he can get his hands on, and turns his work in late at school because he states, “Mommy, I’m adding more details.” Unlike numbers one and three, if I ask him a hundred times to repeat himself because I didn’t understand what he said, he’ll repeat himself calmly, a hundred times.
This one is the methodical planner.
The porch and rodeo threats aren’t unprovoked. A couple of years ago, the twenty year old missed the deadline for the application at the college he really wanted to attend and I wanted to send him off to the rodeo folks. But then he brought his girlfriend to meet me and I see why he likes her—she’s goofy just like his mommy and they have fun together.
The eleven year old is full of attitude like other girls her age (even though she’s non-verbal)and rolls her eyes and ignores my requests to the point where I want to just roll her wheelchair out onto the porch. But when I get nervous about replacing her gastrointestinal feeding button, she places her hand on my arm to comfort me and let me know that she trusts me.
The nine year old never wants to clean her room and would walk around toys and glitter and dolls for the rest of her life if I let her. Yet when I’m sick, she’s always eager to give me a hug and sing me a song she made up.
The eight year old terrorizes his sister constantly and loudly, but he also draws her the most intricate pictures as make up offerings.
I threaten to put them on the porch or send them off with the rodeo folks, but I’ll never do it. And they know it. They know their mommy loves them with all she has. Mommy will keep her comedian, entertainer, daredevil, and planner right with her. Here at home in our own rodeo show.
Photo credit: Let’s Rodeo, Larry Johnson, https://flic.kr/p/7D5UtT