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Spencer Rendahl: My Guru

My mom rang in the 1970s with a plan to have four daughters, her own kingdom of girls. She got off to a good start: I arrived ten months later. She continued to bat 1,000 until her third pregnancy. After her doctor pulled out a baby boy, she cried. And then she had another girl.

At first I didn’t see my baby brother as much different from my baby sister. For the first two years I could roll him around on the floor, dress him up, and open his birthday presents. Later, though, he grew into stage that I considered permanently annoying at best. Now we’re close friends, but that took time.

Eventually I wanted a child – not four – and gave birth to a daughter. We have the same brown eyes and sharp tongue. We butt heads almost daily, but we understand each other.

And four years later as I started to make plans to study yoga in India, I found myself pregnant again. As I put my plans away, I wondered about the pregnancy. I announced that I didn’t care if I had a boy or a girl. But secretly, like my mom, I preferred another girl.

I sensed I was carrying a boy, though, and braced myself.

My son arrived one November evening, and as with my baby brother, I initially didn’t see a big difference with my daughter. He was just another warm, toothless, and lovable pink blob that kept me up all night.

But as time wore on, I wondered if I wasn’t just raising a different sex, but a different species.

Where my daughter shows edge, he shows affection. Where she questions everything about the world around her, he simply embraces it.

I marvel at his worldview. Why have just one close friend when you can have ten? Why walk down the stairs when you can hop? Why settle for two kisses from Mommy when you can get twenty?

Now, we’ve had challenges. One day I got a request from daycare to pack him bigger lunches. He was still hungry after he ate his food, the teacher explained. So he grabbed his friend’s food.

And for the past three months, he’s been hitting - friends, teachers, and me. I can almost see his logic: why go through all the effort of using words to make a point when you have two perfectly functional fists?

But as I try to teach him that hitting hurts and that we kick balls, not people, I can’t help but reflect on how my words can cause harm. And I realize that I didn’t need to go to India to find deeper self-awareness, gratitude and joy. I have my own three-and-a-half-year-old 34-pound guru right here.

At 5:20 every morning my son hops down the stairs. As I get out of bed to change him, he joyfully announces “It is morning! The sun is up! It is a new day!”

I agree, and he gives me a hug.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
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