Archer calls it "lifeguarding", the need to look after and teach, to sing and rock and sit with. He told me the other day, as we stood rocking the babies to sleep side by side, a bottle in his lap and one in mine that he "had it under control", that I could go back to work if I needed to because he had this. I almost believed him. When the babies finally dozed off I put them in their crib side by side and left the room. Not Archer. Archer pushed his stool to the side of their bed and watched.
"A lifeguard doesn't leave," he said.
Yesterday Fable told me she wanted to be a doctor when she grows up, so she can take care of babies. I wondered if that came from our just spending a long afternoon at the doctor's office, the babies in for their two-month shots and check up. (Bo was a whopping 11lbs 4oz and Rev was 9lbs 6.) She told me that she wanted to be the "night kind of doctor" and I thought back to those weeks in the NICU, a thousand years ago/ yesterday when Hal drove Archer and Fable through the darkness to visit the babies and me. We were all a little nervous then. A little scared and protective. The fear is gone now but the protective never went away.
I used to think that the more children a family had, the less time and energy they'd have to care for them because how can one mother possibly dote on all those children? When we found out we were having twins, that was my biggest fear. How could I possibly be a decent mother to FOUR? It is clear to me now, not only how big families "survive" but also how they flourish. When Archer was a baby, Hal and I were his everything. But Boheme and Reverie have this:
As an older sister, it took having children of my own to understand my role, my influence and responsibility. But now, watching our four together, it's like watching miniature adults redefining what it means to be "big". And even on the days I feel lost, trying to recognize myself in the reflection of all these eyes, I am found because of them. Because somehow they always know to come to my rescue. Before I even think to ask, they are here.
In Archer's Thankful Book at school, he wrote about being thankful for "his twins". Because as much as they are mine and Hal's, they are his. Fable's too. How lucky Bo and Rev are to have such doting lifeguards...
... How lucky I am to have them too.