What This Little Boy Is Made Of

All the gusto in this kid, tell you what. You know how they say, “Each one is so different!” “They’re all their own person.” Well, it’s still amazing as it actually unfolds. Eddie was always cautious, observant. He’d turn something over in his pudgy toddler hands as if figuring out all the ways it worked. He never liked a messy texture, even with something as beloved at his morning oatmeal,preferring to be fed till he’d perfectly mastered his spoon technique. The first time I tried to feed his little brother and it turned into a free-for-all food-fight, I knew this one was different, his own person. Just like they said.

Xander doesn’t so much carefully handle a new object, as chuck it across the room, bang it against the floor, or the classic, make sure it tastes okay. It’s a whole different way of experiencing his environment. Of course I’ve known learning styles is a thing, personality differences run deep, all that, but the 4-plus years of becoming an expert in Eddie’s way of doing life have me surprised at every turn when little brother comes along with a whole new way of living and learning.

And I love it. But it catches me off guard. I have to stop myself sometimes from freaking out, stepping in. Take his current fascination with the bees happily drinking from the superbloom of spring flowers taking over our front yard. Now, I don’t think he’s fast enough to catch one, but the fact that it looks like he might try as he squats down in that sweet toddler way and giggles at their drunken antics…yikes! Maybe I’m nervous because I sat on an unsuspecting bee just last weekend and the persistent sting, the lingering, swollen itch is still so fresh in my mind (and on my rear end). Of course I want to keep him from being stung, from getting hurt just for wanting to explore. I also know I can’t possibly perfectly protect him. My jumping in might very well be what startles a bee to sting, or because I stop him one time doesn’t mean I could the next. So I’ll do want I can, warn him not to touch.

The point is I’m reflecting on the instinct I have learned from mothering Eddie. Xander is not Eddie, and I need new skills and techniques to parent him well so he can fully be himself, gusto and all. I don’t want to squelch his passion and zest for life by trying to morph him into big brother’s mold. Fact is, I know they each bring qualities to their relationship (and our family!) that will challenge the other a little, sometimes a lot. And that’s so, so good.

So, I’ll keep restraining myself when Xanderman climbs (fully clothed) into the freezing water table of dirty rain water or reaches his little hands down to a puddle and swishes the water all over himself. When he tries crawling through the basketball net or runs at top speed in jerky little half-trip toddler steps, I’ll remember that he does life his own way, and I’ll do my best to be there to cheer his successes and kiss skinned knees and ice bumps and bee stings. And I’ll be grateful for cautious big brother’s extra set of eyes and hands to help keep little brother out of too much trouble. Who am I kidding? I’m pretty sure older brother will be the calculating mastermind behind little brother’s antics!

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