In Sickness and in Hell

Warning: The following image will make you simultaneously tear up and say “awe.” Much like the dogs and cats in those ASPCA commercials, add a little Sarah MacLauchlan, and you’ll be whipping out your checkbooks to contribute to my ‘Oliver is sick’ fund.

photo 1
No?

Okay so maybe it just makes me tear up a little, mostly because I know how miserable Oliver was this past week while fighting a nasty cold. For anyone who has ever had a sick kid, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it’s just as rough for the parent as it is for the child.

IMG_1027
First there is the fact that watching your child suffer, for whatever reason, is torture.

I may not be the one with the fever but boy does my head pound when I realize there is little I can do, Tylenol aside, to bring it down.

I may not be the one hacking and wheezing and dealing with a constant stream of snot dripping from my nose, but boy does my chest tighten up when I realize that, besides cranking up the humidifier, I can do little to ease his cough.

Then there is the rarely admitted fact that dealing with a child who is suffering takes that torture to a new level. Like if watching him suffer is the physical equivalent of getting punched in the gut, dealing with that suffering child is equivalent to getting punched in the gut during a WWE cage match with The Rock. (Note: superfluous wrestling reference for my husband’s sake; translation: really really hard).

I may not be the cranky, irritable one dropping to the floor in a fit of rage because mommy handed me the wrong colored sippy cup, but I am secretly wishing I could throw a fit of my own when Oliver does it.

Is it okay to admit that? Does it make me bad a mom?

I’m going to throw this out there, having a sick toddler requires a black-belt, Zen-master level of patience and nurturing. I’m only a yellow-belt on my best days. Despite knowing Oliver’s increased irritability and clinginess were a direct result of feeling lousy, I was barely hanging on to my sanity by the end of the week. If you ask my husband, I might have actually let go.

When the crankiness finally hit the tipping point, I pulled out all my tricks to try and calm him down. I tried hugs. I tried distractions. I tried ignoring the behavior. I tried talking to him, rationally explaining his feelings and the appropriate reaction (Seriously, don’t even waste your time with this one). I tried falling head over heels to accommodate his needs. He’s sick after all I told myself. But nothing seemed to quell the tears—his or mine.

In order to fortify myself against it, I had to admit that, like his fever and his cough, there was little I could do to control it. Once I let go of the expectation—once I learned to embrace the tears instead of fighting them—I was able to stay much calmer and, subsequently, so was Oliver.

Now on the other side of Coldmagedon 2014, with my happy, bubbly baby returned and my own blood pressure back down to a solid 120/80, I can pass on the wisdom I learned from this experience.

1) Set Aside Routine. I’ve discovered over time that as much as Oliver thrives with a solid routine, so do I.  I look forward to his regularly scheduled naptime. I like to be able to predict the order in which our daily activities will occur. There is a comfort there. When you have a sick toddler though, forget about all that and just run with whatever makes you and your sick kiddo happy in the moment.

2) Indulge in “Lazy Day” Activities. You know what I’m talking about, those things we all love to do—watch TV, curl up with a good book, lounge around doing nothing—but feel guilty doing too often. When you’re toddler is sick, you and he have a free pass to do them as much as you want. If he is too distracted by Mickey Mouse cartoons to remember that he feels sick and, subsequently, scream at the top of his lungs for hours on end, that is a win in my book.

3) Pretend You Have a New Born. Remember when your toddler was an infant and everyone told you things like 1) sleep when the baby sleeps 2) forget about keeping the house clean 3) ignore the advice of others and go with your instincts, 4) make time for yourself, and 5) let go of perfect and just be good enough. All these things once again apply, so embrace that middle of the day nap!

4) Accept Help. I want you to go beyond accepting help; I want you to ask for it. Reach out to anyone and everyone, and shamelessly beg for assistance. Even the strongest will is no match for a sick toddler—you’re going to need support.

5) Tell yourself This too shall pass. Repeat as needed.

What would you add to the list?

