Rob Manna has gotten very into giving compliments. Of course, they’ve required a little work. For example, he used to say, “Mom, I like your private parts,” simply because he was learning that certain parts of the body need to be, well, private, and it seemed like a nice thing to say to someone. I’ve done a little coaching and a lot of laughing – when he wasn’t looking – over this.
I picked Robbie up at school the other day to discover he had been passing out compliments to his teachers. Initially, my heart started to beat a little faster as I prepared for the worst. However, it appears my coaching has been working, especially on Robbie’s communication with the ladies. Within the first five minutes of being in class, Robbie had approached each of his teachers. “Mrs. Hoagland, I like your bracelet.” “Ms Katie, I like your earrings.” “Mrs. Bardon, I like your necklace.”
He continued his compliments at Kroger, complimenting two employees on their store-issued shirts and again at the movies, complimenting the lady parked next to us on her car. It’s an interesting thing to watch – their reactions and Robbie’s compliment planning. People are a little taken aback, perhaps not used to hearing a compliment from a three-year-old; I know that, even as his mother, it still catches me off-guard sometimes. But the most interesting part is that Robbie really puts a lot of thought into what he says to someone, checking with me before he approaches someone he doesn’t know with a compliment.
Justin asked me the other day if Robbie was using compliments to try to get what he wants. That may be part of it; after all, isn’t there always a little of that? But I truly believe that he really just wants to make people feel good and that giving compliments and seeing people smile in response makes him feel good. And that’s a lesson I can live with.
Justin, Robbie, and I were dying to find out what we were having. There was a constant back-and-forth in our house about boys and girls, each one ending with Robbie in near tears about the mere possibility of having a sister. So, when the midwife told me we could find out via blood test (I know – can you believe it?!), we hopped on it. Except I didn’t want to find out that way. Having a nurse call on the phone, Justin maybe out of town. It just seemed really cold. We opted to try to find out very early via ultrasound. Last Wednesday, scoring a last-minute appointment at Lexington Fetal Photography (terrible name, isn’t it?), we headed out to hopefully solve the mystery.
Thankfully, this baby is just like his brother – very cooperative and not at all bashful. Within seconds, there he was, in all his glory. Robbie jumped up and down and gave a very heartfelt, “Yesss!” at the news. Justin clapped enthusiastically, proud of himself for siring another male heir. And I was a little relieved to have my status as sole female. This was it. We knew what our family would be. I would always have “my boys”.
But, as excited and thrilled as we are to have another boy, we were a little sad, too. We only want two children, so this was it. We will probably never have a little girl. I will never by dresses or hair bows for my little girl. The girl outfit I bought “just in case” from another mom who has all boys will have to be passed on. There will be no waiting in line to meet princesses or dressing up for a tea party. Even now, it’s a little sad because I wonder what a little girl would have been like.
But then I think of what I won’t miss out on. No battles over whether clothing is too revealing. No wedding to pay for. No middle school girl drama. No conversations about why make-up isn’t appropriate at age nine. No boys coming to my house to take my daughter out.
And all that I will have with another boy… Sweet hugs and kisses from someone who wants to marry me, even though I’m already taken. Playing with cars and trains and monsters. Skinned knees and visible scars that don’t really matter because boys are more awesome with battle wounds and good stories to back them up (like the one on Robbie’s forehead from where he put a Matchbox car through it two years ago). Adventures on pirate ships. Dirt under the fingernails from digging for treasure. And to get to experience that twice? I just don’t think I could give it up.
Everything is a race with Rob Manna. Going to the kitchen? Getting to the car? Walking to the bathroom? Someone has to win. And usually it’s Robbie. This morning, Justin and I were both leaving at the same time and planning to stop at The Daily Grind, him for coffee and me for a smoothie (coffee just doesn’t taste good anymore, which is a little devastating). I told Robbie to tell Justin we were going to race him there. I stopped in the kitchen to get my keys and wallet while Robbie delivered the challenge and then planned to meet him in the garage.
I got outside just in time to see Robbie disappear down the driveway. On his scooter. When I asked him what he was doing, Robbie paused long enough to turn, look at me, and say, “I’m racing you to the coffee shop”, before he took off again. The kid thought we were all racing each other. And he was serious about beating us all there – never mind that The Daily Grind is a mile away and would require crossing three major intersections.
He wasn’t sure about going all alone, though. This pregnancy has exhausted me, and I wasn’t about to try to chase down my child on foot. So, I hopped in the car to get him and the poor child came flying back, thinking I had left him. He rushed into the car, afraid that Justin would realize we had already left and actually beat us there. I’m not sure whether Robbie taking every competition so seriously is a good thing or not. But, if it gets him dressed and out the door without tears or yelling on anyone’s part, I’m not sure it’s a bad way to go.
The other day, on our way to school, Robbie told me that some of his friends scratched each other. From the front seat, I said, “But you don’t scratch anymore, do you?” I received a very emphatic, “Noooo. And I don’t punch no more either.” I told him I was very glad to hear that but asked why he decided to stop. His answer stopped me in my tracks.
“I’m not angry anymore, Mom. I was really angry and sad when we moved to ‘Tucky. And I was nervous about my new school.”
Are you kidding me? Really? He’s figured all of this out, and I had no idea? Justin and I thought he had handled the move really well. After all, how traumatic could the move have really been for him? He was moving to a place where he knew people and living in a house he was familiar with for three months. We’d talked about it for months before the move happened. But hearing it in his words, it all made sense. And, eleven months ago, he didn’t have words to describe being angry or nervous.
I would have been angry and sad and nervous, too. In the course of a month, he left the only home he had known, went into a bizarre living situation with four adults living in the house instead of just two, and started a new school where there were more than three kids and he wasn’t the center of attention. It wouldn’t have mattered how well-prepared I was; it still would have been brutal. And throw in the stress and tension Justin and I were feeling about the horrendous sale of our house… No wonder he was lashing out.
Of course, the afternoon after this conversation, I picked Robbie up only to learn that he had actually scratched another student late in the day…