Psalm 133 (ESV)Full disclosure requires me to acknowledge intentionally using the English Standard Version translation of this Psalm just to get the word brothers in the first verse, though I know the actual intent here, like with so much of the Bible, is to speak to a faith community as a family (e.g., brothers and sisters in Christ) and not a literal, nuclear family. But we’ve been watching Charlie recently take major strides in his effort to become one of the big kids with Jack and Max and, well, it’s a pretty good and pleasant feeling.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
The latest example was Monday night just after dinner. The older boys were watching TV in the living room, and Charlie toddled in there and kind of fell on Max, laughing, then rolling over him gently and off onto the carpet. Then he got up, walked around Max and did it again. And again. And again. And again.
This followed Friday night when we were at a picnic and Charlie was happily wandering away from us as long as he was near Jack. They’d play simple games (as in, turn around in a circle and fall over) and Jack was just as interested in making Charlie laugh as Charlie was in laughing. We were at a birthday party Saturday and as soon as Charlie was done eating, he was hot to head off to the playground area where the big kids went.
It’s a recurring theme: Jack and Max do something, Charlie wants to be involved. IF they go outside to play, he looks for his shoes. If he hears the bathtub running, he wants to climb up the stairs. Max has plenty of “me too” instinct built in, and he and Jack have been able to play well together (and fight with each other) for around three years now. I always worried they’d be so far along they wouldn’t let Charlie into the circle, but it seems Jack’s interest in little people (his own baby brother or the other kids Charlie gets to play with) isn’t going to wane any time soon.
Having the big kid look out for the littlest kid — at least currently — is a real blessing. Of course, it’s conditional. Jack knows there are things adults can’t do with him if Charlie is around. This has led to more than one pouting episode when trying to leave all three boys with my parents for a few hours. When provoked, Max is less inclined to cut any slack to either brother.
All three of course have evolving, individual personalities, and the family dynamic is certain to be fluid as we all get older. Jack and Max share a room with bunk beds, Charlie has a crib in his own room. Some day we may switch Jack into the single, move Max to the top bunk and give Charlie Max’s spot. Or maybe the playroom will become a bedroom for one or two boys. It’s hard for me to envision them being big and old enough for that to be an issue, but I know it’s coming.
I have my own memories of a rocky relationship with my brother, six years my junior. And though I got along better with his twin sister, I’m aware there were plenty of times my parents wondered how we all could keep living in the same house. There’s no need to break down and psychoanalyze all of the various incidents and allegations, at least not here and now, but suffice it to say I’m prepared for some degree of ugliness between our kids before they all graduate high school.
But for now, I tend to focus on Charlie’s evolution from baby to toddler. It’s exciting to watch him want to be involved with the whole family, especially since he was such a clingy baby. Kristie and I told ourselves eventually Charlie would explore the world on his own, that he’d be happy to get down and walk and mix it up with Jack and Max and only needs us if he got hurt. And while we believed it would happen, it’s still something of an event to actually see it unfold.
The later life milestones are less obvious. Sure, getting a drivers license or a diploma are singular, momentous occasions. But even Jack’s evolution from the time we moved here about three years ago has been subtle and gradual. His speech patterns, his matured behavior, the way he can make himself breakfast or play in the yard by alone — when we look back at pictures or videos the change is startling. But day in and day out there’s nothing as spectacular as a baby’s first steps or cutting teeth.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, of course. Same as it ever was. It falls on us as parents to take note of the older children specifically and let them know when we’re proud of them for they way they’re growing as people. It’s one thing to note how tall he’s getting, quite another to tell him I’m impressed with the kind of books he’s reading.
But again, as it relates to all three of our sons, I know there’s a long road ahead and many changes to come — surely more than I can predict or imagine. But today, I’m inclined to be thankful for the laughs of a baby, the attentive eye of an older brother and the spunk of a preschooler who will not be overlooked in any situation. To anyone else it may have been just a playful little wrestling match on the living room floor. But to me, it was the embodiment of what I love about life in this moment. The laughter of children, my children, is a sound I hope rings in my ears forever.
A prayer for June 19:
Lord, you have blessed me with this family, and I am ever thankful. I pray for your wisdom and guidance as our boys grow, that I may be able to instruct, mediate, comfort, challenge and inspire as you would have me do. I am grateful for the privilege and responsibility of being their father, please keep me ever mindful that you have chosen me for this task and to be respectful of your will. Amen.