I still cannot quite believe that I am the mother of three boys. Life has persisted and moved on around me, and sometimes I have these brief awake times, when I realise I have become enveloped in this masculine world that I really do not understand.
I do not understand why they forget to shut the door after going outside.
I do not understand why they forget to take off their wellies after returning inside.
I do not understand why they wipe their hands on their clothes and their chair cushion at mealtimes. (Righty went through a short phase of wiping his hands on his hair. I had to be very stern and nip this one in the bud. He was starting to smell.)
I do not understand why they stare intently as they listen to me, and then seconds later are completely unable to recollect what I have asked them to do.
There are some things I do understand.
Lefty was attempting to climb the neighbours' tree today, using our fence as a ladder to reach the overhanging branches. His wellington boot became stuck in the fence, leaving him in a very uncomfortable position. I left the kitchen quickly, alerted by his wails and Righty's shouting (still in my pyjamas at 10.30, but I had made butter, yoghurt, and cream cheese!), however, he was crying loudly by the time I reached him. I understood that he needed a long hug and an encouraging word before he could once again become the intrepid five-year-old explorer.
Righty had a question for us while we were eating our tea yesterday.
"Do snakes have highnesses?"
Dan suddenly choked and coughed with a mouthful, and I struggled to contain myself for a moment. I was able to regain control, and asked; "Where did you hear that they might have them?"
"Jungle Book," Righty replied. "Kaa says, 'Ooh, my highnesses!'"
"I think that he meant sinuses," I replied, and was able to briefly explain what they were. I understood, just in time, that Righty needed to be answered seriously, instead of seeing me laugh at his word confusion, however funny it was.
Mr J has taken to demanding to pray at every mealtime. Wonderful, you say; however, his prayers consist of him mouthing unintelligible words while he keeps a severe eye on Lefty and Righty to ensure that they are paying complete attention to him and not laughing. Sometimes one of us will attempt to suggest the end with an "Amen!". His response to this is always a firm "No!", until he decides that our patience has been tried for long enough, and he intones his own "Amen."
I have been allowing myself to be irritated by this little interruption to our mealtimes. Gradually I have begun to understand that Mr J needs to feel validated. His short life has been an uphill struggle to get to the top, always feeling bettered by his larger-than-life, very confident older brothers. Instead of seeing his clever prayer game as manipulation, I can instead validate him when he finishes, by thanking him for praying, and encouraging him by telling him that God loves to hear what he, Mr J, has to say.
They are all sleeping peacefully right now, so it's easy to see them in a rosy light. In the chillier light of morning, the challenge will begin again: to show my love consistently and without exception, by choosing to look them in the eyes and understand them instead of rushing off to the next task or other thing that demands my attention.