Ames, your older brothers are getting really big. Lucas is 10, and Avery is almost 8! Here they are a couple of months ago, hanging with you in your room.
I can’t believe how fast time flies. It feels like only yesterday that I taught Lucas how to tie his shoes. I started dating your papa when Lucas was 4 and Avery was 2. Now Lucas is in the Gifted & Talented program at his school, working on things I feel like I learned in college. Avery’s lost his baby chub face and is climbing to the tops of trees in five seconds flat.
Chris & I have dreamt and planned to one day own a house together. We want nothing more than to give you a stable place in which to grow up and call home. The day has come! We’re finally at a point where we can buy a house, one big enough to fit all of you boys!
Can you believe it? You can see your room from these pictures – top right. So exciting. And to think, this whole thing came about in just a few months. Our lease was almost up and we wanted to stay in the area, in order for the older boys to stay at their school. We drove around and found a new neighborhood, with big ole’ houses in our price range! The house has taken a total of two months to build – good grief! We’re supposed to close at the end of next week. I’m giddy. We were out of our rental home a few months before the new house was ready, though. My parents, your Chief & Sunshine, were kind enough to let us stay with them. 2 adults, 3 boys, and 2 dogs have set up camp at their house, living out of suitcases and laying cloth diapers out to dry on their back deck. They are so precious to let us invade every nook and cranny of their lives like this. We are eternally grateful! Which brings me to my point… I think living with adults has made me a better parent, if for no other reason than I’m being watched by other parents. Parenting under surveillance. Huh? Let me explain.
Most parents do their best to appear experienced and relaxed in public with their kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a screaming kid quiet down in a restaurant after getting the shoulder pinch, while his mother smiles innocently at other diners. Then there’s the kid who gets dragged back under the dressing room door after trying to escape, but his mama says, “Sweetheart, don’t you wanna try on these pants?” in a honey-sweet voice.
Your home is your sacred space, and the place we parents feel most comfortable. Our kids can run around with dirty faces after dinner, screaming at the top of their lungs and leaving a trail of toys behind them. In my house, they usually clean their faces and rooms before bed. But sometimes they don’t. And I don’t lose sleep over it either way. But what if you’re living with another set of parents? A set that raised you, no less? A-W-K-W-A-R-D! It was all my fault, but I started out living life at Chief & Sunshine’s as if I was up for some award or something – or worse, like I was in danger of losing my job and someone had come to evaluate me. Every time you’d grunt and groan, I’d want to change your diaper. Heaven forbid they smell something! Every time you’d fidget and fuss, I’d want to pick you up and quiet you. What if my parents heard? And don’t even get me started on the older boys… Those miniature hurricanes aged me 20 years when we moved in with Chief & Sunshine.
But then my dad intervened. The man I called “Scary Gary” throughout my teenage years asked me to get coffee with him one afternoon, a few weeks after we’d moved in. He told me that he and my mom had opened their home to us on their own accord. They knew that we must have dirty laundry (both literal and figurative), and still they wanted us to stay with them. He told me how impressed he and my mom are with my ability to balance so much – full-time job, breastfeeding relationship with an infant, two stepsons, and homebuilding process, all within my first year and a half of marriage. He told me to lighten up. He said, “I’ll let you know if something’s out of line. Stop walking on eggshells. I’m not that scary.”
I loved it. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and went home to my sometimes-smelly and always-loud family of boys with a new perspective and boatload of patience. Don’t get me wrong – I still check your diaper too frequently and put my finger over my lips to signal “QUIET!!!” to the boys several times a day. But I know that I’ve got a set of parents who watch what I do without judgment. They are proud of me. I’m not perfect, Ames. You’ve already discovered this. But I’m doing the best I can, and I hope to make you proud, too.