Friday, September 30, 2011


They say the twos are terrible, but that wasn't my experience. While two was difficult because of Elijah's language delays, it was otherwise not at all marked by the maddening behavior parents warn you about.

Others say three is worse than two, but the first half of three was actually delightful. Elijah had made great gains with his verbal skills, thanks to the Vanderbilt study, and I very much enjoyed this age. I have sweet memories of the last months before Jude was born, wrapping up our participation in the study and just soaking up the time with my firstborn before his brother arrived.

Then there are those who speak in hushed, ominous tones about the half-year disequilbrium of 3.5. Or, in Moxie's words, "then 3 1/2 comes along and smacks us down, and it can be bewildering and awfully demoralizing."

More specifically, childhood development researchers Ames & Ilg have observed that kids "tend to cycle in 6-month waves between equilibrium...and disequilibrium." Or, in plain English, "for awhile children would be fluent and cheerful, coordinated, learning new things all the time, and happy little kids doing things smoothly. Then they'd go through a period of being physically clumsy, stuttering, being in foul moods, and just having things go wrong a lot of the time."  (AskMoxie)

I totally buy that theory.

Three and a half was rough, I'm not gonna lie. I'm sure a lot of it has simply been all the issues that a new baby in the family creates and reveals. But let's just say, I very much looked forward to Eljiah's fourth birthday. Very much.

So far I wouldn't say he's swung completely back into equilibrium. In fact, I think we were a couple of months off from the 6-month mark in getting here, so I'm still riding it out, with plenty of difficult days. But I am seeing daily gains in his abilities and the things he is learning. Often I have to stop and marvel at the big boy he has become--holding doors open for me to push the stroller through; getting dressed all by himself; expressing his thoughts and emotions clearly...I have a preschooler now!

As I look back on photos, I see a HUGE difference between three and four, this transformation from toddler to boy. And though his birthday is now almost two months past, I want to take some time to celebrate my firstborn.

Underneath the difficult behaviors, this little buddy really is my favorite four-year-old in the world. I love his tenderheartedness, his helpfulness, his sense of humor, his affection, his uncanny sense of direction, his love of books and music. I love that he still says "map" instead of "nap." I love his nonstop chatter on walks and his joy in the simplest routines.

I love how he runs ahead and how he stops and waits to hold my hand when we cross the street. I love the quirky phrases he uses and the way he brings conviction by repeating my admonitions when *I'm* the one who needs to hear them.

I was thankful for a simple but really fun day spent celebrating Elijah's birthday in August. My friend Mandy came over to babysit Jude so that I could take Elijah to IHOP for lunch.

He thought it was crazy fun to eat pancakes and bacon--two of his favorite things--for lunch! Then the wait staff brought out an ice cream sundae and sang to him, which was a big hit.

After our lunch date, we stopped at a park for a little while and I tried to just slow down and drink in these moments.

We had originally planned to celebrate with my parents the following weekend, but their visit had to be canceled, so I decided at the last minute that we might as well have cake and ice cream with our friends Tony and Mandy, whom Elijah loves, and with whom we meet for dinner and prayer every Wednesday night anyway (his birthday was on a Wednesday). So when we got home from our date, Elijah helped me make a carrot cake, and then we got to enjoy it with our friends after we sang to our little buddy and helped him blow out FOUR candles. 

It has been a long, hard four years, and it has been a breathless, blink-and-it's-over ride. If there is a time to build and a time to tear down, then this little boy has been the tearing down of me, the breaking and laying low and exposing of me. I am supposed to be teaching him, yet day after day he is God's instrument for teaching me: how false and full of sin I am, how gentle and full of grace my Savior is, how deeply and desperately both Elijah and I need Jesus, how hopeless we are anywhere but the foot of the cross.

Ann Voskamp once wisely wrote:
The son births first and he grows, the woman still an infant mother.
And all the raising of the boy, this is her long labor, and she has to remember to breathe.
And it’s only after a whole score of years that she delivers into true motherhood, when her son leans down and kisses her forehead gentle. This is her full-term day. She only wishes it came sooner, at the beginning, when he first came.
It takes all the years of making a boy into a man —  to teach a woman how to be a mother.
Do you know how wild this makes me?
Wild indeed. My heart breaks, writhes with fear, as I consider the ways I am screwing up this sweet boy, the hurts I cause, the damage my sins and mistakes will do. I look into those deep brown eyes ("I have brown eyes just like you have brown eyes, Mama!") and I feel long, skinny arms and legs wrapped around me, and I squeeze extra tight, and I ache. This boy made me a mother, and unfortunately for him I will spend his entire life learning how to mother, trial and error (and error and error). I can only throw myself on the mercies of the One who, against all reason, entrusted little Elijah to my care. I praise Him that He is bigger than all my failures, and that Elijah is ultimately in His hands, not mine. And I thank Him for this unspeakably precious gift, for four sweet, hard years with my son, and I ask Him for His grace for many more.



Zoanna said...

Happy belated birthday to your 4-year-old. He is looking more like Steve to me in these pictures. Maybe he always has, but I really see it in these pix. I do believe you're doing a better job than you give yourself credit for if he is admonishing you when you need it, holding doors, being sweet, loving books, etc.

And I love the quote by Ann. It's so true. Twenty years it has taken me, but when those young men bend down (they don't kiss, but they hug me) it somehow seems the fulfillment of promises.

Danielle said...

Great post! I'm with you as to the ups and downs of parenting. The twos were hard for me because tantrums started. The fours have been hard because of bad attitudes and stubbornness. I guess it's always something to make us grow and test our patience! But in-between are some awesome memories, to be sure! Looks like you're enjoying yours!