Advertisements

New Year’s Resolutions: Toddler Edition

Side note: I’m amending Oliver’s resolutions to include cooperating with all of his mother’s blog related photo shoots. After multiple attempts, this was the best one I got.

DSCN5481

The other day I asked Oliver if he would like to set some New Year’s resolutions.

“Yea” he exclaimed enthusiastically.

To be completely honest, that wasn’t a very fair question. Oliver is famous for saying “yea” to any question you ask him, true or not.

Case in point, here is a recent conversation I had with him about ice cream—a very important topic if you’re a toddler.

“Oliver would you like some ice cream?” I ask

“Yea,” he answers, excitedly clapping his hands.

Now sitting in his high chair, the first bite just about to pass his lips I ask, “Oliver is ice cream yucky?” I scrunch up my face and stick out my tongue—toddler speak for gross.

“Yea” he says again, smiling as ice cream drips down his chin.

“Well since you don’t like it should we give your ice cream to daddy?” I gesture toward my husband sitting on the other side of Oliver.

“Yea.”

I grab the ice cream bowl to slide it over to my husband, and Oliver erupts into tears. It’s like I’m literally taking away the only bowl of ice cream left in the entire world. I push it back toward him, feeling both satisfied that I just proved to my husband that Oliver is an indecisive flip-flopper and terrible because I just stole ice cream from a baby.

I often use his tendency to say “yea” to my advantage. There’s nothing better on a bad day than hearing a resounding yes to the question ‘am I the best mom ever?’ or ‘is mommy super funny or what?’ I know that sometimes his relentless string of “yeas” can lead to a few fibs, but I like to think he answers these questions truthfully.

I also like to think he was being sincere when telling me he thinks it would be fun to come up with a list of New Year’s resolutions for 2014, so that’s exactly what we did. Since toddler’s are fairly bad at coming up with long term goals, I took the liberty of helping Oliver craft his list.

After writing ten resolutions out, I ran them by him to make sure he could commit to each and every one.

“Oliver, do you promise to stick to all your New Year’s resolutions next year?”

“Yea!”

I’m pretty sure that’s a binding agreement.

DSCN5480

1. Mind My Own Business: Multiple times a day mommy likes to go into the bathroom and close the door. Obviously this means something so amazingly fun is going on in there that she doesn’t want to share. Next year, I will try to make my own fun outside the bathroom. Should I fail and still sneak in, I promise to not toss little pieces of toilet paper between her legs while she is mid-pee.

2. Respect Gravity. Mommy insists there is this thing called gravity and it is out to get me if I’m not careful. I’m pretty sure this gravity thing is just her excuse to not shadow me every time I try to scale the kitchen table. Never-the-less, I resolve not to treat every piece of furniture like my personal jungle gym.

3. Refine my palette. I will not eat food that the dog has already licked, chewed on, or eaten then spit up. The cat food at Grandma and Grandpa’s though is fair game.

4. Stand on my Own Two Feet. I like watching mommy cook. I like watching mommy cook so much that I insist she hold me while doing everything from pulling a casserole out of the oven to cutting vegetables with a very large knife. In the future I will give mommy the pleasure of cooking my breakfast, lunch, and dinner without insisting that she hold me while doing so, assuming she buys me a stool for Christmas.

5. Play With my Real Toys. Mommy tells me that there are certain items called toys, and that those are what I am supposed to play with. I say mommy is crazy because squeezing a full bottle of lotion all over the carpet is tons of fun. I promise to give all my “real” toys a second chance to wow me and save outlet covers, q-tips, nail polish, and dish soap for a rainy day.

6. Stop Making Prank Calls. I will accept my plastic, toy cell phone as a suitable replacement for mommy’s real, very breakable phone. I will then track down the all the random people I have accidently called and reassure them that the loud breathing on the other end of the line was just me and not a psychopath waiting to murder them.

