A pair of soft brown eyes peeked up and over the edge of my bed this morning. Two little hands grasped the blankets and prepared to haul my two year old up to his usual snuggle place next to me under the warm covers. His eyes twinkled and his mouth twisted into an impish grin, and then his sister squeaked. It was the tiniest of baby noises, but #6's face fell. He shook his head and climbed back down. His shoulders drooped as he walked dejectedly away.
I called to him and beckoned him back , but he shook his head and continued walking away.
My sweet boy is living in turmoil these days. He's trying to understand the changes in his family. He's trying to come to terms with all of his favorite laps being filled by this new girl who just doesn't seem that exciting to him.
He's learned that crooning over her "Awwww.....a baby so cute....." will earn him smiles, while shoving the intruder from my lap will bring universal condemnation down on his little head. He's trying to figure out the rules in a new world where he's not the baby and mom sometimes tells him to wait.
He's trying all the tricks for attention: being a "good boy", jumping off furniture while looking defiantly at me, doing everything we ask, telling us a sullen "no." Seeing him in turmoil pains my heart.
How do I explain to my sweet 2 year old that I know his pain and that it will get better? I know how confusing it is to watch someone else receive all of the good things you thought were yours. I know the jealousy of finding someone else in a place that I thought I alone deserved to be. I know the confusion of going from leading role to shared spotlight. It's such a difficult and painful place to be.
I wish I could tell him that he'll never have feel this way again, that the loss of being "the baby" is the hardest transition he'll make, but it isn't. It's just the first one. This will happen again with friends, schoolwork, sport teams, awards, jobs, girls. He will want to scream "unfair!" at the world many times in his life.
Then, as now, the question will be the same "Do you still love me?" He won't always be asking it of us or focusing his resentment in our direction. As he grows he'll be demanding that answer of God, and the way we answer his innocent confusion now will affect his ability to hear the answers then.
This is one of the weightiest responsibilities of parenthood. It is our job to model for our children the love of God. It is not our job to give him everything he wants the way he wants it, or to make his life easy for him. It is our job to show him gently that even when he has to share, or wait, or face disappointment, even if it is at our hands, that he is always loved and that there is forever room for him in our hearts even if he has to take turns sitting on our laps.