Thursday, February 5, 2009

Our Little Man

I'm just all full of all kinds of love for TJ today. Feeling like I just want to talk about him... share this wonderful little blessing of joy with you all... (I'll also share some random pictures that my dad sent me from vacation in Florida over the holidays-- what a GREAT time we had!!)

TJ has truly been the one constant blessing throughout the "storm" of the last year or so. He's been so remarkably "resilient" (the word I keep using... makes me sad, as adjectives such as "resiliant", "brave", and so-on, are not ideal tags I'd prefer attach to 3-year olds... We seem to hope for things more along the lines of "sweet", "cuddly", "happy", "innocent", and so-on). People often ask me how he's doing, with "all of this"... And I just say, "You know... He's so resilient... He's happy, really. But then, he doesn't really have a means of comparison, you know? He doesn't know it's supposed to be any other way..."

Shortly after Leslie died, he turned 3. And shortly after that, I will say, we hit a "phase" of sorts, from which we currently either seem to be enjoying some reprieve... or perhaps (fingers crossed) we are actually turning a corner of developmental progress. (Here's hoping! And daily praying...) Maybe it is just "The Terrible 3's". (The more parents I talk to, the more I realize the "Terrible 2's" are just a myth... it's the "Terrible 3's" that you gotta watch out for.) Anyway... Whether it's the fact that he is now 3, or the fact that Mommy died, (or how all that affected me and everyone else around him), or a combination of all of the above... He did become a bit more "high-maintenance", to say the least. He's always been a rather intense and passionate kid. (Don't know where he gets it...) Temper tantrums have become more frequent... ("melt-downs" I call them. It's a more accurate description.) Sometimes the "time-out" just doesn't work. I can count on one finger the number of times I spanked him before Leslie died. Let's just say things have changed, now... much to the dismay of TJ's cute little bottom. But sometimes, in the heat of one of these melt-downs... spanking doesn't even work. It's in these moments I just go Gandhi on him and do my own little non-violent sit-in. (I refuse to "lock him in his room"-- this, I know, is an effective tactic for some loving parents whose kids have reached that point, and it's a good alternative to letting the melt-down affect your own temper, of course. But due to his newfound fear of abandonment, which has become very evident in several verbally and non-verbally comunicated ways, I just don't think this is a good idea.) So, I take him to his room, put him on his bed, and sit down in front of the closed door. He continues going ballistic, hitting at me, kicking, screaming, clawing, trying to escape. I just cover up, let him go off, occasionally catching his hands before he strikes and turning him away, just saying quietly, "TJ, I love you. You don't have to do this. You have a choice. Get control. I love you..." And it works. Go figure. Eventually, he just falls into my lap in a sweaty, teary, sobby mess, and just buries his nose in my neck. We talk it out, and then we're on with our life. For awhile, this was happening several times a week. And only with me-- not with his other caregivers. I know... something deeply emotional and psychological going on there... I'm aware. But it is what it is, you know? All I can do is love him through it. I will say, the meltdowns are coming MUCH less frequently these days... and lasting not nearly as long when they do happen. I think we're growing through this "stage". This past week, in particular has been SUCH a good one-- he's obedient even when he doesn't want to be (although not always without argument, but I'll take what I can get). He's been very loving, often just breaking out with a spontaneously thoughtful, "I love you, Daddy". And he's been full of laughter and smiles. (This might have something to do with the fact I've been around more these last couple of weeks-- less travel this week... Refer to my aforementioned frustration with not being able to offer him the "family life" I desire for him...)

Now, THAT being said... Let me just say that I did not know it was possible to be so in love with such a little bundle of joy. And I am SO proud of him! (Forgive me while I brag on my first-born...) I'm sure other parents might argue with me... but he just may be the SMARTEST little guy EVER. He doesn't miss a thing-- constantly picking up on things that I completely miss... names, events, mundane details-- and then RECALLING them weeks later. The other day, we were coming in from the garage after church, and I had dropped a velcro band from one of my microphone cables...
"What's this, Daddy?" He asked, as he picked it up off the garage floor.

