My mom and sister weren’t sure I could ever have a baby. I don’t mean physically have a baby. I mean mentally have a baby. Too much of a whiner, I guess, to hack the pain involved. I surprised them both on that January 3 day, back in 2001, when I pushed out a 10 pound, 9 ounce baby boy with the aid of a heavy-duty epidural and the powerful suck of a vacuum. When Joey emerged, heavy as a sack of rocks and appearing more like a two-month-old than a newborn, all was well with the world. I had done it. I’d had a baby. I didn’t even whine. Score one for me. Joey didn’t fare so well. He turned out to be, well, a whiner.
Joey whined for much of his early life. He just was not a happy boy. He fussed, complained, demanded and generally traveled against the grain. It was a challenging few years and sometimes, I find myself looking back at home videos to remember his few happy baby and toddler moments. My theory is that Joey never wanted to be a little kid. He was a big boy, after all (22 pounds by the time he hit six months). Maybe he wanted to act his size before his body would allow for it.
Joey hit his stride by the time he was five. My shy, difficult boy turned social and easy-going by the end of kindergarten. In first grade, he was independent and spirited. Now in second grade, my guy walks himself to class, works hard, gets good grades, is well-liked by his peers and rarely puts up a fight. Now, it’s not that he doesn’t argue with his brother, bump heads with me about homework and lobby for a later bedtime and more candy. It’s just that his behavior now is manageable. It’s typical eight-year-old stuff, not over-the-top little-boy madness.
Today, Joey is eight. And I am so in awe of this boy, who has both worn me out and warmed my heart. I remember a pediatrician once telling me his personality at three months would be his personality for life. I just need to learn to cope, and teach him to cope, the good doc told me. But it didn’t happen that way. Just as I was learning to find peace with my tempermental small kid, this beautiful and confident bigger boy emerged. A boy who rarely whines, always tells me he loves me and is so surprised when we tell him stories about his years of discontent.
I think Joey was meant to be eight. The age fits him perfectly. All is well with the world. And I have absolutely nothing to whine about.
Happy Birthday, Joey. I love you, too.