Puzzle Pieces

Life Lessons from a One-Year-Old, Motherhood, Step by Step, We Are In This Together


My little boy, Hank, has three heroes: his three big brothers. When they are with us, they throw balls with him and dive onto pillow piles and build endless towers to knock down. They make him laugh like neither their daddy or I ever can. He idolizes them; he wants to be just like them.

There is an electric charge in the air on the days when daddy arrives with Hank’s three big brothers in tow. He can sense when they are coming, and he can hardly contain his excitement. The door barely clicks open and he is running to the top of the stairs, squealing; racing to get to them. 

His puzzle is complete on the days we have the boys; all the pieces of our family are in place and his world looks as it should.

But three days later the puzzle falls apart; three major pieces of it suddenly go missing, and he has to try to make sense of it in a one-and-a-half year-old brain which knows nothing of parenting plans or shared custody. Nothing of divorce, or of real mamas and step-mamas. I am sure he thinks I am his brothers’ mama too—why wouldn’t I be?

“We”—our six-pack—is all he has ever known. I do not look forward to the day I have to explain things like divorce to my precious boy. Explain why his brothers have another mama; how it’s not me. Why they have another home, too, on the other side of town, or why he will go to a different school than they do.

I don’t know how to explain why some mamas and daddies don’t speak to each other, even though they share the same children.

And most of all, I worry about explaining why his big brothers have to leave us for half of every week. Because before he can truly understand, he won’t understand, and I know there will be tears.

I don’t want him to be heartbroken half of every week, his best friends in the world lost to him again. I know it is coming. I can already see the gears turning in that precious little head, wondering; the start of the dissonance.

Lately on the days without his brothers around, his little lip trembles when he sees their pictures. He runs into their rooms, just to check.

We will see them soon, sweetheart, I tell him, soon.

Hank’s big brothers have huge hearts buried under their tough exteriors. They play and wrestle and high-five and cuddle and pick up and carry and comfort their little brother. I know they miss him, too, when they are away.

They don’t treat him any differently because I am not their mama, too. They love him just like they love each other, even though they don’t say it.

Hank has no place in one of their two worlds, but they live for him in our world. They amaze me every day with their maturity and compassion. Their resilience as they bounce between lives; their acceptance of their new family.

When daddy loads them up to take them back to their mama’s house, Hank stands in the doorway waving his special wave. He opens and closes his little fist to each of them, saying I Love You, even though the words don’t come out yet.

His big brothers answer him with the same wave, their code, their secret send-off. The words don’t come out of their mouths, either.

But they don’t have to. He knows.


Originally posted on Tribe Magazine at: http://thetribemagazine.com/puzzle-pieces/#ixzz4OodjbHiL

Best Buds


Marks on the Wall


It’s crazy how much one little pencil line on the wall can mean to a person.

I finally started our measuring wall, in the laundry room, where it’s perfectly out of the way but at the same time, perfectly located so I get to see it every time I come in with a hamper or leave with a pile of folded clothes. Which is often, in my big busy family full of ALL boys. Every time I see it I am reminded of my blessings – and especially the fact that I finally have my own little life to track in pencil lines on the laundry room wall.

Growing up in my family, we always marked our height on the wall in the kitchen. Our tradition was shoes off, back against the wall, stand up straight, and mom would make the mark. Then our name and age – to track us. It was always such fun after we saw our new “marks” – comparing and wondering.

I had no idea that this simple tradition would mean so much more to me once I became a mom. In my own house, with my own little boy’s life to track. My little boy who just learned how to walk, and who understands enough to actually cooperate when I say, “Come here, Hank! Come stand by this wall for mama, we’re going to see how big you are!”

And he does. And I put that first beautiful mark on the wall and I almost don’t believe it’s really there.

There are five other marks on my wall now, too, that make it even more special. Hank’s three big brothers, who he looks up to (literally!) and tries so hard to keep up with, have their own lines and names higher up on the wall. And his sweet cousins, who we are so blessed to live right down the road from, are tracked by the other two marks on my wall. I have watched my niece and nephew grow up right before my eyes, the last 11 (and 7) years, and it always blows me away how fast they change.

With my own little one now, it is even harder! With Hank, it is like the movie is on fast-forward. Every day he does something major that he couldn’t do the day before. This week it was nodding his head yes and saying “yeah!” when I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride with Grandma.


I’d flex, but I like these jammies

Another new thing this week is not fitting into his 24 month sized sleepers anymore. I am not quite ready for him to be sleeping in big boy jammies – so daddy and I cut the sleeves half off so we could get those huge paws and Popeye arms into them! That ought to buy me a few more weeks, anyway!

I am so excited to watch Hank’s mark catch up to those first marks of his three big brothers and his big cousins. Even though it will be way faster than I want it to be. And as soon as I can talk daddy into backing up to my wall, he will get the most important mark of all. I know without a doubt, that his will be the mark that all four boys can’t wait to catch up to. (Or maybe even beat by an inch or two!)