I’ve never forgotten those words.
At the time I didn’t know if he was just talking to talk, but now I think he had a more important message for us young people: Don’t lose sight of your relationships and your roles. Remember who is important. And have fun.
This week my twin sons turn thirteen years old. Teenagers. We celebrated last Easter weekend with my in-laws at their home. We stayed at a hotel because Isaac is hard to buy for, but he loves experiences. Hotels are at the top of his list. What’s not to love? Elevators, a swimming pool, a breakfast buffet . . . it doesn’t get much better for him.
I’ve been thinking about the moments from the last week I won’t soon forget:
I stood in the kitchen one morning and asked the boys if they wanted to dye eggs after school. Isaac,who was sitting in the living room, shouted, “Yes!” (He was in another room and answered me. Wowza!) Last year he put two eggs in different cups of dye and retreated to the basement. Not this year. Every boy had an equal number of eggs to color, but I’m pretty sure Isaac colored more than his fair share. He even stuck around to wash all of the cups.
Forty family members attended the birthday party. I was overwhelmed by the people who traveled from Illinois, Des Moines, cities nearby, and across town. That’s love.
For the first time in thirteen years, our birthday party had no theme. Noah joked that he wanted the theme to be triskaidekaphobia, but the word was too long to put on a birthday cake. (It means the fear of the number thirteen.) “Turning thirteen is kind of creepy,” he said. It freaks me out, too. He told me later it’s the teenage stereotypes that he wants to avoid: being on drugs, being drunk, and being stupid. I made two birthday cakes and approximately seventy chocolate chip cookies. My in-laws provided three kinds of ice cream.
Isaac was turning on/off the water and was overwhelmed by the crowd. I asked, “Do you want to blow out the candles?” He did. As far as I remember, he’s never successfully blown out candles in front of a group of people, so we did an encore. Why not?
Uncle Scott made balloon animals for all the kids and then fell asleep in the recliner.
At dinner Saturday night, I sat next to my two-year-old niece with curly red hair. She put her hand on my plate and said, “Aunt Tyann, I like your chips.” She stole a few. She ate one of my carrots. She asked for more. Be still my heart. Then my niece Hallie said, “Grandma, this salad dressing expired two years ago.”
Saturday evening Isaac, Noah, and Henry went swimming in the hotel pool with their three cousins, Taylor, Bethany and Hallie. Chris and I sat in plastic chairs poolside and watched. Isaac kissed Taylor and put his arms around her neck while she pulled him through the water. All six kids swam until we told them to get out or their skin would be forever wrinkled. I wanted to stop time . . . everyone was interacting and happy. If only life could always be this easy . . .
Noah and Henry decided to stay overnight at their grandparents’ house, so they could spend more time with their cousins. When we saw them at church Sunday, they pretended they didn’t know us, both before and after the service. I get it. They want a little independence. No sweat.
Isaac decided he was going to stay in the church nursery and shoot hoops with the toy basketballs. He came out for the children’s moment, walked to the front of the sanctuary, sat down, and listened to the message with his brothers and all of the other kids. Then he went back to the nursery. My mother-in-law was beaming.
Several minutes later, Isaac wandered into the sanctuary carrying a naked doll. He lifted it high in the air and said, “Baby!” I shook my head and said, “No.” A few thoughts raced through my head: 1) The “b” sound was so clear! 2) Bringing a baby out during the service would have been more appropriate during a Christmas Eve sermon about the Christ child. 3) Isaac has been saying, “Mama mia” and “Papa pia” and then I say, “Baby . . . “ and I wait and say, “Baby’s got the diarrhea.” He may have been waiting for me to say those words because he cannot. Maybe next Easter we can pull this off?
He waltzed out into the sanctuary a few minutes later with a different baby, fully clothed, and he sat down near his Great Aunt Lorri, who is a special ed teacher. He wasn’t there 30 seconds. A few minutes later I looked a few rows behind me, and Isaac was standing with a foam ball in each hand, tossing them into the air with a grin plastered on his face.
I never know what to do in these types of situations, so I did nothing except give him the evil eye and shake my head. I guess I should have prayed. We were in church, the minister was talking about hope, and I thought – if you can’t let your hair down in church and carry in a naked doll and toss balls into the air, where can you do it?
Sunday afternoon Noah and Henry participated in an Easter egg hunt outside the grandparents’ house with their cousins. Chris took Isaac back to the hospital.
Poor Isaac’s anxiety escalated during Sunday lunch and resulted in him lying next to me on the couch while we talked about what he would be doing Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. He eventually ate some ham, but he never really calmed down. My father-in-law took him for a ride in the truck. He wanted to go home because he had missed the Saturday Hy-Vee shopping trip and his Sunday time at the YMCA. He wasn’t very happy on the way home, either, when I sat behind the wheel and listened to my music. But such is life.
Isaac tried on his new basketball shirt and shorts when we got home – a wonderful gift that was slightly too big. We had been given gift receipts, so I told Isaac I would exchange them Monday. Then he and Chris bought groceries for the week while I unpacked.
That evening Isaac said, “Blue horse,” which made me think of the children’s book he used to read. What I finally realized hours later when I tucked him into bed was that he was not saying “blue horse” at all – he was saying “new shorts.” The first thing he did when he got home from school Monday was to look in a shopping bag and try on his new shorts. He was over the moon.
I remember the moment my water broke while I was lying on the couch watching Trading Spaces, and I never got to see how the blue kitchen renovation turned out. I remember looking at my twin boys for the first time and thinking that we all had a lifetime to learn about each other. I remember giving birth to sweet Henry and leaving the hospital with a big stain on my light blue sweatshirt from my last meal there. I weighed more after I gave birth than when I was pregnant. Henry weighed 9 pounds 3 ounces. Thank you, water retention.
I remember having three boys ages three and younger who were all in diapers. I didn’t know how it would ever work out, but it did. It still does, day after day, year after year. They teach me every day. I assume it will continue, even with teenagers in the house. I have never doubted the importance of my role as a mother, but I know I can’t do it alone. My husband is funny and easygoing with the kids, which probably is why we are able to keep our sense of humor most days.
I have never taken the kids for ice cream in their pajamas, but that's okay. My moments are the funny, beautiful ones like walking around a hospital during a birthday party with people who don’t mind the detour. It’s spending time with people who want to spend time with us. It’s watching cousins swim in the pool without a care in the world, where autism seems to be invisible. It’s seeing a proud 12-year-old boy walk into the sanctuary with a doll and announce to the congregation that he is carrying a baby. If he does it next Easter, it will become a fun family tradition. Afterwards maybe we can stop to get a cheeseburger.