Friday, February 23, 2007

Mom, I fell down (again)

I have two sons. You mothers of two or more children will understand me when I say that after the first child, I thought I had it all down. I figured I would be so much more calm with the second child. I would not worry all the time. I would not second-guess myself all the time. Knowing my first boy as well as I did, surely the second child would be a breeze.

I see you out there nodding. Yes, you are saying to yourself. I thought that, too.

And then my second boy came along. And he was different.

Oh, I expected him to be a different person, of course. Different hair, different eyes, a different combination of my spouse and myself resulting in a new little person.

But everything was different!

For instance, my first son didn't want to eat. From the time he was a baby, he would rather sleep than breast or bottle feed. We used to have to set a time to wake him up every two hours. And, of course, being new parents, we asked ourselves, "Is that two hours from when he is DONE eating, or from when he STARTS eating?" Because he could take a half hour to slurp down a few ounces. He's still a picky eater to this day.

So I expected things to be the same with my second child. I was prepared for him to be a reluctant eater.

Instead, he came out of the womb with his mouth open, already wailing to be fed. Sometimes he would eat so much, so quickly, he would make himself sick. We had to angle his crib so that his head was higher than his stomach, so that after he had a bottle he wouldn't immediately spit it back up.

My oldest son, the picky eater, had constant weigh-ins, where he scored in the bottom ten percent for height and weight on the dreaded growth charts. We had to get him to drink Carnation Instant Breakfast milkshakes.

My youngest? He was off the chart. Above the curve!

There were other differences, of course, too. In so many ways, my boys were diametrically opposed. One loves reading (like his Mom) and spends late nights voraciously devouring books by the authors he already favors. The other considers reading a necessary evil, a chore attempted only when his school requires him to research a project or give a presentation or write a book report. Whenever possible, he tries to make one book serve several purposes, across classes.

My oldest boy is slow to trust others, socially cautious and introspective. He's perpetually cool without trying and surprisingly popular with the girls because he is so nonchalant they see him as a challenge. He likes smart girls and has little patience with kids outside his self-decreed "geeky" group.

In contrast, My youngest son will confidently stride into a group of children at the playground whom he has never met before without a qualm. Within a half hour, he will have them organized in a game of kickball or soccer, he will know all their names, and they will now all be his friends. He is optimistic, exuberant and extroverted. The girls in his life are all tomboys who know how to play soccer as well as he does.

In fact, the only thing they really have in common, other than gaming (which the whole family enjoys) on xbox or playstation or the computer, is that they're both boys.

Which means, and you Moms out there are nodding again, they play rough.

Boys like to wrestle, to poke at each other with anything even remotely sticklike, (their "sword"), to shoot each other with toy guns or water guns or even straws bent in half, to chase each other madly around the house, dive after each other in the pool, pummel each other in the back seat of the car.

But even here, there is a difference.

While my oldest is nimble as a monkey, striking out quickly and then running away, laughing, before his brother sometimes even knows what hits him, his little brother is not so fortunate.

Granted, "little" is a relative term--he's still well above the curve in terms of height and weight. So when he does catch his older brother, it's a pretty fair fight before Mom or Dad wades in and separates them.

But my youngest still has a disadvantage.

He falls. He stumbles. His clothes are covered in grass stains. His shirts have rips. His socks are almost perpetually grey.

This is not because I don't launder the clothes. (I don't, near as much as I should, but that's not why!). It's because my youngest is a Faller.

Ever since he was young, he was that boy in the playground with his knees scraped. He's the one that goes to the clinic so often with a bruise from recess that the nurse knows him by name. He's the kid who always has a new bandage to show off.

On his health card, at kindergarten, I tried to find a way to frame this once. Concerned because I wouldn't be there to protect him for the first time, I wrote that my son "can be klutzy sometimes."

His teacher shook her head, smiling at me, when she read this. "All boys have their tumbles," she said. Meanwhile looking me over to see, I am sure, whether or not I was some hideous abuser seeking to hide her son's bruises with this lame cover-up attempt.

Two weeks later, she called me at home.

"I think I know what you mean," she told me. "If there is an ant hill, he is the one who will fall over it and get bitten by ants. If there is a crack in the pavement, he finds it. He's the only one in the class who trips almost every day. It's almost uncanny!"

And it really is.

My neighbors still remember the day we were, after Christmas, disposing of our Christmas tree. We live on a wide, arcing street, and my son comes running (probably away from his older brother) down the road. The tree was on the side of the road, in the grass, bundled up, at least a yard from the edge of the curve. You couldn't help but notice the tree was there--after all, it was a 6-foot tall Douglas fir lying on its side in a spot where there is usually NOTHING.

Yep, he fell over it. He actually ran off the road and somsersaulted right over the thing.

And, let me make it clear, he didn't do it on purpose. Even though he helped to carry the Christmas tree out himself, he was completely unaware. The astonished look on his face, "Wow, there's a tree here???!" is a treasured part of the story. We love this boy as much for his predictable foibles as we do for his sunny disposition and perpetually optimistic nature.

But I do wish he would grow out of this falling thing. I don't want to see him seriously hurt from one too many falls. I don't want him going to the hospital with a concussion or a broken leg or arm to go with the broken collarbone he got from (you guessed it) tripping and falling on his shoulder.

So if any of you Moms out there have some tips for me on how to deal with this, please let me know.

I'm running out of clean laundry.


skeet said...

Wish I could help! My own son was pretty adept at avoiding damage, but I can't count how many times I drove madly to the emergency room, bloody hands sticking to the steering wheel, after one of my nephews somehow missed the mark.

The only thing that comes to mind is this: martial arts do a good job of creating body-awareness. Perhaps such trining would give him a better concept of where his various parts are, how they move, how they relate to each other and to things around him? It's a thought!

Hope you get a lot more visitors from the Carnival of Family Life! Someone out there will have some solid experience to draw on!

Holly Schwendiman said...

Oh the joys of kids keeping you on your toes. I think you can't truly appreciate much of what you shared without experience. I don't have any great advice, just a lot of sympathy!

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