7. Schedule Cuteness. I’m super cute. It’s one of the reasons I get away with so much mischief. From here on out though, I will not do anything cute unless mommy has her camera at the ready. This includes making my scrunchy face, impromptu dancing, and messy eating where spaghetti is involved.

8. Broaden my TV horizons. Mickey Mouse is awesome. And don’t get me started on that Hot Dog Song. But it’s high time I learn to appreciate some other shows and movies. Mommy is pushing for Jurassic Park but I’m hoping we can compromise with Barney.

9 Become King of the Potty. Let’s face it. I’ll turn two next July and this milestone is inevitable. Also, flushing the toilet after mommy pees is the best thing ever. If I pee in the toilet I get double flushes.

10. Learn to say “no.” Do I like to say “yea?” Hell yea! But mommy tells me I confuse her by answering yes to every single question. There are a bunch of other fun words out there and I will master some of them. Then I will tell mommy what I really think about her New Year’s resolutions.

DSCN5453

Babies on a Plane

DSC_3002A little while ago I wrote a blog about the joys of traveling sans baby. Only now will I openly admit that when I wrote that blog I had never tried traveling, at least not by plane, with my kiddo. At the time, I could only imagine the trials involved in carting an uncooperative, screaming toddler through the airport. In my head, it seemed pretty dreadful. Since I wrote that post, I have indeed gone on a plane with my 16-month-old, and I hate to break it to you, but the reality is worse. Much, much worse.

For Thanksgiving this year, my husband, Oliver and I headed out to the Las Vegas area to visit the in-laws. The flight to Vegas is an anxiety-inducing 4 ½ hours. That means potentially 4 ½ hours of dealing with a wailing, thrashing, whining, get-me-off-this-plane toddler. Being the master planner that I am (read: I would normally forget everything except the baby), I headed to the internet for some advice on making the flight less stressful. Armed with my bag of tricks and my list of dos and don’ts we hit the road.

When we landed in Vegas later that day, frazzled and near tears, I ripped up my list and swore to hunt down every last person who said “traveling with a baby won’t be bad as long as you’re prepared.” Allow me to elaborate.

The first mistake I made was in thinking that because I could entertain Oliver all day long while we were at home that I would be able to entertain him just as easily on the plane. Wrong! It turns out his favorite forms of entertainment– running, throwing balls, and going outside, are neither feasible nor safe on a plane. His luxurious 18’ x 16’ playroom at home (read: the living and dining room that have begrudgingly morphed into a playroom) is not the same as a tiny 1’ x 1’ seat. That didn’t stop Oliver from trying to treat it like it was his personal play space though.

He climbed up my body like he was scaling a jungle gym at the park. He bounced and jumped and swung his arms like he was splayed out across our bed, testing the resiliency of the springs. He flung napkins and in-flight magazines across the aisle as if he were trying our for the major leagues. And he screeched and wailed with a renewed gusto I haven’t heard in awhile. A level of volume much more suitable for children who have fallen to the bottom of a well and need rescuing than are sitting amidst snoozing adults in an encapsulated area.

Clearly, I needed different tactics for an airplane seat than our home. Strike one.

The next mistake I made was thinking Oliver would peacefully doze off the second the clock struck eight, his normal bed time at home. If anything, by the time eight rolled around he was more wired than ever, frantically making grabs at the lady’s hair in front of us who made the mistake of letting it fall over the back of her chair.

“No Oliver, put your hands in your lap.” A hint of desperation crept into my voice. “Here want to play with mommy’s hair?” I asked, waving my own locks in front of his face. This was the moment I learned it was a bad idea to try and bargain with a wired, yet insanely tired toddler.

Oliver swatted the strand away and let out a squeal I can only compare to a sick and dying cat. The lady in the seat ahead peaked over her shoulder to investigate the source of her disturbance. She glared at Oliver then at me, her eyes speaking almost as loud as Oliver’s cries, then leaned back in her seat to continue reading an article about steakhouses in Brazil, clearly an important read. I breathed a sigh of relief when I noticed that her disapproving turn around also pulled her hair back over the seat, safely tucked away from grabbing hands.

