Our conversations always end up the same way. The kids.
Shortly after putting the boys to bed we will settle into our seats and blow out long streams of stress and breathe in deeply the feeling of a few little hours that have nothing to do with being parents and everything to do with just each other. However, conversations about the bills or the news almost always wind down to silence and the quiet demands more words. With almost sheepish tenativeness I might recall a funny thing that Corrigan did earlier and I wrap it up quickly as if ashamed that I had nothing else to talk about. Then, Mark will bring up something brief about Connor…how he did at soccer practice or how proud he is of something Connor had done or said. Once the subject has been breached we are unstoppable. We laugh and smile as we talk about our boys and I often wonder why we put so much pressure on ourselves to ignore the very topic of conversation that means the most to us. The words of praise, the thoughts and concerns, the adorable little stories or memories we share about them bubble up and fly from our mouths because we are full to the top with love.
Last evening was no exception. As Mark and I sat, slumped slightly down in our chairs from the weight of the last 14 hours, I mentioned that I would love to try and encourage Connor to spend just a little more time with Corrigan. I know that he is busy with school and 5 days of soccer related activities each evening but Corrigan is exploding with change right now. He is a walking sponge and delights in the presence of others. Corrigan will play well by himself for 10 minutes or so but if someone is merely in the same room that he is playing he will spend even more time exploring and puttering around. I think that he draws comfort and safety from having us nearby and feels confident to move around and learn, rather than stopping his play to go off and find us in other rooms of the house.
Sometimes I really need Connor to watch Corrigan for a few minutes and will ask Connor to go down the hall and actually play with the baby. Not merely sit on the computer with one ear/eye on his little brother but engage him. While Connor doesn’t exactly roll his eyes or show any signs of protest I imagine that a 12 year old boy would rather be watching silly skits on YouTube than dodging wooden puzzle pieces as his 1-year old brother plays.
Yes, our conversations ARE that exciting. Are you not riveted?
More often than not though, when I finish up whatever chore I was doing that I needed Connor’s assistance, I will go to whatever room they are playing and tell Connor that he can go back to what he was doing…only to find that the two of them are in deep adventure. Sometimes Connor has concocted a story that they are killing monsters by throwing colored balls at pillows…or that Corrigan is a wicked baby-ninja out to save the world, manipulating Corrigan’s legs in hilarious ninja kicks, dramatically gasping for breath and rolling onto the floor in imaginary pain…as Corrigan leans over the edge of the bed laughing at what just happened.
Sometimes Connor is reading to him, brother in lap…or they might both be sitting in front of the laptop, on the couch, watching a toddler show like Elmo…Connor closing his own choices of entertainment and focusing on what he thinks Corrigan might prefer. Often, after quietly taking in the scene, I will back away slowly and hope that they continue on together in their play and knowing that they are creating a bond, each time they spend focused only on each other, and smiling that they can be this close so soon.
Explaining all of this to Mark he thought it over a bit and then said simply, “We owe all of that to Monika.”
..and it is true. We do.
As parents we like to think that all of the good traits that our children display are due to our own excellent parenting skills. Certainly the fact that Connor knew all of his ABC’s by age one had everything to do with how smart his Mama was right? How much love and care I took to teach a 12-month old each letter of the alphabet, flash cards and songs…right? I mean, it had nothing to do with the hours of Sesame Street or Barney that he watched day after day.
Connor’s great kindness not only to his baby brother, but to every little kid that he spends time around is not due to anything that Mark and I did but only due to the amazing example that he had in Monika. Connor does not know a single time in his life that did not include Monika in it. In fact, she was 5 1/2 years old when she first met Connor, just a few hours after he was born…climbing into my hospital bed to hold him…her eyes wide with curiosity and her hands gentle and sweet.
They grew up together. They spent time together as brother and sister. She slept at our house dozens of times, the two of them playing for hours, lost in their imaginations, never once fighting. Can you imagine? Not once. Not ever. Never did I have to separate them. Never did I wish that it was time for Monika to go home because they were not getting along. Not once did I ever hear her complain that she was forced to play with someone nearly six years younger than she was. We took her out to eat, we took her with us on vacations…in our hearts Monika is our daughter. She is Connor’s big sister. She is family.
She probably has no idea the example she was for Connor. Because of her example, Connor will go to a picnic or birthday party and be the oldest child there but spend hours entertaining the wee ones. He lets them climb on him, pull on him, spray him with the hose or play “tag” with them for hours. He is patient, he is gentle, he is loving, he enjoys the time with little kids and he is all of those things because he had the very best teacher that we could ever hope to have…Monka-Mary Shaw (our nickname for her)…who is now in college, a beautiful 17-year old freshman that had a pretty crummy day yesterday. Monika, the sister I was never able to give Connor.
Corrigan is so lucky. He now has two great instructors that will spend time with him, loving on him, being kind and gentle…and teaching him, by example, to be a good friend to everyone, regardless of age. Corrigan has Connor and Monika. Of course, when someone remarks at how well he plays with other kids in the preschool sandbox, I am totally taking credit for it. *sticks out tongue*
We love you Monika!
*small P.S. after I spent some time thinking about this blog entry I remembered the time that we had taken Connor and Monika down to Virginia to visit Connor’s PapPap and Nana. We were out to dinner with PapPap and Mark and I were telling him how many times, while in Florida, people would remark how much Connor looked like his sister…or how much Monika looked like her little brother…how it happened so often that we got tired of explaining that they were not siblings and just started saying “thank you” or ” Why yes they do!” or even funnier was to say ” yeah, they look just like their daddy”…and my Dad looked back and forth between the two kids and said, “Huh, I don’t see the resemblance” and not 10 seconds later our waitress came over and said, “Wow, these two look so much alike and are so well behaved!” and we all just cracked up laughing. That memory still makes me smile.
(a cute video just for fun)