My first day back to real life after five days away from my family (and my "job" since parenting is technically what I do) went pretty well. Pretty well. I would say great except that it was kind of unsettling that things carried on so well without me and then, well, Finn dumped the bottle of sand I brought home from the beach down the bathroom sink.
I was really mad at him, not because he did it (not a bad place to put sand, actually) but because I had JUST told him not to open the bottle of sand in the house.
By the time Bill got home (he's in town this week but has work dinners every night), my anger and frustration had subsided and been replaced with confusion. Does Finn not understand me? Is there some sort of learning disability specifically linked to listening? Is it possible he's just...not that smart?
The more we talked about it, the worse it got. We decided that, while Finn is plenty smart and probably not disabled, he's basically gotten the shaft every day since he was been born. His entire life takes place in Liam's world. Like his big brother came along first and laid all the ground work and no one ever thought to take another look around to see if anything needed remodeling.
Nope. It was just, "Welcome to Liam's world, Finn. I hope it's a good fit for you. You two are probably exactly alike right? No? Well, darn. I guess...um....good luck with that..."
I mean, seriously. The more we talked the more I wanted to kick myself in the face. What the hell have we been thinking? Finn's the littlest one. Shouldn't all of our lives revolve around him? No wonder he's never napped or learned the alphabet...Liam's too big for stuff like that. Finn could definitely ace a test on Star Wars but I honestly don't even know if he can tell a triangle from a square.
I have to say, as a first born, I suddenly felt like a big ole jerk.
The whole thing had me in tears. I just felt awful. And then Bill threw this one at me: Think about your kids in their mid 20s, getting together for a beer and shooting the breeze. What would they say about you?
That you were kind and loving and a great cook and super fun to play with and they felt very connected to you?
I was already having a low moment so I honestly couldn't even think about it. If the boys were talking specifically about the day we had just had (which was fine - up until the sand in the sink at bedtime - but also sort of tedious and boring and I felt a bit disconnected from them both), there's no way they would have given me a review I would want to hear.
It's really hard to think about these things - about Finn getting the short end of the stick, about what the boys might think of me, about this life I have dedicated myself to that seems to carry on just fine without me - but I knew it was an opportunity for me to take stock and reassess some things that might need little work.
Even though we had said last night that it's too bad we couldn't just wipe the slate clean and start over, in a way, that's exactly what I did. I went though the day today with that future conversation top of mind. How do I want my children to remember me? I also paid special attention to Finn and let Liam know that he would no longer be calling all the shots (he knew exactly what I was talking about).
I chose my words more carefully, maintained an upbeat attitude and met them each where they were. I laughed more and huffed less. The only show they watched today was a Leap Frog show for little kids and when Liam wanted to listen to an audio book about surviving a shark attack, I asked him to wear headphones and I read Blue's Clues to Finn. We went to story time because it guarantees some cuddles. I made connecting with the boys my number one priority and went out of my way to find ways to bond with them individually.
I even signed Finn up for soccer at the YMCA - the very first thing that's just for him. His very own thing! I can't wait until we all go watch him play. All of us supporting him. It's about damn time. But when you know better, you do better, right?
That's basically the subtitle of parenthood.