And now it's a year.
My mind still sheers away from the horror of that trip home and the first days; the layover in Heathrow which brought me to miserable tears, and then that first unending day when we finally asked my mother-in-law to come over so we could sleep. She woke us up when they went from mooning her to throwing things at her.
We survived some pretty serious regression from Oak last week, but hey, there was no mooning. The other differences we noted were that we have a common language now, and his sister did not join in his rebellion, which made it marginally easier to manage.
However, he's been consistently unkind to Linden this week. I've had to stop myself from snapping, "Why are you being such a dick?" several times. Then today, when I picked them up a half an hour late from art camp, he was being kind, generous, funny. She offered him most of her share of the cheetos I'd bought as a surprise treat. He thanked her sweetly. The evening wasn't without tension, but the tone was set early, and we kept bringing ourselves back to that spirit of friendliness and affection.
I love love love to cuddle with Linden at night, to ask her for 'three roses and a thorn" from her day, to sing her lullabies, to drop kisses on her arms, her face, her head as we murmur sleepily together. But Oak has night fears, and the Winemaker was gone, so I tucked in my easy child with a quick kiss and a damp cloth to help with the heat Then I met my boy just outside his sister's door, where he'd been laying so he could still hear me. When he goes into the bathroom to pee after dark, I stand outside and give him math problems so he knows I'm there, and so he doesn't dwell on his terrors.
"Mom?" he'll say anxiously, checking that I'm actually there.
"Seven plus seven?" I'll reply.
We laid down together in the big bed, because his room was so stuffy. I rubbed his back. I thought of how I am with Linden, how I cuddle and kiss and whisper sweet nothings. I pour on the adoration that a mama gives her baby, and she soaks it in. I don't do this with Oak. He has grown to appreciate and even offer physical affection, but it's not that same kind of baby sweetness that I give his sister. Feeling suddenly bad about this, I lean in and kiss his neck, whisper, "I love you so much."
He replies, "What's the biggest number you know how to do times with?"
"I know up to 12 times 12 by heart," I tell him, "and I can do numbers that end in zero, like 100 times 100."
I know that his distancing doesn't mean he doesn't need the affection, I keep rubbing his back. He asks for water. Last week, we had four nights in a row when he freaked out at bedtime, got aggressive, intentionally woke his sister up, went wild around the house. I'm willing to put up with a little stalling this week. He drinks his water. I lay down next to him again. "I love you," I whisper into the dark.
"Me too," he sleepily replies.
We said that at bedtimes a year ago too, only in another language. It was perhaps more a promise than a reality, but here we are, one tour of the sun later, still making the promise.