As I sit and listen to my 9 year old tell me why his life could use a little help these days I try to put myself in his shoes in order to be as objective as I can. It isn't easy. When you're as old as I am, life has given you experiences that somehow can't be explained well in 9 year old terms, so I don't try. I just hug him a little more and settle in for the next 'tween difficulty.
When he's feeling sorry for himself, his first statement often is "I don't have any friends." Pointing out the fact that regularly the phone rings as several neighborhood boys ask if he can play would only cause further distress so I don't mention it. Nor do I point out that sitting inside lamenting about how you don't have any friends instead of heading outside with a ball to see if he can rustle up some fun with a few other boys who are looking lost and lonely in their driveways doesn't help matters any, either. I'd mention that he could call and ask someone else to play but I've done that before and I'm not in the mood for the eye rolling that comes with such suggestions in moments like this. So I keep quiet.
Soon I hear "You let Matthew do more than me." Pointing out that there is a four year difference in their ages would probably not help him so I keep quiet about that. Noting that Matthew generally acts much more mature than he does probably wouldn't help either so I just keep that one to myself as well. And if I dare begin to mention that Matthew has finished all of his chores, completed his homework, took out the garbage without being asked, and asked if there was anything else I needed him to do before he asked me if he could go out and play ball, I know there will be a long list of things he did last week that helped, too. So I don't mention it. I do however sigh and look longingly at his chore list hanging on the bulletin board. And I realize that deep down he does know why Matthew gets to do more than he does and someday he'll be doing much more than Laura gets to do and I'll be having this same conversation with her. And I'll probably smile just as knowingly then, too.
Sometimes I think that if I hear "we never get to go anywhere because of Laura" I'll just scream. But then when I think about all of the Sunday mornings we've missed because she was sick, the many nights of sleep we've not had because she was uncomfortable, the umpteen times we've had to decline invitations or make alternative plans because her health, delays or eating issues wouldn't allow it, I understand his frustration. However, I also know that because she outlived any diagnosis of impending death or severe delays, because she is just barely three and knows her colors, how to count to ten and about half of the alphabet, can eat on her own, drinks from a sippy cup and not a g-tube, and because she just walked up the steps for the first time 'all by myselsh', I know that all of those sacrifices were worth it. That is something he'll have to figure out someday when he has children of his own. So I will wait patiently for him to understand.
As I start to hug him a little tighter and he starts in with another deep sigh of the 'tween years, I look out across the street. Armed with her latest gamecube game, Devon is coming over to rescue him from his doldrums. I wonder how she knew he needed her right now and then I realize that she's a 'tween, too. She also struggles with feeling like the world will come crashing down at any moment or that her life is far to hard for one so young. And she knows that Jonathan is tender, accepting and safe. So I wonder just what happened today at school that sends her running to one of her security nets. But I am thankful for her and smile as I gently poke Jonathan in the shoulder, get his attention and point out the window. His body begins to rise once again. Joy bubbling up from his toes. A friend after all. Life is good.