My eldest son, Edward, said his first swear word yesterday. He was, of course, mimicking his father who in a moment of frustration over a spilt mocha on a changing table launched the explicative. In my defense, during the week I take care of the kids during the 6’s of a.m. and p.m. - the twilight between sleep and exhaustion. The mocha is my fuel, my milk drink as opposed to his.
To my son, who has so few words, perhaps the swear could have meant the same thing as “boom” or “uh-oh”. Life with two small children is a series of liquids and spills and there is the never ending clean up of wipes and towels. It has become part of our routine enough that Edward will sometimes grab a towel if he spills something. His favorite person for a while was the trash man.
We have a life aquatic with our heads out of the water barely enough. Parenting is the process of riding the tides of toddler attentions - the fast shifts of the currents of desires.
Edward for the most part has been living well. He has a collection of aunts and grandparents whom I refer to as the mutual admiration society. He has gotten used to having a younger brother in the same sort of way of getting used to eating using a spoon. It isn’t always, and when it doesn’t work out it gets a little messy. But the intention is there.
To get him out of the house away from the newly steam cleaned carpets and couches, he goes to a bevy of activities. He has soccer tots on Mondays, where he insists on stacking cones as opposed to running around them. He goes to Jameroo and Music Together, which are meant to cultivate his artistic side, but wind up being places where he runs around the peace circle screaming. Someday he will do exercise in sports classes and art in art classes, but for right now he explores things impulsively.
On Thursday mornings he goes to swim classes at the JCC. We got our first report card a couple of weeks ago - never too early to start measuring kids in San Francisco. He had top marks in enthusiasm and confidence, but did not fare so well when it came to the section of skills. It looks like it will be a career of venture capitalism.
Not all of the kids in the class are unafraid of the water. Some luckier parents have children with a better sense of danger. There was one girl, Olivia, who would cry the entire class. I would get the updates on Thursday dinners about how everyone was doing. In my mind Olivia was of Russian descent with large eyebrows, and a power set of lungs. She is, in fact, Chinese and didn’t scream as loudly as my imagination. More of a whimper.
I kept asking about swim class over dinners. Did we think the instructor named “Blaze” lived in the Haight or were the rents to high there? Was Edward kicking on his back? Did he put his head underwater? Does Blaze have good earplugs?
The updates kept coming, and one day I got the major news. Olivia had stopped crying during class. Edward had held her hand and made her feel safe in the water. I like to think that with his hand held he could not splash as much either, and that the two of them could start to learn about the aquatic life with a sense of calm.
I then learned that at the next class they had started to kiss. We spent a few weeks of Thursday dinners speculating about the two. About how he would think of his summer romance with his few words of “up” and “down”. Would he grow up to be an olympic swimmer, because he had found true love in a sea of chlorine.
And then yesterday it was broken to me softly. Olivia had spent the entire class with Sebastian who was both blonder and younger than my son. Edward was very troubled that she would not hold his hand anymore and could not understand why she would kiss Sebastian instead of him.
When he came home from class, he took a longer than usual nap. That evening he didn’t pick on his brother except for a few times of pulling his hair.
I was, of course, devastated by the news. How could she I wondered. Was my son just a stepping stone for the shallow end of the pool? You have such little time to give your children the advice they need to handle the world. You won’t be there for all of the heartbreaks. I can only hope that Edward reached down into his small list of words, and after going past things like “apple” and “blue” would come to say what his father told him.