Nine o’clock rolled around and there was still no sign of Oliver falling asleep. His body was fighting him, eyelids becoming heavy, trying to pull him into dreamland, but he was fighting back. Have you ever seen those videos of the cute puppy, slumped over on the floor, its head bobbing as it tries to stay awake? Now picture that, except instead of a soft whimper the puppy breaks into hysterical barking every time its eyes flutter open again. Not so cute anymore, right? That was Oliver.

For almost two hours, Brad I took turns trying to will an exhausted but headstrong baby to sleep. We bounced. We paced. We rocked. We danced. We alternated between standing statue-still and gyrating around the aisle to a silent rendition of the Macarena. Nothing worked. That narrow airplane cabin suddenly felt even smaller—claustrophobic-inducing, I’m trapped inside a coffin small. And I was itching to get out. Only 2 ½ hours to go.

The solo dance recital might not have been quite so bad if it weren’t for my less than adoring audience. Every now and then a fellow passenger from a few rows up would crane her neck around to assess the situation. She’d stare at me disapprovingly, angry that I disturbed her Sudoku, or Ann Rice vampire novel, or celebrity gossip rag. I’d put on my best pity face, willing her to look on me with kindness and understanding and not like I was trying to exorcise a demon from my baby. The stare down ultimately ended when the passenger, realizing her abrasive stare wouldn’t do anything to stop the shrieking, turned around in her seat, arms crossed over chest, and mumbled incoherently to the person next to her. My closed-captioning would insert the sentence, ‘she’s such a good, patient mom.’ Thank goodness I can’t lip read. Strike two.

My last mistake was thinking that Oliver could easily be distracted by novel toys and snacks, per the advice of every mommy blog online. Preflight I loaded the diaper bag with dollar-store trinkets, books that we’ve never read, and enough Dum Dum suckers to supply a pediatrician’s office for the entire year. All the advice said to reveal each toy, one-by-one, throughout the flight to entertain and distract your child.

Just before take-off I grab a small coloring pad and crayon and place it in Oliver’s lap. “Look, Oliver, you can color!” I announce with the same excitement you would muster to tell a blind person he could now see or a deaf person he could now hear. Oliver looks at the crayon, picks it up, gingerly pressing it through his fingers as my excitement over this success builds. He brings the crayon down to the pad of paper, but instead of creating a refrigerator worthy masterpiece, he flings it on the floor.

Next I pull out a squeezable fruit pouch for him to eat. I twist off the cap as he watches; I can tell he’s curious, and I hand him the pouch. He arches his back, attempting to do a 180 in Brad’s lap and refuses it. I try to hand it to him again. “Yummy, this is so good.” I pretend to take a sip. Again Oliver looks intrigued. I extend the snack, hoping that this time he will just grab it and sit there quietly eating for at least two minutes. The moment it gets within six inches of his face he’s back to twisting and screaming. I screw the cap back on, feeling defeated, and tuck the now sticky pouch back into the diaper bag.

On and on it goes. A new flavor of puff? Nope. A fuzzy, purple finger puppet? Nothing. Tiny barnyard animal figurines. Tossed to the floor with all the rest, an island of misfit toys accumulating under the airplane seat. Strike three.

Mercifully, Oliver did finally fall asleep, and we landed in Vegas with only a few new gray hairs sprouting up along my hair line. Sitting in the comforts of my in-laws apartment a couple days later, the trauma of the flight becoming a distant memory, I came up with this fancy-schmancy table* to enlighten those who are about to embark on their first journey with a toddler. To say I have a newfound appreciation for traveling sans baby would be a gross understatement.

* a pre-formated table in PowerPoint

Slide1

Vacation From Mommmyland

1231550_10200687154807964_1108291042_n

Best part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

Worst part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

My mom and I recently had the opportunity to visit my sister in Florida for a long weekend. We left on a Friday afternoon and were back home in time for lunch on Monday. Total time away from the baby: a glorious 72 hours. Or was it a heartbreaking 72 hours? How am I supposed to feel about this again?

