I turned around, completely taken by surprise. How in the heck? My nine-month-old baby boy was standing directly behind me, a hesitant smile on his lips, and eyes that were pleading with me. I groaned, “How did you get out of your crib?” He had practically beat me out to the kitchen. “That was really quick.” It was almost eerie. Benjamen Paul had started walking when he was eight months old. He was a wiry little thing, who, I imagined, had been working on standing while he was still in utero. “I suppose you’re pretty proud of yourself,” I scooped him up and deposited him back into his crib. His twin, Maxie, was making a feeble attempt at standing in his crib. He stood on wobbly legs, clinging to the bars. I just wanted an hour of peace and quiet! My three girls had been great nappers, and still were. But these two never stopped moving. Nap time was futile. They just weren’t having it. “How are you two not tired. Lay down and rest, honey. I rubbed Ben’s back, and he seemed to relax. There was a tiny glimmer of hope. I repeated the process with Max, and he fell asleep. I tiptoed out, held my breath, and hoped. “thud.” Oh forevermore. Ben was on my heels in seconds. I scooped him up again. He nestled in to me, relaxing in my arms. I inhaled the sweet smell of him, a mixture of baby sweat, baby lotion, and those irresistible baby pheromones that draw us into our little human cherubs. I carried him back to his bedroom. Maxie was fast asleep. He might wake Max if I put him back, I lied to myself. I knew better, but Bennie had melted into my arms, and I didn’t want to let him go. Not wanting to break the spell, I went out to the rocking chair in the living room, held him close, and we rocked as I read my book.
These two were like bear cubs, into everything. As soon as they could crawl, it was on. I could scarcely go to the bathroom, without fear of what I would find when I came out. One night as Lyle and I watched TV, I peeked into the kitchen to find Ben sitting on the floor with the cupboard door open. Maxie was inside the cupboard handing cans out to Ben who was stacking them around him like building blocks. It seemed pretty harmless, and became a favorite pastime for the pair of them. Then came the day they peeled all the labels off. Every time we opened a can, it was a surprise. Could be green beans, or maybe peaches. Never a dull meal!
Ben practically ran from the minute he could walk. He was stealthy and quick. It was maddening. Poor Maxie stood, frustrated, legs wobbling as he clung to couches and chairs, watching his brother run circles around the living room. He would trot past Max, who would make attempts at hitching a ride. It never worked out. Max was forever falling. The day did come when the poor little guy had reached boiling point. He got ahold of Ben as he came by, and took him down. I dried my soapy hands on a towel and headed in to break it up. I was laughing to myself as I crawled over the baby gate that separated the kitchen from the livingroom. By the time I reached them, Max was on top of Ben, his little beet red face inches from his brother’s smirking face. Max was screaming, “HOW YOU YIKE IT? HUH! f–kyasso!” “Woah! Alright. Timeout for both of you. This is way out of control.” I was pretty certain of what I had heard. I swatted their diapered rumps and sat them at opposite ends of the couch, bottom lips quivering and tears threatening to spill over. Ben wasn’t having it. He was down onto the floor lickety split. I gave him another swat and sat him back down. Oh, my. This is ugly. How long do we have to go through THIS, now? “Bennie, do you think it’s fun to make your brother mad?” He nodded. His honesty took me by surprise. How am I supposed to not laugh at this? I attempted my best, stern, not amused at all, mom face, “Well, that makes him sad. STOP IT.” Next, I turned to his brother, “Maxie, you will not push Bennie down, and those were very naughty words.” He put his head down and glanced sideways, not responding, attempting to avoid this confrontation. “Maxie, you need to say sorry to Ben.” He decided to defend himself, shaking his head in denial, “Na pushy!” Much of Max’s first attempts at talking reminded me of Gus-Gus the mouse from Cinderella. It was usually adorable, but not so much at this moment. His eyes challenged me. “Maybe you weren’t pushing him, but you were still on top of him and screaming at him, right?” He scowled and nodded. “O.K. you two hug each other. You love each other. You want to be nice to each other.” They hugged, probably squeezing a bit too tight. How can they make a hug aggressive? By the time this “embrace” was over, they were looking into each others eyes and giggling as if they had gotten away with something, and were tickled pink with themselves. Good grief. It wasn’t long after that incident that Max started walking, four months after his twin. Yes they are fraternal, and as different as night and day.
One night, in the height of Summer, I got a phone call from my neighbor, “I just thought you should know that your boys are standing in the window of their bedroom.” “What? Shit. Thanks for calling.” I hurried to their room, and sure enough, they were standing on the dresser, nonchalantly looking out the window at the world still bathed in sunlight at nine o’clock at night. I was exhausted and defeated, “You are so naughty! It is time for ni-night. Now, lay down and go to sleep.” I swatted them and deposited each into his own crib. Max sat in his crib, lip quivering, while Ben’s face was flushed with fury. It was sure to be a long drawn out battle. It wasn’t long before I heard giggling from the bedroom. What now? Ben was in Max’s crib, and they were bouncing up and down, giggling wildly. Max was clapping, completely delighted by his brothers clever trick. Bedtime with these two tykes was a complete nightmare. At least we had passed that blissful milestone, when they were finally asleep at the end of the day, they stayed that way.
I wasn’t sleeping much though. I felt great, and I was accomplishing so much. I had the whole place organized within a week. It was a challenge putting everything to right. Overdue check-ups were scheduled, our home was immaculate, and I felt like a million bucks. I relished the late nights of folding laundry when all the world was quiet. The price was sleep deprivation, but that was nothing new. My mind was wide awake and alert, even though my body was fatigued. Organization, surroundings that were orderly, helped me feel at peace inside. Clutter felt like squalor to me. When I was surrounded by chaos, my mind felt chaotic and it was difficult to function. Things seemed to spiral quickly when energy ran low.
Yet, whether in turbulent disarray or perspicuous order, we survived. After all, when you’re dining on mystery canned goods, the can opener becomes a gateway to culinary adventure. What fun!