My not-quite-two-year old daughter picked up a toy sword, located her three-year-old brother and crept over to attack him. He, of course, saw her coming, picked up a sword of his own and thought to have a fun time playing sword fight. Kathryn didn't see it that way. As soon as Duncan began to fight back, she started crying and ran back to Daddy. The wounded look on her face said it all: "He was supposed to be defenseless!"
To his credit, Duncan got to me a mere step behind Kathryn profusely apologizing for making her cry, telling me that it (whatever "it" was) was an accident. I assured him that he was not in trouble for playing sword fight back, particularly as he wasn't the initiator. Later in the day Kathryn insisted on joining Duncan on the trampoline. She promptly fell on her face, and again Duncan was again quickly on the apology train ("It was an accident Daddy!") and again I assured him he had done nothing wrong. If they want to jump on the trampoline sometimes they will fall on their faces, and that means Kathryn too.
These incidents, just a few hours apart, got me thinking. Duncan is rapidly developing a sense of when he is at fault - or at least when he thinks he is going to get in trouble. Six months ago, he was my "habitual line stepper" but now he is the conscientious little cherub intent on protecting his little sister. It is a remarkable change, and I didn't notice it happening until it was pretty drastic. Thinking back, Duncan went from getting into trouble for something (usually somethng I had just told him not to do) at least once every day to almost never. I am having a hard time remembering the last time he did something naughty.
Seamus, being the oldest, mostly figured out how to stay out of trouble years ago. He is also a conscientious little boy, as well as being thoughtful and careful. He is a little meaner to his brother than I would like at times, but what big brother isn't? He is thrilled when I have him help cook, he is always asking for his next job when helping clean house and he is usually respectful of his elders.
Kathryn is at an age where she hasn't really begun to push boundaries yet behaviorally. If I tell her not to do something, she generally listens. Of course she is too young to have a grasp on rules or standards of behavior at this point, but she is mostly affectionate and cheerful. She likes to have her face and hands clean and thinks brushing teeth is a fine game. She isn't potty trained yet but is helpful about telling me when she needs a diaper change and has outgrown the instinct to fight said change.
Given the pleasant demeanors and generally excellent behavior of my children, it's hard not to feel like I've won the good kid lottery. As I ponder, I'm not sure how I deserve it. I am a little apprehensive about the other shoe dropping - I was a hellion as a teen, but sweet as pie right up until I was twelve. I also have no idea how much of it is just a natural inclination towards being good, or if anything I (or their mother) has done has helped get them to this point. All I know is I'll take it however it came.
It's tempting to think that life would be grand if I could stop it right here, with all of the children being sweet and helpful. Maybe use Adam Sandler's movie remote to relive these good days forever. If they really do follow my teenage footsteps, there is a lot of heartburn in my future!
On the other hand, the future sounds pretty exciting too. I can't wait for Seamus to be experienced/ enough for serious discussions with him about things like the patterns in history, the evolution of art and pop culture esoterica. It is going to be awesome when Duncan (the athlete of the group) makes his first competitive team and I will be cheering like crazy at all of his games. I am already overwhelmed at the thought of how beautiful Kathryn will be in her prom dress! Only 14 more years for that, right?
The famous parents' curse is "I hope you have kids just like you!" Surely the heartache our children cause us is justified by the same trepidation we caused our own parents. Looking back at how my relationship with my parents has evolved over the years, I will take it. All the indigestion, all the worrying, all the sleepless nights. I am excited to see the adults my children will grow into. Right now is great, and I wouldn't trade it for anything - but I don't want to miss tomorrow either.