Thankfully Oliver was left in the very capable hands of my husband and dad. Surely the two of them together could equal one of me in sheer parenting awesomeness. No? Brad, who often only sees Oliver for a couple hours a day during the week was looking forward to his father/son bonding time. I, who sees Oliver for almost every hour of every day during the week, was looking forward to spending some babyless time with my sister and mom. The fact that my sister lives in Miami is an added bonus.

Before having a baby I viewed traveling as a means to an end, an annoying but necessary step to get me where I wanted to go. After baby, I’m beginning to see it in a different light. What’s that? You want me to spend half the day sitting on my butt, relaxing, reading magazines and snacking on peanuts…without any interruptions? Woo hoo! You might as well be sending me to a spa with how rejuvenating that sounds.

It took a whole five hours before “I’m away from the baby bliss” gave way to “I’m away from the baby sadness.” When the plane landed and I turned my phone back on, a picture text of Oliver popped up on the screen. He was standing in the kitchen, sippy cup in hand, surrounded by every single pot and pan we own. Normally this “game” has me sighing in resignation once I remember it is much easier to clean up than lunch toss, another of his favorite games. But this time it brought a smile to my face. How cute, I thought. I wonder what other sorts of mischief he’s getting into.

IMG_0444

Over the next day, by request, the picture texts kept coming. I’d be lounging poolside with my mom and receive an image of Oliver riding on the back of Brad’s bike. Or I’d be walking along the beach gossiping with my sister and see a picture of Oliver playing with an empty milk carton he’d fished out of the recycle bin. While eating brunch, it was a picture of Oliver sleeping in the car seat after a morning at the zoo.

Two days into the trip I called Brad for our daily check-in and he said something that simultaneously melted and broke my heart.

“Oliver said mama today.”

“He said what?” I asked, unsure if I heard him correctly.

“He said mama. In fact, he’s been saying it all day.”

I couldn’t believe it. Of all the days over the past 14 months he could have chosen to say “mama” he picked one of the few days I wasn’t there to hear it. I looked out over the ocean. I listened to the sound of the waves lapping against the sand and the wind whipping through the palm trees. It was a beautiful sight and an equally beautiful symphony of sounds. But what I wouldn’t have given to hear Oliver say “mama” for the first time instead.

Brad must have sensed my disappointment. “He’ll say it again when you get home. Don’t worry.” I knew he was right. I’d get to hear him soon enough. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t still disappointing.

“Enjoy your mini vacation while you can,” he added. “Because in a weeks time you’re going to want to trade in his endless refrain of mamas for the sound of the ocean.” I knew his was right about that one too. Sometimes my husband is too smart for his own good.

That’s the bittersweet part about time away from your baby. Leaving behind all the unpleasant parts of parenthood also means leaving behind all of the joys. Trading in screaming and crying for adult conversation also means missing out on baby giggles and coos. Trading in sticky fingers and pureed carrots for dinner out on the town means no laughing at spaghetti covered smiles.

And if you’re like me, experiencing the first uninterrupted night of sleep in months means not experiencing the first time your baby says “mama.”

The day we got home I was worried Oliver wouldn’t say “mama,” but from the time I walked in the door until the time he went to bed at night he said it on repeat. And then he kept saying it the next day. And the next day. And the next. And you know what? Hearing it for the first time wasn’t any less amazing because it wasn’t him saying it for the first time. In fact, I think I found it more amazing because my time away gave me an invaluable perspective.

Instead of getting caught up in the up-close, day-to-day struggles of motherhood, from a distance all I saw was the inherent joy and beauty in it all. And when I got home, my experience of motherhood might have gotten a little messier, a little louder, and a whole lot crazier, but with my refreshed perspective, it was all still beautiful.

