Sunday, March 6, 2011

He's Complicated

Experiencing it for the second time now, I think four is a very interesting age. And Danny is nothing if not interesting these days. It would be easy to cast him simply as a Star Wars-obsessed little boy who runs around the house with his pool noodle light saber, a coveted item he received at Parker's Jedi training-themed birthday party. He really does do this a lot. And builds fighter ships with Legos and sets up battles with Playmobil knights.

With every passing day, though, Danny grows more nuanced. I can see him grappling with his budding maturity, particularly as it dovetails with learning to be a big brother. Since the beginning of the year he has had to start studying and taking spelling tests, has endured a screening for a new school and with it the looming prospect of kindergarten, and most importantly has been asked to be patient and sometimes take a back seat to his new sister.

For the most part, he has done this very well, and we are really proud of him. I have noticed over the past few days, though, as we inch closer to a bedtime routine with Laura that unfortunately often collides with his own (and often involves a lot of fussiness on her part), that Danny's patience is wearing a tad thin. And I get it. It's hard to hear multiple times a day, "Maybe later. After I nurse the baby." He used to be my baby, after all. I knew I would feel guilt in this regard, too. In fact I used to say several times, as a reason to not have a third child, that Danny would not be a good middle child.

But he is. Maybe because he's the only boy, but I think it has more to do with his just being a genuinely good kid. One who has received much praise lately from moms who have hosted him for playdates, and from his teachers who observe his developing academic skills as well as a healthy respect for others. He speaks sweetly to Laura, craves opportunities to hold her, and is quickly by her side when she begins to fuss.

Most importantly, he's learning to talk through his own fussy moments rather than simply melt down. Tonight while I was in the nursery, attempting to get Laura asleep, Danny quietly crept in and crawled up onto his new favorite spot on her window seat. From there we had a good conversation that involved a lot of questions centered around the theme of "why does everything have to change with a baby?" He calmly told me that he sometimes gets frustrated, and sometimes sad, that I can't put him to bed or am otherwise occupied with Laura. I told him that I sometimes get frustrated and sad, too. But, as he has reminded us on previous occasions, "that's just the way it is with babies." I sent him off to find Tim and the photo album featuring Danny as an infant, which he naturally found fascinating. It wasn't a panacea, and he was still a tad mournful at bedtime - even though I did put him to bed - but I can tell that on most levels, he understands. I can also tell that he's still my baby boy who still needs lots of snuggles, a simple act that goes a long way for both of us.

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