Rocco. Ohhhh, Rocco. Stubborn, silly, smart, sophisticated, irritating, persistent, brilliant, talkative, generous, kind, independent Rocco. He gives everything his all, from making pasta by scratch to making his older brother cry. It is always no-holds-barred with this one.
I was going to chop this blog post into two because it gets very long and wordy, but then, that’s Rocco. If we are in the car for an hour, he will talk for an hour. If we are in the car for two hours, he will talk for two. He will talk for three, four, five hours straight and the car is his favorite place to talk because no one can walk away from him.
And just what does he talk about? Mostly about the lane we’re in. He checks that this is the best lane, points out the many varied lanes that I could switch to, wonders if I’m going to change lanes, reminds me to put on my “curving signal” should I decide to change lanes. It’s like living in The Wonder Years, Rocco being both the star and his own voice-over, only it’s the unedited version where for 59 minutes he talks about absolutely nothing and then on minute 60, just as I am about to park, he tells me he thinks he is allergic to the color beige and starts squinting all funny like and saying his eyes hurt, this car is so full of beige. An hour of blather for 20 seconds of viewable material.
While the constant critique of my driving sometimes gets on my nerves, I have to give Rocco credit for paying attention—he can tell his grandma exactly how to get to his speech therapy across town, which exit to get off on and which level to park on. Sometimes I wish I could tell Rocco which exit he could get off on, but I know he means well. He’s just very passionate about, well, lane changes.
Yes, I used the word “irritating” to describe my beloved son, but I know it’s just those in his immediate family who sometimes feel this way. Specifically, those who often find themselves in a car with Rocco. To others Rocco is a sweet child who can focus on a task for hours on end, who loves everything boy but who reigns himself in and is gentle and caring. He is the child who invites everyone else in, who places a board game on your lap and asks you to play it with him, even if he doesn’t know your name. Funny, everyone seems to know his.
Rocco puts up with a lot of abuse from his baby brother, and while sometimes he yells “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” at Leo and makes him cry, so many times he tries to be peaceable. He is always offering to help Leo put on his shoes or to sing him a song or to get him a special spoon at the table, and he continues to ask even though Leo consistently screams, “NO!” at him, just for asking. It’s sweet…except that I’m starting to get the feeling Rocco asks just to hear his little brother scream. I’ll have to pretend I didn’t make that realization.
Rocco is a spender—he never has a cent in his saving’s account. But he is endlessly generous with his money and possessions. Rocco chose Lucky Charms for his birthday breakfast cereal, then gave most of his to Vincenzo, who he knows loves the cereal as much as him. He saved all the lollipops from his Halloween candy for Poppy because I once mentioned that Poppy loves Tootsie Pops. Rocco would give a friend the piece of gum he was chewing if his friend asked for it. He’s just that kind of guy.
He says he wants to study crafting in college.
Rocco doesn’t want to do anything without Vincenzo, then the minute they start playing together he starts working on getting his older brother to yell at him. It usually takes about 20 seconds.
Rocco makes the most outlandish conclusions about the world, then says, “Right, Mom?” You know, like, “The bouncy house has a hole ripped in it because we’re wearing socks right, Mom?” I have no choice but to tell him he’s completely wrong. Like a scientist, though, he is not bothered by being wrong and just makes another conclusion. “Oh. Then probably a bad guy came in the middle of the night and ripped a hole in it. Right Mom?” I throw my arms to heaven.
Rocco is still that kid who can figure something out and if he doesn’t get it on the first or second try, he’ll try a third, fourth, fifth time. The other day I sent sandwiches down to Rocco and a bunch of older kids in the playhouse. The older kids came up a few minutes later saying they were hungry and wanted lunch, and I asked, “What about the sandwiches I just sent down?” They had gotten the basket but hadn’t known what to do with the packages inside it. Just then Rocco came strolling into the kitchen, finishing up one of the sandwiches he had found in the basket, no big deal. Things just make sense to him.
On vacation this spring our toilet got plugged. While Kevin and I tried to get ahold of the front desk, Rocco pushed and poked and prodded around the toilet and came out a few minutes saying, “I fixed it for you.” And he had.
When Kevin tells the story of Rocco’s labor, he tells it this way: I went into the hospital with contractions at midnight, but it was determined I had false labor. The doctor would have sent me home but Rocco’s heart rate was a little irregular, so they put me in a bed for a couple hours. Kevin then explains that, by sheer determination, I forced that baby out of my body just a few hours later. It’s basically the truth, too.
It’s funny how perfectly that labor story fits Rocco. He will be told he can’t do something and he will try every way possible to get around that rule until he either completes the impossible task or is given a time out–whichever comes first.
And it’s tricky. I want to raise a son who doesn’t mindlessly accept what he is told, who has to try it himself to believe it. I want my child to forge his own path. I want him to push boundaries and question the truth. I just don’t want him to question my boundaries and the truths I lay down. Lord, help me.
I do my best to be patient with Rocco and hope he doesn’t notice the irritated undertones of my voice here and there because I love that kid like mad, and I know I’ll never fully understand him. His brain is wired so differently than mine. I totally respect and admire him for that and can’t wait to see the path that he ends up on, with his big, marvelous brain and his generous disposition. Rocco, slathering determination on everything in life. Unfailingly optimistic and resilient. Confident. Rocco takes good care of his Mama and I know he does not mean to upset me. His brothers, yes, but his Mama—he just wants to make his Mama happy. And usually, he does.
But always, always, I love him.
With everything in my heart, I love that little man.*
*Wait, did I make it to the end of an entire post about Rocco without once writing the word “trains?” That’s just not right. Trains. TRAINS! Whew. Better.