Last night the Wilkison clan all rolled into the tiny toddler's new preschool for a fundraiser carnival night. And I say "rolled" because that is how I feel we travel, everywhere. Loud. Always in motion. My boys are like bowling balls just rolling around, not a care about who, or what, they might knock over. We do so many things for the super six year old- the three year old hangs out at church while his big brother attends the weekly kids programming. He tags along to the swim lessons, the flag football games, the school art shows. (Which we attended last evening as well.) The life of a younger brother, right?
So when we have the opportunity to celebrate the tiny toddler, we go for it. And while our evening, true to form, eventually melted down into a puddle of tears and defiance, for a short time we did just that. Watching my little man walk around his school, knowing where everything is, showing us his room- was priceless. And so worth the chaos of too many tired parents crowded into the small school hallways, too many wired little ones hopping up and down, too many heavy winter coats that had to be carried because children just can't seem to do this for themselves. We took the fundraiser up on it's cheap food and fed our boys dinner for $4.00. We sat in the tiny cafeteria/gym while the boys ate their hot dogs and pizza and I watched in amazement as my tiny toddler got excited about a boy sitting three tables over. He mumbled something about going to hug this boy, climbed down off the bench seat and ran over to his new friend. I quickly followed, trying to remind him that "Not everyone likes hugs- please ask first!" The other boy's mother looked startled as my little guy ran straight into her son. Her son looked a tad startled too and for a brief moment I thought, "Oh my God, he doesn't know this kid!" But we sorted it out. Somewhat. The other boy, who looked older than mine, may, or may not, be in the tiny toddler's class. He may, or may not, actually know the tiny toddler- he did seem to recognize him, but he wasn't talking. But my heart perked up a little- my tiny toddler might have a friend!
I watched as the preschool staff that know my little guy waved to him and gave him high fives. While there was still some indifference over showing me his classroom there was also a glimmer of light. The tiny toddler attends this school four afternoons a week, riding a school bus to get there from daycare. Every evening I ask him what he did in school, and every evening he tells me that he didn't go to school. Or that he didn't ride the bus. Last week he told me that he walked all the way there, in the road. He tells me his teacher is never there. He simply refuses to say a word about this school.
Parenting this child is like being forced to ride a roller coaster every minute of every day. At his school, watching him smile at teachers and wanting to hug other kids who he may, or may not know- I was at the top of the roller coaster, screaming with joy, laughing and having fun. But just like every roller coaster ride, even though I was momentarily thrilled, there was the thought of the scary moments that could be just ahead always lurking in my mind. The moment when he takes his shoes off and throws them at his brother's head in the backseat of the car. The moment when he repeatedly unbuckles his brother's seat belt as we are hurtling down the highway. The moment when his eyes are angry, or, worse yet, empty. And just like every other day, last night we made it through the scary part of the roller coaster ride and put a sleepy tiny toddler into his bed, peacefully. We don't always make it to bedtime peacefully, and often bedtime is a trigger for my little guy, but even on those nights we wake up in the morning with the scary behind us, at least for a while.
There used to be a time when it seemed as though the roller coaster only went one way. As though there was no opportunity for those thrilling, happy screaming moments. Now my roller coaster gives me the ups and the downs. The downs are horrendous. The downs threaten to tear apart the family. The downs push seeds of doubt into my mind and push my husband and I apart. The downs make me worry about my tiny toddler's future, about my whole family's future. The downs leave me with bruises from being kicked, colds from being spit on, and dirty clothes from thrown food. But now we have the ups sometimes. The ups give me hope. The ups bring tears to my eyes as I watch in amazement at whatever new task or emotion my tiny toddler is mastering. The ups make me see his future in a slightly brighter light. The ups give me the energy I need to live through the downs.
Last night, for a short time, was a huge up. And it's those little moments that make parenting this goofy, classic rock music loving child so worth it.