Though I knew it was bound to happen at some point or another, I was caught off guard when it did.
I’m not exactly sure what I expected the moment to look like or feel like, but I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t assume that it would happen on a lazy, Sunday afternoon while doing another load of laundry in our dingy, unfinished basement. Or maybe I didn’t expect that it would happen so soon and so young. Or maybe I didn’t anticipate just how sharp that sting would feel for him, or how torn my heart would be.
I really don’t know, but it happened and truth be told, I wasn’t really for the thing I kinda expected.
“Hey, Buddy! Do you want to be Mommy’s big helper and put the laundry in the dryer?”
“Nah. I just want to play.”
I was a little taken back by his response because he’s usually more than eager to help whip the wet laundry into the dryer (as hard as he possibly can). But since he’s been rather insistent and maybe even a little indignant these days that he’s given up on kisses and doesn’t like extra help and extra snuggles, I wasn’t totally floored.
Because my little boy isn’t so little anymore.
As I hauled the laundry from the washer to the basket, little sister rounded the corner. I’d never elicited her help with the laundry before but hey…if big brother isn’t so little anymore, why not ask little sister to be big, right?!?
“Evie-girl, do you want to help Mama put the laundry in the dryer?”
Imagine little feet on little legs running as fast as she can toward the laundry basket while making excited, grunting noises.
Within moments, my littlest was tearing through the laundry basket, tossing the wet into the machine, and being all 17-months big. My heart swelled.
There was my girl (my only girl) right by my side…helpin’ her mama like I had helped mine. Sweet, sweet joy!
Calling up the stairs (because I didn’t want to forget this sweet moment), I yelled, “Babe! Grab the camera!!!”
As she methodically and meticulously unloaded and loaded the extra-heavy clothes, we snapped pictures and “ooo’d” and “aaa’d” over mama’s new, little helper and her eager spirit. She was so proud, and so were we. Well, kinda “we.”
Rounding the corner, big brother must have heard our “ooo’s” and “aaa’s” because he bounded into our proud moment like a bull in a Tupperware closet (because let’s just be honest…I don’t use my china these days) and insisted that he was ready to help.
Not to be out-done or out-appreciated, he quickly pushed little sister out of the way and declared, “Move Evie. I want to help.”
Thank goodness Daddy was present because in an attempt to make them both feel wanted and no one displaced, I probably would have asked Evie to move over and job share. Folks, I realize that I’m a counselor and I get paid to elicit the ugly-yucky feelings in others, which should probably make me tough and ready for the process, but UGH!!!!! Ugly-yucky is HARD and though I know that HARD is sometimes good, healthy, and necessary, I also like to protect my loved ones from UGLY-YUCKY-HARD!
“Caden, no. Mommy asked if you wanted to help, and you said, ‘No.’ Your sister is helping right now, and she’s doing a great job. You can help next time. It’s Evie’s turn.”
Immediate alligator tears.
My heart drooped as he ran up the stairs and when he came back down a few minutes later to express his feelings, my heart sank.
“Mommy, am I still your big helper? Do you still like me, too?”
He wanted to know that he still had a role.
He wanted to know that he still had value.
He wanted to know that he was still needed.
He wanted to know that he still had a place.
Swallowing my tears, I knelt on the floor and gathered my
big little boy in my arms.
“Oh, buddy. Of course, I still like you. In fact, I love you. And yes, yes…you will always be one of my special, big helpers. Just because Evie is learning how to be my big helper, too, doesn’t mean that I don’t need your help anymore. I need and want you both, but we also need to adjust and make room for Evie to have her special place, too.”
Though the tears were still flowing, his body seemed to still. And though I’m not really sure his little mind completely grasped what it looks like for one mama to have a big enough heart to share, I think his little heart knew that he still had a special place in mine.
And as I have been thinking off and on about that bittersweet moment for the past three days, I can’t help but think that what my boy felt on that Sunday afternoon may not be all that different from what we, as adults, can often feel on the “couch” of life.
We welcome a new soul to the family with a new personality and new ways of interacting, and we shift.
We welcome a new co-worker to the team with new ideas and new skills, and we move.
We welcome a new friend to the gang with new giftings and new ways of communicating, and we adjust.
We welcome a new member to the class with new experiences and new desires, and we slide.
And though it’s hard and sometimes even painful and threatening to graciously and intentionally make room for the “new,” sometimes we have to remind ourselves (and others) that “making room” doesn’t mean that the “old” isn’t valued, appreciated, needed, or forgotten. It simply means that we have to learn how to share, shift, and make a little space for others, trusting that the “couch” has enough room for more.