26 March 2011

Across the Universes

Driving home on I-95 on a Friday afternoon: torturous. I left Fairfax at 3:30PM and by 5:15PM, I have only made it the 45 miles to Fredericksburg. I do a lot of deep breathing, telling myself to relax, that I will make it. I figure that if I concentrate hard enough, I can will myself into a parallel universe where the traffic clears up just after Fredericksburg and I make it home by 7:00.

About five miles past Fredericksburg, the traffic clears up.

This parallel universe doesn’t look too much different, except for the startling amount of cars that are no longer in my way.

I thank the heavens above that some fabulous government official somewhere proposed some sort of legislation that upped the speed limit to 70. I hope I voted for him or her. It’s only five miles faster than the previous 65 mph limit, but 5 miles counts a lot when you’re counting the minutes.

I see a road sign telling me how many miles to Newport News. I do the math. I am going to make it. It is no longer by dint of sheer willpower, either, but confirmed by physics.

At 6:45PM, I pull into the driveway. I yank up the parking brake, grab the keys out of the ignition, and jump out of the car. I race into the garage, and into the house and…nothing. No one.

I stand dumbfounded for a minute. Did I jump into a parallel universe too far from my own? One where no one is waiting?

Then I hear the sounds. Laughter. Shrieking. Splashing.

I run upstairs.

And there, in my bathroom, fresh from a bath and being swaddled in a towel by his Opa, stands my little man. The little man for whom I would— I did— happily traverse universes, defy I-95 traffic, and make it home for bedtime.

He looks at me, his hair wet and his eyes sparkling. I expect him to scream or run to me or hop, hop, hop with joy, but he just gives a slow smile. “Hi, Mimi,” he says, casually.

“Hi, Eamon,” I say, trying to also appear nonchalant, even though I want nothing more than to sweep him up into my arms and kiss, kiss, kiss him.

“Bath,” he tells me carelessly, in case I hadn’t noticed.

“Are you ready for bed?” I ask, trying to mimic his off-handed manner but not really succeeding.

He thinks about it. “Yes, okay,” he says after a moment’s reflection.

I take him into his bedroom and we put on his diaper and jammies. He allows me to sneak a few kisses but makes it known that really, there are more important things to be doing. He picks out some books and I read them. I do the voices, and he laughs, then we brush his teeth. I lift him into his bed, and he grabs his Grover doll and Lion and says brightly, “Night, Mimi!”

I kiss the top of his head. “Goodnight, Eamon. Sleep well. I love you.”

But he is already playing with his Grover as I turn out the light.

I go downstairs and talk to Eamon’s Oma and Opa, Aaron’s parents. They update me on everything from the last few days while I was out of town (Aaron was gone as well, but hasn’t made it back yet).

Meanwhile, on the monitor, I hear Eamon restlessly talking to himself, turning over, trying to sleep, and failing. He doesn’t cry out, so I give him time to see if he will soothe himself to sleep.

After about 45 minutes, I take pity. I take some rice milk in a sippy cup and give it to him while we sit in the glider. As he sucks down the milk, he curls himself into my arms. I lean the glider back as far as it will go. He finishes his milk, and cuddles farther into my embrace. Sitting there with him curled up in my arms, clinging to me as we rock gently, I am briefly transported back to the universe where he is still a tiny newborn, dependent and free with his unabashed love and devotion.

Finally, after about fifteen minutes, he breaks free and sits up. He looks at me. “Mimi,” he says quietly. “Tired. Bed.”

“Are you ready to go to sleep now?” I ask.


For the second and last time that evening, I gently lift him into his bed. I tuck him into his blanket, his Lion nestled up to his neck. His heavy eyelids dip dangerously low over his eyes as he sleepily whispers, “Night, Mimi. Love you.”

This time, he is asleep before I leave the room.

In the morning, we will wake up and we will play games, sing songs, and talk of dinosaurs while we read books about dinosaurs. He will go outside, and get angry, and be sorry, and hug and snuggle and dance. He will learn new words and dazzle more people with his smile…and every minute, my little boy will inch closer and closer to the tall, strong, generous, charismatic man he so longs and is destined to be.

But tonight, briefly and despite his best efforts, he was still my little baby.

I love you, Eamon. You are my everything—my every universe— and I am glad I am home.

13 March 2011


Eamon can be demure.

When he meets an adult for the first time, especially if she’s a pretty girl, he often acts shy. He lowers his eyes and pretends that he is afraid to talk to her, so that when she inevitably gets him to smile, she thinks that she has somehow won his affections. (Just so you know, ladies, it was all an act. He was always going to smile at you).

Eamon can be cautious.

We went to a new playground, and I asked Eamon if he wanted to go down the slide. He looked at it closely, surveying it. He twisted his mouth thoughtfully before finally deciding, “No.” When I encouraged him, offered to go down with him, asked him to just try it, he gave a big sigh and said, “All right. Tummy.” Which meant that he was going to go down on his stomach, feet first. This is the only way that he will go down most slides these days, because 1) he can use his hand slow or stop himself if he starts to get going too fast and feels out of control, and 2) if he does get out of control, he’s going to land feet first and not get too hurt.