Yes, even moments like this…

DSC_3272

A Letter to My Son About Kindness

This post was inspired by the 29 Random Acts of Kindness Project I am doing for my 29th Birthday. Please check it out at 29RandomActs.wordpress.com.

DSC_3616

Oliver,

There are many life lessons I want to impart on you during your youth. There are the obvious ones like “eat your veggies” and “get plenty of rest.” There are the hard ones like “life isn’t always fair” and “sometimes your best won’t cut it.” And then there are the ones that I hope will define you as an adult, the ones that will become the foundation of your character. Lessons like the importance of hard work and persistence and the value of  honesty.

There is one lesson, however, that I believe to be the most important, and if you remember one thing your mother ever told you it would be this: be kind.

Be kind in your thoughts and in your actions.

Be kind to yourself and to others.

Be kind when it is easy and when it is hard.

You, my son, have the potential to do amazing things with your life, to follow your dreams wherever they may lead. Maybe you’ll become a doctor who saves lives on a daily basis. Maybe you’ll become a teacher who inspires a love of learning in his students. Perhaps a lawyer, an architect, a pilot, a writer, or a banker. Maybe you’ll even take after your mother and be a stay-at-home dad for awhile. There are so many roads laid out before you.

My hope for you is that whichever road you take, you always walk with kindness. You see, living a truly fulfilling life isn’t about choosing the right path to follow. It isn’t about professional success, fame, or fortune, although that’s what most would have you believe. True fulfillment comes from connecting with the world around you through acts of kindness. It comes from focusing outward instead of focusing on within.

I’ve brought you into a complicated world. A world in which people sometimes do bad things for unexplainable reasons. It’s very easy to be blinded by the negativity. To get caught in a self-fulfilling cycle of seeing the bad that we expect. That is why I ask that you start by being kind in your thoughts.

Look at the world and the people in it in the most favorable light. Assume the best intentions in everyone you meet. Keep an open mind and withhold your judgment. Look for the inherent worth in every life, even the lives of people who do bad things. I promise you it is there.

Some might call this naïve or foolish. Some might believe you are setting yourself up for imminent disappointment. I, however, believe in the power of thoughts. I believe you create the reality you believe to be true. If you spend your time looking for the bad in the world, you are likely to find it. But if your thoughts are dominated by kindness, if you actively search for the best in people, the good will find a way to shine through.

But kind thoughts alone are only the wishes and dreams that change is built on. You have to turn your thoughts into actions. This can take many forms. From a simple smile at a stranger to giving of your time, talents, and wealth to those in need. It’s not the size of the act that matters but the intention behind it. No act of kindness is ever too small. No act is ever wasted.

The great thing about kindness is that it can be given away freely no matter your position in life. It is the one thing a rich man and a poor man can be equally wealthy in. And it is a wealth far more valuable than any material possession. When you show kindness, you are adding value to the world. It may not be a value that can be measured in dollars and cents, but it is a value that touches at the very core of what it means to be human.

I can already see how smart you are son. Everyday you do things that amaze me, things that convince me you will be up to the challenge. In your quest to be kind to others though, there is one person I ask you to be equally kind to: yourself. It’s very easy to dissect our own faults, to put them under a microscope, to enlarge them to the point of believing they define us. They do not.

Son, no matter your perceived faults, you are a worthy person…a person worthy of love, worthy of friendship, worthy of all the good things life has to offer. Extend the same kindness to yourself that you would to another. Love yourself unconditionally. Forgive your mistakes. Give yourself a break from time to time. And when that seems impossible, look at your faults through my eyes. You will be amazed by what you see.

Right now, you’re probably thinking “Okay mom, I get it. Just be kind. How hard can it be?” That sounds like a rhetorical question but I’m going to answer it anyway. Sometimes being kind isn’t hard at all. In those moments, I ask that you put your whole heart into it. Be kind at every opportunity that presents itself. Build up a reserve of good will. You will need it because sometimes the reality is that choosing to act with kindness will be the hardest thing you do.

