Maria has innate compassion￼ and nurturing genes in her body. She has always been a caretaker. When Mario was born, she would beg to give him his Binky or put him in his swing or feed him his smashed peas. I have a ton of pictures – back when you had to develop them – of the two of them together and inevitably, Maria’s arm is always wrapped around Mario. His protector.
In preschool, she had a girlfriend who was petite and quiet. Whenever another child would boss her around, Maria would step in and protect her. The girl’s parents nicknamed Maria “the muscle.”￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼ This weekend, Maria and I were just getting ready to sit down to play a card game. Her phone rang and she left to talk to her friend for a few minutes. She came back and told me that her friend needed to stop by. Within a minute, I heard the door open. Her friend was sobbing; Maria wrapped her arm around her friend, and walked with her down the stairs to her room￼￼ continuously whispering “you will be ok.”
Mario did not quite inherit the compassionate and nurturing genes. ￼￼ That is not to say that he doesn’t care for others; he just doesn’t have that automatic response of nurturing and caretaking.￼￼ He expresses his care and concern by trying to make people laugh – by being goofy. When he was in preschool, he would get up in front of all of his friends and perform a crazy dance (he loved Gangnam Style). When one of his friends took a nasty fall while they were skateboarding, he jabbed him with playful jokes to keep him laughing until I arrived to take him home. Last week, I had a crappy day at work￼￼￼￼ and he amused me with his little quips.
I have made Maria do more volunteer activities with me than Mario. This is partially because the moms of Maria’s friends tend to plan volunteer events more often than the moms of Mario’s friends. It is also because she didn’t put up as much of a fight as Mario did when I talked about doing something for those in need.
Lately, I have been lamenting about not pushing harder on Mario when he puts up a fight about volunteering. He needs to gain some perspective ￼when he starts begging me for $150 pair of basketball shoes for the upcoming season.￼ I have told him that there may be a possibility of purchasing such shoes but it does not come without putting forth some effort for others. Accordingly, he has agreed to put together hygiene kits for men at the homeless shelter￼ along with a few of his friends. We are heading out this week to buy the supplies and then put them together to deliver. It just takes me putting forth some effort to get him to do it.
But I was excited to see him come downstairs on his own last night and read a book to Elena with me. I had mentioned reading to Elena over dinner with him and Maria and Jon last night. I threw in a comment that it would be really nice if the kids or Jon joined me for a chapter or two. They all rolled their eyes.
I situated my computer at the dining room table, and jumped on Facebook messenger with Elena. I was just getting ready to start reading the Weather Fairies book when Mario trotted down the stairs to join me. Elena started giggling like she always does when Mario enters the screen. I gave Mario the parts of Kirsty ￼￼to read.
To my delight, he completely acted the part. He raised his voice up a few octaves ￼to mimic Kirsty’s voice￼. Elena cracked up every time he read off the page. He read a chapter with us, and then I allowed him to head upstairs to finish his homework. I spent another 45 minutes reading to Elena. I didn’t make her chuckle like Mario had but we did have fun reading about the goblins and talking about the different weather fairies.￼￼￼￼
I visited Mario in his room after I finished with Elena. I told him how happy he had made Elena by simply reading a chapter of a book to her. I explained how a simple gesture can mean a lot to somebody.￼ ￼
I recall telling my dad about taking a walk in the woods without looking at my phone the entire time.￼￼￼￼￼ We had been talking earlier in the week about needing to disconnect more often. His response via text was “baby steps.” That phrase came to mind as I left Mario’s room and went to log off the computer for the night.