Lately at our house, three’s a crowd. Which is a problem since I have three children. Josh and Max will wrestle, Anna and Max will play pretend, but it’s been awhile since all three of them played together.
Last Saturday, Justin and I put Max down for a nap, put ourselves down for a nap and sent the older two upstairs to play… together… no friends over for a minute. They both read books separately. I’m not against reading at all. Books are among the top 5 things that bring me joy in life, so I couldn’t really say anything about their choice in activities. But my heart hurt a little that their days of playing pretend seemed to be gone.
***They used to play perfectly all the time. Like the time Josh tied Anna up with rope (she added the wet wipes herself) and she couldn’t get out***
We spent the rest of the evening together as a family. Everyone was happy, but there is a difference between parent directed togetherness and spontaneous, I totally want to hang out with my siblings togetherness.
Sunday came. Justin was at a meeting. I was cleaning up breakfast and all three of my kids were bickering at the Lego table.
“That’s my torch!”
“I had it first! I’m using it for my magical library!”
“Max had it for his boat Anna. The rule is if it’s not connected to something anyone can use it.”
I half-hardheartedly mediated, but five minutes later I found Anna wrapped up in all 3 of her special blankies, sobbing into her ginormous stuffed monkey on the stairs. I held her for a minute, distracted by how pretty she is, and how old she looks. That minute, without me saying anything, was the catalyst she needed. Suddenly we were at the heart of the matter.
“Josh always believes Max! Never me!” I held her silently for another minute and thought about what was under the surface of those words.
I called Josh to the stairs.
“Yes Ma’am” he said. That boy, whom I adore, certainly knows how to butter his Mom up.
I explained the situation as I saw it, and for once there was a magical moment when both kids were listening with their hearts.
“Anna feels like you always listen to Max and never her. It makes her feel left out, like you aren’t her best friend anymore. It makes her crabby and defensive.”
“But Mom, I just say what I see…”
“You aren’t allowed to defend yourself. This is how she feels, so it can’t be wrong (a good thing for a smart boy to learn early- right?)”
After some prodding and some pondering Josh told her he loved to play with her and the transformation was miraculous. Tears gone, freckles dancing across her nose, she glowed. With Max’s help they destroyed the entire Lego table in preparation for building an amusement park… together.
I try to portray real life here, so I have to be honest and admit that the playing at the Lego table together only lasted about 15 minutes. But that night, while Justin and I were working on dinner, all three of them made up some game involving balls, tag, running and screaming – and it made me happy to hear all that noise.
Sundays can make us all stir-crazy. They can also be calming, productive, boring, and filled with joy and service. If this fight hadn’t happened on a Sunday I probably would have made Josh apologize and then encouraged Anna to go find a friend to play with. That wasn’t an option – and we are stronger because of it.