Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lessons a Large Family Teach You

Nature Girl is obsessed with her birthday. She asks at least three times a week how far away it is and goes through the litany of birthdays before and after it. She asked us to participate in this, her mantra, on a car drive this weekend and Papa Pan said "You can't live like your birthday is the most important day there is." and I thought about it a bit and said , "but it *is* to her right now, and that's okay."

Nature Girl, more than anyone I know, lives in the moment. She is all joy all sunshine, or all storm and sadness. She is incredibly responsible when asked to look after a sibling, but can never find her underwear. She shares her candy and coins without a second thought, but can sneak away and guard a toy that really isn't "hers" to begin with. She is a bona fide MIDDLE child. Knowing her place in that is extremely important to her. This weekend she added to the birthday manta - she added the best and worst awards each child gets, Sprout won best and worst smelling (his natural smell is like a ripe peach but he has atrocious cabbage toots too), Wild Thing got the ugliest newborn-cutest toddler award (he looked like a red wrinkly bald old man at birth then blossomed into this beautiful little boy with glowing skin and golden curls), Dark Mirror got the biggest brain/most arcane knowledge-least practical knowledge (he can tell you everything about ancient Egypt and map the great pyramids but can't find where he lives on a map of Canada or pinpoint exactly what day his birthday is on with any great accuracy) Angel got awards for most hair as a baby, least as a teen (big beautiful curls as a babe and now its shorter than anyone else's and in spikes) and Nature Girl got the award for happiest baby, loudest cry, most beautiful newborn, tiniest ears, perfect birth, most distance spitting up...there are about ten more awards she gave her self, every one of them true. Like her special day, her birthday, it is very important that she knows that she is unique and special, and cherished for who she is.

And she is.
But it got me thinking about birth order and the role each of our children has played in the family. The Angel was an Only child for 13 years. Papa Pan, who loves children, never expected to have any more of his own and he and the Angel's bio mom made every effort to give him a really perfect childhood - involved dedicated parents, not stuff, time and energy and love. There was an adjustment period for him in finding his place in this big family we all formed and he took to the role of oldest wonderfully, he's responsible, driven, and a genuine "Good Kid" tm. He has that kind of calm take charge personality that means the Littles listen to him, and look up to him.

Dark Mirror was a "Lonely Only" for 7 years before Nature Girl arrived. Giving him a little sister was the best thing we ever did for him. Nature Girl taught him empathy, how to handle teasing, about accepting people's differences, about leaving his shell to be part of something bigger. Being Dark Mirror, he was never really comfortable with the responsibility of being an Oldest, and he quite comfortably abdicated that role to the Angel.

Nature Girl was meant to be a Middle, and at 4 I gave her her greatest wish - a baby. Wild Thing was the wrong sex, not as fun at first as she expected, and not as malleable as she'd like, but she tucked right into the role of big sister and adores her baby brother.

We expected Wild Thing to be our last child. So every milestone he reached was tinged with the slightest amount of sadness and everyone revelled in his babyhood. Really, he could have become a spoiled monster if it wasn't for the Sprout surprising us. Having a baby brother arrive when he was three rocked Wild Thing's world, but for the good. I see the friends they'll be already. Nobody cheers Sprout on in getting mobile more than the Wild Thing, who really wants him to be a playmate instead of a blob of baby.

Then there is the Sprout, who benefits from all these loving big brothers and sister. Who kinda, just kinda, gets taken for granted. He gets passed around easily between family members. We're all used to the special place babies hold in the family and there wasn't a big shift in making him fit in. It is just a nice relaxed fit, and that's the Sprout too, a nice relaxed baby. For me, there's no sadness when he reaches a milestone (he got his first tooth this past weekend) and no comparing to other people's babies either. And. The Sprout holds a special place in this family of bios and steps. He's part of EVERYONE. He's the glue that binds everyone together.

Finally, we have what we call the Conundrum...Dark Mirror, Nature Girl and Wild Thing have another new baby sister with their step mom and bio dad. We'll call her the Twig :-) Only months apart in age, Nature Girl is sure there must be a familial relationship between Sprout and Twig but we're not sure what it is, or how to facilitate it. We all agree it should be special though.

Anyone have any ideas?


deb said...

I loved this post. It isn't easy to put into words where our children fall, but you did it excellently. I will think about your request and get back to you; I think it is necessary too.

zoom said...

Hmmm. I totally agree - since you've nicknamed her the Twig, she's now practically twins with the Sprout.

But I don't know how you facilitate it, especially if you're not close to the Twig's parents (geographically or otherwise).

Oma said...

Maybe let Fate handle it. Arrow and Max will likely facilitate it when it is ready to happen.