Lyle seems to have changed overnight. He’s sweet as the day is long (and we all know: sometimes the day is L-O-N-G), with a generous heart, and all warm cuddles. Lyle’s easy-going. His 2’s have been more terrific than terrible. He’s not the parenting challenge that his older brother was at this age. At the same time, he’s always been my more reluctant guy; the one who holds back in groups, who will barely peer out of my neck at a stranger. When we’re dancing in music class he looks up with a panicked expression and insists, “Hold me.” This has always been a striking contrast to his elder brother, whose entire world is fueled by social interaction and who only clung to me when he was hanging off of me like a monkey from a tree.
But, my friends, the times they are a-changin’. Today I watched as Lyle enjoyed playing “big kid” with friend and neighbor Anya, who is about 8 months younger. He did a perfect imitation of his kind big brother, getting things for her, helping her dig the play doh out of the container, “Like dis, Anya? Want more play doh? More dan dis?” When it was time to move our roving band of children over to Anya’s house for nap time he couldn’t wait to nap in a new place. “It’s time to go to Anya’s house NOW?” he asked during lunch. “Where I‘m gonna sleep? What my bed dere yook yike? Can we go NOW??” And, much to my surprise, he was pleased as could be with his digs over there. Having never seen that room before, he hopped into the bed like a big guy and went right off to sleep. Wha-?
But the clincher was this: when we got to the YMCA for Baxter’s swimming lesson this afternoon, Lyle asked to go into the child care. Without me. Without Baxter. Alone. He kicked off his shoes and wrestled himself out of his jacket before I could even sign his name on the sheet, and he was at the door asking to go in that minute. I kept waiting for it to dawn on him that I wasn’t going. That he hadn’t been in there in about 10 months, never without his big brother, and didn’t know a soul in that room. I watched him go in, waited for him to turn back towards me with that look of horrified realization. He didn’t. He never looked back. He ran in and jumped right into the “maze”, a series of ladders and tunnels for the kids to play in. Then I waited for the staff to come in to the pool area to tell me that he was ready to be done, he’d hit his independence limit. I was prepared to be proud of him for as long as he’d managed it. Half an hour went by, then 45 minutes, then an hour. After the class, the shower, the getting dressed – finally, we were ready to collect him. He’d been in there for an hour and a quarter, happy as could be. “I climbed all the way to the top of the maze!” he exclaimed. “All by my own!” He was exhausted and thrilled.
With each of my boys there typically comes a time within a few months of their birthdays when I suddenly “see” them as the next age. I think I have a good inner vision of what the next age looks like because I’ve worked with children for over 20 years now, and I see it in flashes as they approach it. Today I saw Lyle as 3 for the first time, and I saw it multiple times; although he has three months to go, I see the three year old in him emerging.
And, wow. I thought 2-year old Lyle was amazing – but this new guy is phenomenal; a real power house.