We took family pictures last weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a photo session quite so much. We got to dress the boys in matching clothes: an 18 months shirt that Ezra wore for our 2011 Fall photos and the matching shirt in 5T that he wore for our 2014 photos.
I don’t normally comb my boys’ hair. Both Ezra and Little Brother are blessed with cowlick free hair, so combing just isn’t necessary. Plus, I just like that natural look. But, my husband insisted on having “handsome” boys and they both ended up with combed hair. The result was a bunch of people telling me how grown up Ezra looked and that he looked like he was twelve. Not six…TWELVE!
They were right.
My baby is growing up. Now, normally, I am not “that mom” who gets all weepy and emotional about kids growing. Kids grow. It’s what they do. But we have come through some very hard years. Years full of day after day after day I didn’t know how we would get through. Days I wanted to crawl under the covers and quit. Days my back was breaking. Days I was too tired to be a good mom and days I was just tired of even trying to being a good mom.
Little boys are draining. It starts during toddlerhood when they are climbing on tables and grabbing everything in sight. Then at two that little will starts rearing its head, and they start running away from you in the parking lot. At three, boys learn how to argue, and by four, they are good enough at negotiation and manipulation to rival the skills of a professional lawyer. Then there’s the dirt and the grass and the poop and the pee that covers the bathroom. There’s food that finds its way into the cracks of your couch and into your bra. There’s cars, cars, cars, and more cars that litter the floor (and let me tell you, I think that stepping on a Hotwheels car is far worse than stepping on a Lego). Cars that get stuck in your hair. And speaking of hair, the body of the preschool mom becomes a disaster zone. Momma is crash pad, jungle gym, punching bag, hugger, kisser, squeezer, lifter, chaser, catcher, and so so much more. Hair gets pulled, skin gets scratched, legs and back and arms get sore.
Outings are a cardio session and a panic-attack-about-to-happen all rolled into one. Taking Ezra shopping still puts fear into my soul. If it’s not a fenced-in-park or playplaces, you have to be on high alert. You rescue him from running out in to the street, bashing into other kids, tripping over his own gangly legs, and getting into trouble.
It’s darn exhausting to mother rough-and-tumble.
(Ezra – age 4)
Maybe it’s not this way for every preschool boy mom, but it was for me. My child, bent on doing everything the hard way, was finally given a behavioral diagnoses at age 4 and then things started to make a bit more sense.
Then I became therapy mom. I had to put my wounded emotions aside to be what he needed me to be: calm, kind, firm, emotionally unengaged – yet still loving and caring. It was a hard balance to find. On our worst days, I barely liked being around him – on our best days, I still was plagued that I wasn’t doing enough to help him.
My best friend has a son with autism who is 13 months older than Ezra. She kept telling me that there was something really magical about the age of six. That at six things just seemed to “click” for her Jack. That things got better…easier…simpler. I wanted so much to believe her, but it was hard to imagine that life could ever be easier. That I could ever be able to breathe while mothering this tornado-child.
(Ezra, age 4)
But. She. Was. Right.
There has been something really magical about six.
I call it a combination of medication and maturity. I feel like I have a totally different child than I had two years ago.
At six, I can say, “Go downstairs and play with Legos,” and he goes downstairs and plays with Legos for hours.
At six, he can get dressed all on his own. I may have to tell him 15 times, but he can do it.
At six, he is finally sleeping through the night without disturbances, and the earliest he ever wakes is 5:30 A.M. Some days I have to wake him up for school.
At six, he can wait patiently in a line.
At six, he can walk through a parking lot without me worrying about him running away.
At six, I can let him ride his bike in the driveway (checking on him through the window every two minutes) and know he is going to stay there for the next hour.
At six, he can ride his bike for four miles.
At six, he is finally out of pull-ups. He can shower on his own. He can brush his teeth by himself. He can take pills like an adult. He can buckle his own seat belt. He can operate Netflix. He can set the table. He can unload the dishwasher. He can help with chores. He’s learning how to help me cook dinner.
At six, he can use his words, articulate his emotions, and calm himself down – maybe inconsistently, and maybe with multiple reminders – but better than he used to.
At six, he can clean his room all by himself.
He can almost tie his own shoes, pour his own cereal, tell time, and go into a store without touching every single item.
I can wake up on a morning there is no school without feeling panic rise in my chest before I’m even out of bed. I can take him to the YMCA and be fairly confident that he will make it through two hours of childcare without hitting someone. I can take him to church every Sunday and only be called down to help maybe once a month. I can utilize the car drop-off and pick-up line at school and know that he will make it to and from his classroom the way he should. We can go out to eat as a family without incident. We can attend an hour long concert and be almost to the last song before he expresses boredom or frustration.
I feel like I can breathe. Like I can love. Like I can enjoy being a mom – enjoy being HIS mom – again.
My Little Man is growing up in a breathtaking way. He’s lost his baby face and his eyes are a little bit wiser. He has a better understanding of the world now and has learned how to function a little bit better in it.
I’m not saying every day is perfect. Ezra still is a difficult child who requires a lot of extra time, energy, support, and attention to mother – not to mention behavioral strategies, sensory coping techniques, medications, and strict adherence to unwavering routines to function without incident. That’s not changing anytime soon.
But I remember.
Whether your little boys have special needs are not, I know they are handfuls. Two, three, four, and five are really really long, exhausting, hard years of parenting. I know it’s right around the corner for me again with Little Brother (who climbed ON THE KITCHEN TABLE yesterday all by his 14-month-old self and is going down slides head-first these days). I’m engaging in much-needed Netflix therapy just to prepare for the exhaustion that I know is to come.
Dear Moms of Preschool Boys:
I know you are weary. I know you are overwhelmed. I know you are touched out. I know that you would love a day off.
But I promise you…it DOES get easier. One day, like me, you will look at your boy and be in awe of what he has become. You will shake your head in wonder at how EASY it is (for at least today). You will feel yourself start to breathe a little bit easier, a little bit slower, and a little bit happier.