I’ve mentioned that people do bad things and that there is a lot of negativity floating around. Thankfully, you haven’t seen too much of that yet. But I can only shelter you for so long. One day you will have to face it head on, and when you do, it will be so tempting to turn your back, walk away, and try to forget.

It is in that moment, the moment when everything in you is screaming to run away, that being kind will matter the most. Stand your ground and fight, not with hurtful words or swinging blows but with kindness.

Combat the negativity with positivity. Combat the hate with love. Tackle greed with a generous spirit and sorrow with joy. When those around you cower in fear, be brave. When the future looks bleak, find hope. Show kindness to those you deem deserving, but show even more to those you don’t. You will never be disappointed by the results.

This is the lesson I believe to be most important. This is the lesson I hope you remember. It is the one I hope to teach through example. Because whatever road you take in life, whatever you achieve personally or professionally, nothing will make me more proud than to have raised a son who walks that road with kindness.

DSC_3222

Handprint of a 1-Year-Old

In my childhood bedroom there is a framed picture of my handprints from when I was little. Growing up, they hung ceremoniously above my bed, the clear focal point among the gaggle of teddy bears, troll dolls and Lisa Frank unicorns. While I don’t remember making the red-inked imprint, I do remember the daily game I’d play with them. Each night I would lean against the wall, reach up, press my hands against the smooth glass, and make note of how much larger, how much more “grown-up,” my hands were compared to the tiny girl that had made them.

IMG_0319

I loved those handprints. As a kid who was seldom aware of anything beyond the present moment, it was nice having that connection to the past. When a single bad day seemed to drag on forever, or I feared I would be stuck in the world of adolescent angst for eternity, I could hold my hands up to the glass and be reassured that time does pass, people do grow up.

As an adult, and especially as a mother, I have become acutely aware of how fleeting all things in life are. Time can’t slow down enough, and I often find myself wishing I had a pause button for life. Like my handprints that have remained eternally young, I wish I could take my son’s babyhood and frame it for safe keeping. His baby-tooth smile, his high-pitched laughter, his blonde ringlets, his chubby thighs and pigeon-toed walk. I want to preserve them all so that years from now I can look back and not only remember them but have something tangible to see, to touch. Something to press my hand against and compare.

When Oliver was born we received a gift that lets you make a yearly handprint of your child through the age of five.

DSCN5284

When Oliver’s first Birthday rolled around I eagerly pulled out the kit and got to work making the pasty concoction. According to the directions I mix the water and plaster, poor it into the provided tin, firmly press my child’s hand into the mixture, and then let it dry. Easy peasy. Right?

Wrong!

Nowhere in the directions does it say what to do if your child won’t straighten his hand in the plaster. What to do if he tries to scoop up a handful and squish it between his fingers. What to do if he tries to eat it. Or what to do if, upon finding it tastes awful, he flings it across the kitchen.

After several attempts, this is the best we could do.

DSCN5290

At first I was disappointed that I wouldn’t have the perfect imprint to remind me of his 1 year old hands. I was disappointed a year from now I wouldn’t be able to hold up his two year old hand in comparison. But sitting here now looking at this “handprint,” I’m starting to see all the things it will remind me of, all the secrets it will hold, that a normal, standard handprint never could.

It says, this is the handprint of an active boy. A boy who loves to touch, to explore, and to dig into his surroundings. One who isn’t happy sitting still waiting for life to come to him. It is the handprint of a curious boy. Of one who is always questioning, always learning, always dreaming, and discovering. It is the handprint of a boy who is tenacious and strong-willed. A boy who knows what he wants and won’t easily back down. It is the handprint of a playful, free-spirited, silly boy, who doesn’t need directions to tell him how to have fun.

So while you may just see a mess of plaster sitting in a tin, a tenuous outline of a hand at best, when I look at it, I see so much more.

IMG_0320

Have you tried making a handprint of your child? How did it turn out?