Why didn’t anyone warn me about sibling birthdays?
How did every single one of my dear friends fail to mention the toenail-pulling torture that ensues when the younger sibling (the one who doesn’t understand gifts, cake, celebrations and confetti) is having a birthday and the older one (the one who does understand gifts, cake, celebrations and confetti) is not?
Or does every other mama on planet Earth have 3 year-old party cherubs who are super-uber pumped about their siblings getting all the birthday love?
NO ONE ANSWER THAT LAST QUESTION…NO ONE.
Anyway, this whole emotional turmoil started about February 1st, the day I got out the birthday countdown calendar for our soon-to-be-one-year-old.
“I want my birthday first!”
“But I want to get presents!!”
“It’s no fair!!!”
“But why isn’t anybody excited about my birthday??”
We answered his questions. We worked through his grief. We talked about the real meaning and purpose of birthday celebrations. We worked through more of his grief. We encouraged excitement over
sustained life birthdays. We worked through even more of his grief. We even had a dance party each day we turned the calendar. We really, really, really tried to focus on the blessing of his sister’s birthday.
And then one day, about February 9th’ish, his tune changed its channel.
“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!!! I know what I want to get Evie for her birthday! I want to get her a toothbrush for her new teeth and a baby stroller for her babies. I think she would like those gifts! Can I buy them for her?”
I’m not sure if part of my brain or heart exploded (probably a little bit of both), but I was thrilled. I affirmed his attitude change, applauded his thoughtfulness, and assured him that I would most definitely let him pick out both of those gifts for his sister.
And things were pleasant and things were peaceful…until the eve of her birthday.
As we were driving home from a mid-day errand, I informed our little guy that later that night, we would take a family trip to Target to purchase his birthday gifts for his sister.
Expecting excitement and a bunch of “woohoo’s,” I was completely thrown for a loop when he instantaneously started bemoaning the birthday hype and wailed at the top of his little lungs, “But I like my birthday the best!!!”
Translation: I DON’T WANT TO CELEBRATE ANYONE ELSE EXCEPT ME.
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!! Haven’t we already processed this anguish??? For crying out loud, why can’t he just be excited about his sister’s birthday?!?!
But before I opened my mouth to address his hysterics, the Lord reminded me of something that I have been recently realizing in my own life.
It’s not always easy to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”
In fact, I’m pretty convinced that there’s a really great reason why Paul included this exhortation to the believers in Rome when he was outlining the true marks of a believer.
But why would Paul include this in his character sketch of a Christian? What’s so hard about rejoicing and being glad? Didn’t he know that everyone likes a good, happy clappy??
Well, probably because Paul knew that sometimes rejoicing with others doesn’t always feel like a good, happy clappy. In fact, sometimes rejoicing is really, really hard…like the times we’re called to “rejoice with those who rejoice” over the things that we do not have, but really, really want.
…when that friend is pregnant with another child.
…when that colleague gets the job you wanted.
…when that mama’s baby sleeps through the night.
…when that family takes a Caribbean cruise.
…when that church member’s service is lauded.
…when that neighbor buys a new car.
…when that couple gets engaged.
…when that sibling excels.
…when that family buys a brand-new home.
…when that co-worker’s efforts are showcased.
…when that other ministry thrives.
…when that other wife gets some new bling.
…when that friend’s kid knows all their letters.
…when that soul on Facebook loses 17 pounds.
…when that other stay-at-home mom gets asked to speak at the next MOPS meeting.
…when that other blog gets recognized.
…when that family is able to save for their kids’ future educations.
…when that fellow peer gets a promotion.
You get the point.
Rejoicing can be hard…really, really hard.
So should I have been so taken aback when my son had to repeatedly work through his grief over his sister’s birthday hype?
Nope…Not. at. all.
“Rejoicing with those who rejoice” is a commitment. It’s a choice. It’s a character trait that is grown and groomed.
And when we do it (even when it’s really, really hard), I believe the Lord probably feels (in part) how we felt as we watched our son march into Target (without a single complaint or tear) and pick out a pink baby stroller and a My Little Pony toothbrush with a happy, rejoicing heart.
And though I was fully prepared that yesterday (the big birthday day) might be filled with some more emotional angst, it wasn’t.
NOT. AT. ALL.