Our eldest daughter has a temperament much like my own. In fact, I often joke that I have that weird feeling that I’m raising my own self in disguise.
And with Joe, I feel like I’m raising my husband in disguise. Sure, he looks like my side of the family. In fact, the older he gets, the more we look alike which delights us both. But down to his core, he’s his father’s son. I feel like I fall in love with my husband all over again as I’m raising this little man because I understand the grown-up version so much better. This was an unexpected gift. I understand why Brian is the way that he is because look at this little man in my house, he can’t help how he was made and what he craves and how he processes life and how he thinks.
One of my favourite things about Joe is that he’s simply himself, devoid of any self-consciousness or worry about what others think. It matters not to him what every one else is doing, he just does what he wants to do, and he’s unconcerned with the opinions of others. He is his own little man already, and this makes me so happy.
He’s still the only boy in a sea of sisters and girl-cousins. He’s got his own place in our hearts.
We’re seriously considering that if this new baby is also a girl, we’ll get the kid a boy-dog just to even the odds.
Today is a quiet birthday party. I don’t much like birthday parties at the best of times, let alone kid parties. I know, I know, I’m a Birthday Grinch. But as long as I can keep getting away with family parties, I’ll do it. Overstimulation isn’t a friend to him. He’s content with a simple party anyway. As long as we’re there, as long as he feels special, he never requires much from us. He’s that kind of boy.
Six years ago at this very moment, I was riding in an ambulance to Royal Columbian Hospital, cradling my newborn son in my arms. For those of you who weren’t readers here back in the day, our Joe was born while I was standing up in a parkade.
He came a lot quicker than we expected, to say the least.
It’s been six years and one day since I wrote out his birth story. When I read it now, I cringe: too many details, girl. (Oh, the temptations to edit!) Plus my euphoria and “birth-high” were pretty epic and, boy, does that come through in that post. But I also go back and read it to remember how Joe came into the world and how much I laughed on that day.
It was weirdest thing ever and yet it’s our story and it’s part of our family story now. My mother has never forgiven me for this incident – all in Christian love, of course – because her nerves were utterly shot. When it came time to have Evelynn, we chose to have a home birth for a lot of reasons. But we used to make people laugh by saying that the real reason was because Brian was very reluctant to ever try to drive me to a hospital ever again.
I look back on that day and I laugh but I also shudder a bit. It could have gone so wrong. I think the “birth high” protected me from the fear, perhaps. But a lot of things could have wrong – and they didn’t. We were too careless, perhaps, in our ignorance. I did have a very long recovery after Joseph though. I paid a price.
He came into the world in such an unorthodox way which is funny now because he’s not a risk-taker by temperament.
He’s methodical, cautious even.
He’s our sleeper genius, that’s what we call him. He’s quiet about it, never makes a fuss, but he steadily learns by osmosis and then reveals something that boggles our minds. After we realised he needed glasses, he promptly showed us that he knew how to read once he could see the letters. Not only could he read but, oh, by the way, he figured out how to do multiplication by sheer logic. He can solve complex mazes because he simply sits back and thinks before he begins.
As someone who lost the thread of mathematics somewhere around long division in Grade Four, I marvel at this natural ability.
Five was a big year of change for him. I’ve heard before that in some ancient cultures, children are babies until they are five. And so five is a year of transition from babyhood to childhood. A friend of mine who loves to study transitions during childhood had given me a head’s up about five, so I was ready for the disequilibrium that might present as we transitioned to full-day school and a new life on the outside of the home. And sure enough, it was a transition year with missteps and growing independence, developments and triumphs.
He’s our thinker, this one. He has been building Lego sets twice his age for the entire year – and easily. He can sit with a bucket of Legos and play – without thought of eating – for eight hours straight. He’s got focus for days. He can wander outside in his own thoughts for hours. He’s often lost in his own dreams and thoughts, which is why it’s so funny when he’ll suddenly bust out with some skill that we didn’t teach him like, oh, division. We think he’s not paying attention but really he’s paying attention, figuring it out and then off and thinking about how it works.
“He’s got a lot going on up there,” we’ll remark, tapping our foreheads, while he works on a project with laser focus completely lost to the presence of others in the room.
He loves to work with his hands and his mind at the same time. His deepest desire is to be “a helper” and he follows his dad around in a pretend hardhat, methodically and perfectly filling drywall screw holes with putty and then scraping them to level. He’s not fussy about clothes, preferring to wear elastic waist band track pants and a buzz cut to whatever the other kids are wearing. I put him in skinny jeans for a family photo shoot this August and he hasn’t forgiven me for it yet. “I can’t play in these!”
He loves people but he requires a lot of time to himself to feel whole. We try to protect that for him. But even though he’s a bit introverted, he’s also our most tender-hearted, affectionate, and physically demonstrative. The girls gave up on snuggles long ago but he still loves to snuggle in for kisses and hugs. He’s got a tremendous depth of feeling. He loves his friends and his family with a deep intensity.
He’s also deeply attuned to his spirituality – his insight and wisdom about God, his sensitivity to the Spirit, his ability to follow that leading is often challenging for me. He’s compassionate and he sees people clearly. He’s a thin place between heaven and earth.
(Joe is quite chuffed to be on the blog today – he loves sharing his baby pictures – and was excited at the thought of people saying happy birthday to him from around the world. I don’t usually write personal details or stories about the tinies once they hit five – their birthdays are an exception. )