But one thing Eamon is not—he is not a pushover. Not when it comes to anyone or anything.

Eamon and Aaron went to the park yesterday while I did our taxes (looking back, I am realizing that I pulled the short stick on that one).

The day was beautiful. The sun shone and it was warm enough for coats to be left behind.

Once set free from his carseat, Eamon ran excitedly to the jungle gym equipment. He climbed up the stairs and headed toward the slide.

Unfortunately, a group of girls around the age of 10 or so, were roosting on the slide. They giggled and acted silly, as 10 year old girls are wont to do.

Normally, Eamon would flirt with these girls, winning their attention and their hearts. He would take them around the playground, holding their hands and directing them where he wanted to play.

But today, these girls were blocking the slide. And he wanted to slide.

He marched up to the girls.

“Go!” he yelled at them.

They looked at him in surprise, but continued giggling and most importantly, not moving out of the way.

“GO!” Eamon yelled again, this time pointing to show them that they should be going down the slide, not just sitting at the top of it.

This quieted them a bit more. The fact that a three-foot, thirty pound toddler was attempting to throw his weight around befuddled them.

Eamon gave them one more warning: “GO!” He then turned around and began maneuvering into his usual tummy sliding position.

Before he had a chance to crawl over the girls, which he assuredly would have done, they shrieked and went down the slide.

And Eamon went down the slide, smiling and happy, into the arms of his waiting father.

That battle was won.

But the war for the slide was not over.

Eamon ran back up the stairs. This time, a boy of around 12 years stood in his way, again blocking the slide so that no one could use it. Eamon marched up to him as well. There they stood—a 2 year old staring up at an adversary much taller, much heavier, and much older. The face-off commenced.

Now, Aaron was not standing close enough to hear the conversation that took place between Eamon and this boy. All he knows is that it ended with the 12 year old screaming, “I am NOT a baby!” and then running away.

Eamon, looking nonchalant about the whole thing, went down the slide.

Now, I have my own theory about what really happened. My child’s command of the English language is pretty limited, and he’s very literal. To Eamon, only people smaller than him are babies, and he doesn’t know that calling someone bigger a “baby” is an insult. In fact, I don’t think he even knows what an “insult” is.

So I am guessing that he didn’t actually deliver any smack talk. What I think must have happened is that either 1) Eamon said something completely different that the kid didn’t understand and misheard, or 2) the kid had a B on his hat or shirt or something, and Eamon, who really loves letters, announced, “B! B!” which sounds a lot like “Baby.”

Regardless, though, what impresses me is that at no point did Eamon shrink from confronting children five or six times older. He didn’t run. He didn’t cry. He didn’t hit or scream. He didn’t pretend like he didn’t care and just wanted to do something else anyway. He didn’t even find his parents to solve the problem for him.

He just…handled it.

And like that, the slide was his. He slid and slid to his heart’s content.

That was all he ever really wanted.

One day, when I am King of the Slide, all children shall ride freely without worry or woe...and none shall stand in the way of their sliding. And that day...that day, my friends...is TODAY. Rejoice, and slide freely, children everywhere!

09 March 2011

One Minute

I am starting a movement, a call to action, and I urge concerned citizens everywhere to adopt this cause. Start a Facebook group, Tweet it, email your state representatives, because this one is important:

We need more hours in the day.

Well, I do anyway.

Between family and work and graduate school (in order of priority), I have approximately 30-45 minutes a day to myself. And that time can be spent 1) reading, 2) working out, or 3) writing this blog or other pet projects. These are all things that I need to do to stay sane and healthy. Each one, really, deserves at least 30-45 minutes unto itself.

But there is only enough time for one a day. And sometimes, when a project is due, or I'm sick, or someone else is sick, that time just disappears. And all you can do is hope that tomorrow will be better.

And don’t talk to me about multi-tasking. Research has shown that there is an inverse relationship between the quantity of things people are doing and the quality with which they can do them.

So I figure one logical answer is for there to be more hours in the day. I am currently pushing for 30, but am open to negotiation.

The other answer would be to expand the hours that we have so that they are longer.

For instance, this past weekend, Eamon, Aaron, Nesta, and I all went to Kiln Creek Park. One of the baseball fields was free, so we claimed it as our own. I let Nesta off the leash so that she could run. Aaron and I kicked around a miniature soccer ball while Eamon ran after it shrieking, “Mine! Mine!” Afterwards, we all sat together on the ground.

The sun was hidden behind the clouds, but the weather was warm with a light, cool breeze.

I ran my fingers through the soft grass.

I watched Eamon and Aaron wrestle and giggle.

And for that minute, there was no work. There was no graduate school. There were no bills and no past due assignments. There were no obligations, no worries.

Time stopped.

For a minute.

Okay, screw the extra six hours a day campaign.

I would settle for just one of those minutes each day.