These past two months have brought some wonderful things with it, starting with the Christmas season and all it entails, celebrating birthdays, teeth tottering, a Girl’s Trip to Lubbock, football watching, my mom and her classes that teach her how to use all of her technology and gadgets (I don’t even know where to begin to tell you all the reasons why this makes me grin like a possum) cold weather (which equals so many happy things…fireplaces, hot chocolate, cute sweaters…just to name a few) good friends, and laughter…Lots of laughter. My 3 geese have been on my hip most of the time, and I was quite traumatized, honestly, when our Christmas vacation came to a screeching halt and I had to deliver them back to school. They make this house loud and joyful and messy. They laugh and eat and play. And they make this mama’s heart feel like it’s going to explode when I stop and look at them and think I am going to die from their preciousness.
As you know, the holidays are synonymous with togetherness. Breathing the same air. Peas in a pod. And while most of the time, this is a good thing, there came a point in our family’s life recently when the Kumbaya moments fell to the wayside and living at Morris Ave was no longer roses and ponies. The moment was heartbreaking to this mama because once my kids start bickering and fighting with one another…the gloves are off.
Claire and Gregory have a unique relationship due to the fact that neither one of them remembers their lives without the other. They are 17 months apart, and probably the closest thing to twins that one can muster without actually giving birth to two babies on the same day…a concept that I can hardly wrap my brain around. They are inseparable. They finish each other’s sentences. She is his “other mother” and he is her biggest fan. It’s hard to say one of their names without the other. You get the point.
And then, there is Meredith Grace. She came into the world at a whopping 5 pounds, and captured all of our hearts the instant we met her. She squeaks and 4 people JUMP…and I am beginning to think she prefers her world to operate this way. She is witty and funny. She is joyful and happy and kind. We often call her the icing on our cake…we honestly could not imagine our life without her beautiful smile. But our family faces the same problem that many others share as well…2’s company, 3’s a crowd. My older two can buddy up and leave Meredith out of their card game, bike riding, trampoline jumping, Lego building or whatever adventure they have found themselves involved with…and cut her to the quick faster than anything. She will always be the youngest, and with that comes struggles that I know all too well, growing up in a house full of 3 older brothers. I sometimes watch Claire and Gregory interact with Meredith and wince as they shun her immaturity with their tacky tones and raw run-ins. Obviously, I address it in the moment the best I can…usually with an apology and a break for everyone. But as the last couple of months have dragged on with what seems like endless days of being cooped up inside due to frigid temperatures, my patience has become thin and their relationship threadlike.
And last night…it all came to a head.
What had become a typical scenario: kids playing outside. Sun goes down, kids come inside. Older two begin playing in boy’s room. Youngest wants to join them. They say no. She cries. Blah blah blah.
But this time, it was different. This time, I heard a tone in her cry that reached in and pricked a spot in my soul that I didn’t even know was there. It instantly brought back memories of quarrels with my brothers…one in particular…and I immediately jumped to her defense. A flood of emotions overwhelmed me as I walked into Gregory’s room and sat down.
We read all the time about how a girl’s father is the largest influence in her life when it comes to her self-esteem…which often (not always) translates out in her sexual activity or lack there-of. Cody is super conscious of this element in his relationship with our girls, and is continuously looking for ways to make them feel adored and special. But what about their brother? Anyone can read books that have been researched and written on birth order, sibling rivalry, dynamics between same sex siblings vs. different, etc. But I want to go out on a limb here and say that the relationship between a girl and her brother(s) is just as pivotal in developing the eyes she will look through when determining her future self-worth. Not unlike her parents, the voice that she hears from him will become the voice inside of her head as she grows older and begins to look towards her future mate. We as parents spend so much time analyzing and tweaking our parenting skills to make sure that we do everything we can to encourage a healthy child…emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But what are we doing to encourage a healthy, trustworthy relationship between our children as siblings? Our girls need a brother that is going to protect them and make them feel safe in the moments their father is not around, and our son needs sisters to teach him what it feels like to be a knight in shining armor. They deserve a brother that speaks kindly and respectfully to them, and it is imperative that they return the favor. Our girls need their brother (along with their daddy) to teach them what men of integrity act like, and this precious son then needs to attempt to do so. These daughters of ours are going to need another voice to echo their father’s proclamations of their beauty on the days when they feel anything but beautiful. These girls need another soul on the planet that knows exactly what it is like to grow up in this home…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Where else would we rather they learn how to exhibit the imperative, yet paling trait called loyalty? They are a team. A unit. A tribe. If we allow them to cut, criticize, and condemn one another in our own homes and pass it off as “sibling rivalry”, we are sadly missing the mark in our expectations of eventual hatchet burying. Those wounds created by hurtful words or toxic tones, regardless of who speaks them, do not heal easily. They do not magically disappear with a salve soaked in siblinghood.
Be conscious of the little relationships in your home. Teach them how to treat one another. Call your boys to a higher standard by sanctioning them to safeguard their sister(s). Impart on your daughters the necessity of respecting their brother(s). Model loyalty. Mirror sincerity. Require tenderness.
So…30 minutes and many tears later, I believe that I communicated to our geese what I have been trying to say for years. God has given them each other…to take care of, to learn from, and to cling to. And most importantly, Gregory left the room with this simple understanding: Sometimes, being a big brother is better than being a superhero.
Whatever works, folks.