"It's a velcro strap. I use it to hold my microphone and instrument cables together." We continued into the house.

"Oh..." He gave it a second or two of thought, as he played with the thing in his hand.

"My mom used to have a strap for her medicine poles. 2 straps. One in her room by her bed, and one here, by the couch."

I stopped in my tracks... Yes, in fact, the homecare equipment-- the IV poles-- had very similar little velcro straps that were used to keep all the hoses and tubes tidy and untangled... How did he...??? He interrupted my thought process... "But my mom's were orange, not black."

...Seriously... It's been at least 7 months since any of that stuff has been lying around... Scary.
I could tell you more stories like that, but you get the idea. The kid is just wicked smart. And very verbal... (those of you that know him laugh as you read those words.) (And I kind of laugh, at the thought of Leslie rolling her eyes and gesturing not-so-discretely at me, as I share this with you all.) He is CONSTANTLY talking... or singing... or "free-styling", as I like to say... just making up songs and putting various words and phonetic sounds into rhythm as he plays with his colors or trains or drums or whatever... And he's a coordinated little guy, too... never sitting still. We, as you know, play baseball every night before bedtime in the basement. I'm pitching to him exclusively overhand, now, and throwing the ball faster and faster... And he makes contact about 80% of the time... Swings lefty, by the way... Throws right-handed, but swings from the left-handed side of the plate.

He's such a social little guy. He NEEDS interaction with kids. Miss Liz has learned (again, she watches him at our house 2 days a week) that the day just goes a lot better if she can schedule a play-date or a visit to see her neices (Delaney and Ella, whom TJ adores)-- anything to get TJ into a setting where he can just laugh and play with other kids. He loves going to LifeTime with me and "playing with kids", as he says it, while I work out-- they have a really great child center there. And of course, he LOVES his days with Max, Sam, Will, and Ben, Dana's kids. (Below is a sequence of pictures of him on vacation with Cole, Alec, and Jace, my sister's kids. Yes... it's always that crazy. ALEC! GET DOWN FROM THERE!!! TJ! DON'T THROW THAT...!!!)


I'm just so freaking proud of our little man, you know!? I wish we could share these days with Leslie. It's impossible to stop and just soak him up without stumbling into this reality... I just want to share him with her. To look at her and laugh at his antics. To see her cuddle with him... to watch him hold her neck. (He has a thing for necks... He's had to settle for mine, lately, even though it's "scratchy". But, he tells me, both Miss Liz and Dana have very nice, soft necks.) I want him to know his mommy-- who she was, through his "bigger boy" eyes. We do talk about her almost every day. And we have some very intimate "Mommy moments"... where we both are just missing her so much and all we can do is just sit and quietly remember stories about her, or talk about Heaven, and what she's probably doing right now. Those "Mommy moments" aren't sad. Well, maybe a little sad... But they're just special, you know? As I was saying to a friend the other night... TJ and I will always have those "Mommy moments"... Even when he's all grown up and out of the house... regardless of what God's plan is for us... our family. TJ and I will always have a special exclusive bond that is the essence of the memory of Leslie... who she was... who she made us to be... the life she gave us. She will always be "ours". And we will always be "hers".

He has begun talking, Miss Liz tells me, about when he has a "new mommy", someday. For instance, when he has a new mommy someday, he hopes he can have a baby sister. This general topic did come up several weeks-- maybe months-- ago, when we were having a Mommy moment. He had asked when Mommy would be coming back to see us. I did my best to explain the ideas of "forever" and "eternity", in his own conceptual language, and also assured him that she would be waiting for us when Jesus came to take us to Heaven. I took the opportunity to mention that maybe someday, God would give us a new Mommy for him-- not Leslie. His mommy would always be his mommy, and nobody will ever replace her... but God might give us somebody else someday. And together, we could be a new family. Much to my surprise, he lit up at the suggestion. "But Mommy will still wait for us in Heaven?" I assured him, that yes, she would, and she told me before she went to Heaven that she hoped that someday we could have another Mommy to make us happy, until we go to Heaven ourselves. "And our new Mommy can go to the zoo with us and play with us, here at our house?" He was starting to get excited... ("Thank you, God," I prayed silently as we finished our conversation. "Thank you for protecting and preparing this boy's heart. This is truly miraculous, how you are guiding us through this.")

