The preschool years are some of my favorite. Somewhere between the potty training and learning to dress themselves their individual personalities take solid shape. Some events highlight this progression better than others.
We lived in an old house on a pier and beam foundation with wonderful real wooden floors. When the kids ran the sound vibrated through the floorboards. As they began leaving babyhood behind and becoming preschoolers their imaginations were beginning to take off. Legos and Lincoln logs were the toys of the hour. For weeks the boys had been building kitties out of Legos and making up stories and games with their Lego feline pets. The creations could just as easily been called doggies or turtles in how much they resembled cats, but the boys insisted they were kitties.
I left the children playing in the playroom while I went to make lunch. It was my habit to put up the baby gate to keep the kids safely out of the kitchen while I cooked. Usually I could hear the kids conversations clearly, this day I must have been preoccupied.
Suddenly, I hear two sets of little feet running violently down the hall. I clumsily moved my third trimester pregnant self to the kitchen doorway and peered toward the commotion. Two year old Matt was laughing hysterically as he struggled to keep ahead of his older brother. Three year old Ed however, was NOT laughing. Ed was mad! Really mad. He resembled Yosemite Sam, all red-faced and angry fisted. He was ready to shout the roof down. I could not understand what he was saying but I could tell I needed to intervene or Matt would get hurt. Matt was holding his two tiny baby hands stretched in front of him like he had something very important clasped between them. He was jovially prepared to be pummeled in order to protect this unseen treasure. As he stumbled and cackled his way to me, just barely ahead of his brothers angry fists, I tried unsuccessfully to understand what was going on. Ed’s words tumbled out at a decibel and speed that only preschoolers can achieve I could not decode a word of it! Matt just kept laughing. I lifted Matt over the baby gate into the safety of the kitchen, away from the beating Ed seemed intent to give him. The whole time Matt kept his hands together as he clung possessively to what was held within.
Matt was actually rolling on the floor laughing out loud, he too was unintelligible. I turned to calm Ed down so I could try to understand why he was trying to beat his brother up. The combination of Ed’s seriousness and Matt’s laughter had me near laughter myself. The contrast in emotions, both being displayed at the most intense level each was capable of, could not have been greater. After several minutes, both boys calmed and I understood that Matt had stolen Eds kitties and he wanted them back. Just as I feel I have begun to grasp the problem, Matt began to laugh again. Trying not to grin (simply watching him laugh would make anyone want to join him in his jovial spirit) I told Matt to return his brothers kitties. Matt saw the laughter in my eyes it seemed to make his eyes twinkle as if to say “the funniest part is still to come”. Smugly he strode to the gate, while still holding his contraband he patronizingly looked at his older brother and said “you could just pretend they escaped”. The sarcasm was positively dripping off of his baby tongue. A very angry and indignant Ed replied “No! Stealing is bad! You have to give it back!” Still working hard not to join Matt in laughter I gestured for him to give the kitties back. He reached his short toddler arms up high over his head stretching above the gate to obediently hand back the kitties. As he slowly opened his hands his laughter grew more and more hysterical. His pudgy fingers unfolded to reveal…..air. Ed triumphantly grabbed the AIR above his younger brothers palm, demanded an apology, and stomped away.
At some point the boys had decided the kitties could become invisible whenever they chose. Matt had “stolen” his brothers invisible kitties thinking Ed would simply pretend them back. Ed however could not comprehend the switch in the game. He could pretend that square plastic Legos were kitties with invisibility super powers, but an injustice such as his brother had committed could only be rectified with a physical act and verbal apology. I could not help but join Matt in a chuckle, the humor of the situation was not lost on either of us.
Ed is still our champion of justice. I can count on him to cut the cake and split the soda evenly. He will always tell the cashier if he received too much change. He plays games by the rules and won’t play until he knows what the rules are.
We also still have our Court Jester. Matt will find humor in most everything. He continues to exploit his brothers literal mind for his amusement regularly. He has become better at the straight face though, so sometimes Ed misses the joke entirely.
These boys remain the best of friends. They understand and embrace each others personalities. The obvious unconditional love they have for each other is inspiring.
Most days this role as Mom feels like it’s all laundry and time outs. I am trying to reflect more on how unique and amazing each child is. I have been blessed with front row seats to their growth and maturity, for that I am grateful.