“HI!” J called to his friend while running ahead of me to get to summer camp this morning. This is a frequent occurrence. J is very friendly and outgoing and it seems that lots of other kids like him; initiating the hellos or the high-fives. I trailed behind and made my way up the ramp. When I stepped inside the gym, the noise of balls and hula-hoops almost deafening, I quickly spotted my boy against the wall where the backpacks are lined up. I made my way through the sea of children to get a quick hug. He quickly came to me and pulled his hat down over his eyes. “I love you, bud, have an awesome day.” “I love you, too” said through sniffles.
He had been there :30 seconds and was in quiet tears.
I asked him what was wrong and he tried to brush it off that he was okay. He wouldn’t make eye contact and his hat remained covering his face, not wanting anyone to see that he was hurting.
I walked him back towards his backpack so that we could have a little space from the chaos. He sat down and still hiding his face said, “he said he was going to be my buddy.”
Today they are having a field trip. Everyone needs to choose a buddy for the bus ride and to stay with for obvious reasons. Yesterday at camp, a little boy and J planned to be buddies for the field trip. But this morning, when J went to confirm this, the little boy had chosen someone else. My guy was crushed.
This mama is crushed, too.
You see, this is not the first time that my guy has been left out. On the surface, he is popular, he is bubbly, he is kind, he is smart, and he is so funny. But beneath all of that, he is often not chosen.
I have three kids.
One is 13, the other is 6, and one is 15-months. I am a mom to all, although only biologically, am responsible for two. The other, I am a mom by choice – well, actually, he did ask me to marry him, and I did say yes, and she was 7 mos. old, so it was his choice to ask…but I did say yes!
Besides the age gap, my kids are very different…as they should be – different personalities, different likes, dislikes, hobbies. These differences are things that, although they do cause the occasional (okay, many times frequent) squabble, I celebrate. And when there is the shining glimpse of them getting along and playing well together it is just sheer, utter joy.
As my two big kiddos have grown older, their differences have become more apparent. And it isn’t necessarily their differences, but how “others” treat them. I am going to tread lightly here as to not step on any toes, but there is a huge part of me that has just had it.
I need to preface what I am about to say: I love all of my babies with my whole being. I am always in their corner: raising, guiding, loving, while teaching them how to be respectful, whole beings. I am their cheerleader. Even when they are in the wrong, it’s a moment for me to teach why it’s wrong and to help shape the behavior so the next time, they can make better choices. Is it perfect all of the time, hell no, but it is our backbone.
But sometimes, mama has to be more of a cheerleader for the middle one. And with those that I didn’t think I need to be. I am sick and tired of having to remind extended family to involve him. So, I’m going to stop.
This has been coming to a head for years. The eldest, because she was first and had the attention for almost 7 years before J came along, had longer to establish a relationship with family members. She is smart, kind, loving, funny and a good person. She is one you want to be around. I don’t blame anyone for wanting time with her, and, for having four parents and an even larger amount of grandparents, she takes it all with such stride and navigates this life with such ease. And she is the chosen one.
She is the one that grandparents call and ask for time with. For sleepovers, for adventures, or for one-off days, she is the one they ask for by name. I don’t want to make it sound like J is never included, but he is typically only included if A will be there, too, almost like a consolation prize. We aren’t getting phone calls asking for his time. We aren’t getting the calls asking weeks in advance for overnights or to go somewhere. He isn’t getting the same one-on-one time that is afforded to her. And, I’m tired of having to call and ask. I’m tired of saying, “would you like some time with him.”
He is different. He has big emotions, he feels with his whole self, he is active, he is sometimes more to handle then she is. But I’m not going to lie to myself anymore that it’s because she is older. He is old enough. When she was his age, she was still pined over. And if this is coming across that I am resentful of her, I am absolutely 100% not. I am so thankful that she has an amazing relationship with all of her family members and that she handles everything with such grace. She has so many people in her corner that are rooting for her and cheering her on and I am one of the lucky ones that gets to be in her circle. It is their inactions, it is the way they are choosing to segment their relationships and not try to have a glimpse of equity. And it is not just one person. This guy is experiencing it from multiple angles. And the worst part, is that he notices.
And now, A doesn’t want J anymore. We have limited time with her, too, and the moment she steps in the door on Sunday mornings, he would ask for her to play. Our Sunday routine was: she gets there, they have to play together until lunch, quiet time after lunch, then we do something as a family in the afternoon/evenings. But that is ending now, too.
So, bud, I will be your cheerleader. I will always choose you, include you, and love you (Daddy will too). We will play. We will ride bikes and we will make you feel that you are wanted. I hope that you feel this. I hope you understand that we will do whatever we can to ease the hurting.
But, I will protect your tender heart. I will no longer push you onto anyone. I will not call to ask if they would like your time. I will not offer. You are an incredible person and I am so thankful to have you call me mama and anyone who doesn’t see all of these amazing qualities in you is truly missing out on someone special.
NOTE: I actually started this blog post two years ago but left it as a draft. I use this space as a way to get my frustrations out, but didn’t post it because I didn’t want to hurt feelings. I write this blog for me. It is cathartic and it’s a way for me to look back at our life and remember these glimpses. And, I will say, that not everyone in our family treats J this way. There are very few people that actually make the effort to have special one-on-one time with him. And I’m not one who believes that everyone deserves a trophy in life, but I do think that if you are going to favor one, try to be tender with the hearts of the others. Luckily, baby L doesn’t know yet what he is missing.