He's so constantly aware of how I'm doing. If I'm on the phone, listening to a story, or something, and exclaim something like, "Oh NO!!" he's all over that. "What's wrong, Daddy!? Why did you say 'oh no'?" And several times a day-- often after a "teachable moment", a time-out, or etc...-- he asks me, "are you happy, Dad?" He just wants me to be happy. I guess you could say the same thing of me, concerning him. It seems we're just looking out for each other. We've got each other's back. We're buddies, TJ and me. Indeed, what we have-- and even what, or who, we are missing-- will forever be sacred... A bond between men that will never be severed. I love my little man. And he loves me. Praise God for this precious gift!


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you on the "terrible 3's." If you ask me, two was fun, 3 is a challenge. It is good that you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the terrible 3's. I would take a flicker of light right now. We too will get there. TJ is an amazing little boy. You are both so bless to have each other. I hope God does, some day, hand pick, and bless your family with a new mommy and maybe even a baby sister for TJ. You are in our prayers.

kbeer said...

I do believe that one of the worst fears of a mother is to not be with her kids as they grow up. How could they possibly make it without her? No one could handle things the way she would. Their teaching and nurturing needs to be supervised by her, so that it is done the way it should be done, the right way! It must have been horribly difficult for Les when she came to the realization that she was no longer going to be in control of TJ's care. I weep with the thought, but she trusted in Him. I know that she knew that His hands and heart are so much bigger than ours and He loves our kids even more than we can fathom. Thank you again for reminding me that I am not in control, even of my own little family, and I need to lay my life down daily before Him and relinquish the control that I THINK I have. (I hear snickers from Aunt Vic and Dana now!) Blessings to you, Ty and TJ. We want happiness for you both, too!
Love, Kara

Melinda said...

Love this post. I think the pride of a Father is a longing we all have. There is just nothing quite like a Dad saying "I'm proud of you, child" This post oozes with that sentiment and I think that is fantastic! Don't ever apologize for affirming that precious bundle of joy.

And, rearding the 2's and 3's - you are right. 3's are harder. When dealing with our very dramatic 3 1/2 yr old a friend gave me a great idea that involves mirroring their emotion. So, if they are "melting down" and saying "I want candy!" and can't get it together you get in their face and say with the same emotion "You want candy?!, I know you want candy....."and whatever is needed to let them know you get the emotion that is going on. WHEN I can keep my head about me and have used this, it is amazing how it diffuses Allison. Sometimes I think by letting her know I "get her" and sometimes she starts laughing at me because I'm sure she thinks I'm ridiculous. Either way, it seems to snap her out of that mode of no coming back! Just thought I'd pass that along for whatever it's worth.

Ryan and Kristin Zeeb said...

That's the sweetest thing I've ever read. TJ's quite the little guy (that memory of his is unblievable!!!)...

Jennie said...

Tyson-You are an amazing father. TJ is very blessed to have you. Macie is only a month younger then TJ and I see so many similarities. Every time you write about him I could be writing about a day with Macie. She actually says the same thing as TJ..."are you happy?". Three is a difficult age at times, but at the same time so much fun. During melt downs I like to shower and blow dry my hair(: If only all her melt downs were in the morning. Not easy times. You are doing a wonderful job. Keep up the great work. Thanks for letting us all be a part of your life! Love hearing about the two of you. You both are always in our prayers.

Sarah said...

God has certainly blessed both of you to have each other! You are both in excellent hands, of course. I pray you two will always be as close or closer.

Anonymous said...

Awesome!! Everything about this post tonight is truly awesome! Thank you for your sweet and sincere way you can share these times with us.

Anonymous said...

Terrible 3s? I think the worst is terrible teens! Keeping you in our prayers.

Anonymous said...

terrible 3's? Terrible Teens...take it from experience, you are not home free till they get married and move out!

kim p said...

TJ sounds like such a special little guy. I love hearing how God is providing for you both through each other. We're still praying for you.