Something to talk about: little brothers

One-on-one conversations with a daughter:

  • 1. Context: Over a year ago, a family member treated Arlo to an afternoon of lavish enjoyment, including sweet treats and several toys and gifts. It was definitely a superfluity of generosity and money spent that resulted in his coming home with a bag full of things he didn’t need. Summerly was looking through it a few days later when it was just the two of us, and she remarked upon the excess.

Alison: “I know; it’s a lot. And it’s stuff he doesn’t need. But it’s just {family member}’s way of saying, ‘I love you.'”
Summerly: “Then why doesn’t she just say that?”

  • 2. Context: Arlo had had a rough week. He’d been the youngest one at full-day camp and the other kids hadn’t been especially deferential to his size and age while playing games like soccer and Ga-Ga Ball, and Arlo was feeling it. The Saturday following, he was a mess. He complained about nearly everything and was basically an exhausted raw nerve ending of emotion. Summerly, meanwhile, was as patient and kind and generous of spirit with him as she’s ever been, and he felt built up enough by bedtime to fall sweetly asleep. I’m convinced that wouldn’t have been the case if he’d had another day feeling generally “less” during activities, and all day I’d been expecting an epic evening meltdown. I credited Summerly for playing a vital role in preventing that eventuality, particularly because Arlo seeks interaction, validation, and recognition from his peers even more fiercely than he does from adults.

Alison: “Summerly, thank you for giving Arlo such a good day.”
Summerly: (nodding) “He needed it. And he was tired.”

  • 3. Context: A few weeks later, Arlo had another tough weekend. He’d slept poorly on Saturday night and gave us all a run for our money from the moment he awoke on Sunday until he finally fell asleep. I was getting over a kidney infection and feeling worn out by it, Brian had worked from home all day, and I thought the high emotions in the house had stressed everyone out.

Alison: “Summerly, thank you for being so patient with Arlo. I mean, today was pretty–” (nanosecond pause)
Summerly: (filling the nanosecond pause) “Joyful.”
Alison: (Stunned into silence. I’d been about to say “intense”.)

  • 4. Context: Brian had just bought the kids a new book, and they were excitedly flipping through it. The back cover featured images of a few other books, probably by the same publisher, and Arlo pointed them out, professing his desire to get them also. We told him that right now we’re going to enjoy the new book because everyone seems excited about the gift, which means they’re probably feeling grateful, and that’s a great feeling, and left it at that.

Summerly: “You know how Arlo said earlier that he wants those other books? I mean, we just got that new one.”
Alison: (suspecting that she wants those books, too, but knows it might sound greedy to say so) “Yeah. The thing is, it’s not coming from a place of ingratitude. He was definitely grateful; we could tell by his reaction to getting the book. It’s just that Arlo loves almost everything (well, except whatever I make for dinner). That’s just the way he is. He’s a gift kid–he loves receiving gifts but he also really loves giving them. Just like in the car today when you and he were eating the rest of the melts and Liam asked for one. Arlo only had a few left, but he was the one who shared first, AND he offered Liam one of the big ones. When he says he wants those books, he’s not asking us to buy them, exactly. At least, certainly, not right away. He’s just saying he wants them, and that’s ok. We don’t want him to constantly be asking us to get him thing after thing after thing, but we don’t want him to think it’s not ok to want something. Wanting is natural. And Arlo loves sharing his thoughts and ideas and feelings with us. Wanting is kind of a ‘thought-idea-feeling’ all in one, so it’s nice that he feels comfortable sharing it. When he’s older, he’ll probably learn to express his wanting in ways that might feel more considerate, or he’ll understand that timing is really important with stuff like this. Like, if he’s just gotten a gift and says he wants other things right away, the person who gave it to him might interpret that in a way Arlo didn’t intend, so we can help him understand this and be able to communicate clear gratitude before expressing wanting, or he can phrase it in a way as to avoid misunderstanding. Right now, he just loves so MUCH, and he’s still figuring out how to convey his wanting in sensitive ways.”
Summerly: “I know, I know. It’s sweet. But it’s hard.”

I’m telling you, I am SO excited to someday watch this girl mother her own children (if she wants them and is fortunate enough to then have them). I just know she’ll do a better job than I. What more can we hope for the future than that?

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