The last two years, my husband opted out of his annual golf trip with his college buddies. Electing to stay home to help me with our growing family. This year when the ‘who’s in?’ texts began, I told him he had to go. We (the three boys and I) would be fine. He seemed doubtful of this statement. I. could. totally. handle. it. I reassured him.
I was lying. Not about him going – I wanted him to go. He needed to go. He needed time with his closest friends. Those friends where there is complete candor, no judging and unabashed laughter. Three little boys in three years – he needed time with big boys. The part I was lying about was the totally handling all three little boys by myself for a long weekend part.
I knew I could do it, but like I approach most new tasks, I harbored some measured self-doubt. I was scared. I was nervous. I had no idea how it would go. As the long weekend approached, I ramped up my preparation. My grocery cart looked like I was stocking an underground bunker: full of milk, bread and peanut butter plus the requisite diapers and formula.
Night number one (Thursday night), I was a bit of an authoritarian. I figured staying on schedule was the only way I would make it. I moved like a pre-programmed robot from dinner to an obligatory play session to the bedtime routine. All went smoothly and according to plan, but as I left the boys’ bedroom, I realized I had barely cracked a smile.
By the next morning, I was still wound tightly, but I had brought it down a few notches. I was less militant and more engaged. My eyes were now on the moment, not how we would get to the next moment. In this approach of presence, I found myself giving hugs and kisses, making silly faces, playing games and deploying distraction and redirection. The boys responded well. And I cracked a few more smiles.
Around lunchtime, I had my first curveball. My youngest, still a baby at just 10 months old, had thrown up at daycare. They called me to pick him up. I wrapped up some open work items and headed to daycare. What was I going to do? How was I going to work the rest of the afternoon? By the way I figured it, I could pick him up, feed him, put him back down for a nap and grind out a few more hours of work. Curveball hit, back on plan. That all went out the window when I held him at daycare. I put my baby boy’s warmer than normal cheek on mine and breathed him in. For the first time since my husband boarded his plane 24 hours earlier, I completely relaxed. I had not fully realized it yet, but I was about to abandon my plan. Retrospectively, thank god.
I got home and reconsidered what to do the rest of the day. The revised plan was simple: go back and get the rest of my boys. When I got there, the oldest was wrapping up his soccer practice. So I sat and watched with my two youngest as we cheered on the three year old. When we got home, I took the baby straight to his room for his second nap of the day. I then took the two and the three year old to the back yard. For the first time in longer than I care to admit, I dove in – literally. We started by playing soccer, found ourselves rolling around in the grass and finally hiding from the dinosaurs and monsters (I’m not sure how we ended here but I am thankful for little boys’ imaginations.) In the midst of our fun, we sent a picture to their dad of us roaring and chasing away the monsters. He made this picture the background on his phone. I consider it a particularly unflattering picture of myself. I asked why he chose this as his background. He smiled and said, “I love this picture. It’s you as Full-on Boy Mom.”
January 27, 2015 is the day there was no looking back for me on being a Boy Mom. I was 18 weeks pregnant and the Ultrasound confirmed, that our third and final child would be our third boy. I drove from the doctor’s office to our house with tears streaming down my face. And guilt as I cried because I should be happy about the healthy baby boy in tummy. I pulled into our driveway, but could not face my boys inside. Embarrassed at my inexplicable reaction considering my immeasurable love for those sweet boys. I drove to my favorite bakery, sat by myself and opened my computer to submerse myself in work (my healthy distraction and avoidance tactic.) My husband stopped in to check on me. When I saw his face my tears returned. I was not sad for our baby boy. I was excited about the prospect of three little boys running around our house, all close in age, being the best of friends and growing into big boys. Instead, I was mourning the daughter I would never have. The hair I could never brush, the flowers, the dresses…24 hours my husband said. You have 24 hours to mourn her and then we celebrate him.
I did not need 24 hours. I did not even need four hours. Once I saw my boys again, I knew dirty hands, bruised knees, messy clothes, loud noises and all the chaos, potty words and love that comes from sweet boys were meant for me.
I had technically become a forever Full-on Boy mom over a year earlier than that Friday afternoon in our backyard, but this silly picture, taken in the moment, was the first image that completely captured it. After we roared and chased the monsters out of the backyard, we had a new tone for the weekend. We blew bubbles on the front porch. We had mac and cheese (with broccoli mixed in) for dinner. We were silly with our faces, but still serious about certain rules. We read books about race cars at bedtime. We wore our soccer shirts all weekend. We made granola. We roared like monsters and dinosaurs and I found a hidden voice inside: Mater. We all (baby included) played with hot wheels and trains. We watched Thomas. We colored and painted. I said, “Hands out of your pants, please” a lot. We called our pad thai worms as we slurped up the noodles and we made animals out of our toast.
It was not all puppy dogs and rainbows. We saw some time outs due to a protested diaper change and a disagreement about how many days is too many to wear and sleep in the same shirt. Saturday afternoon had a rough patch when the baby threw up again and my lack of sleep from the night before was overwhelming. I was not completely alone either, my parents were around to help.
By Sunday night, they were more than excited when daddy got home. I was too. He played with them outside as I put the baby down. He told me he would put the older boys down and I turned to eating my first meal in days in relative peace. But the boys were calling for me and I missed them too. I put my fork down and took over bed time duties. I laid in bed with them and we talked about the day and sang songs. Our house is almost always in constant motion and really loud, which makes these quiet moments as priceless as a rare stone.
As I was leaving, they said, “mommy, will you come check on me tonight?” Yes, dear boys, I will check on you tonight. Love you. Good night. – is what they heard. What they did not hear is what I said to myself as I shut their door: I have been checking on you since the first moment you were in my belly and I will always check on you. You three sweet boys have forever changed me. I love and need you more than you will ever know. There will be a day when you do not ask me to check on you anymore, but I will still be checking and always chasing away the monsters.