Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"But I didn't get a present!"

And the excruciating struggle to find balance continues.

I knew that there would be trouble, positioning the focus too deliberately on one always incites anger and tears. We had been trying to make sure that, as we nursed Avery back to health, Briar understood that she had not been responsible for Avery's injury. Unfortunately, once we realized Briar carried no guilt we underestimated her capacity for envy. We we were getting by until the present.

It was bedtime, the girls were waiting upstairs while Sean and I gathered up the necessary bedtime accoutrements, when the doorbell rang. It was a client of Sean's.

"Heard what happened to little Ave and just wanted to bring something by."

After thanking him we carried the gaily wrapped bag upstairs.

"Ave, look, Kevin brought you a present!" Briar leapt from her bed and ran to Avery's bedside. "Can we open it? Can we look inside? Is it for us? Let's see what's for me?"

Avery blinked slowly, not overly excited about the gift, as we pulled the plush monkey from the bag we explained to Briar that it was a gift to say sorry for all the things that Avery couldn't do.

"But I want one," she pouted.

"I know honey, but the thing is there are so many things you can do that Avery can't," I explained as her lower lip trembled.

"You can run and swing and go and play at Jen's house, Avery has to rest until her leg is healed," I spoke softly, trying to be gentle, sensitive to Briar's hurt. Eventually we left the room, Sean to go back into work and me to get Fin down for the night.

About forty minutes later the sound of soft sobbing floated down the stairs. I carried Fin up and into the girls' room. Avery was awake, but still. Briar was in bed with the covers pulled up to her eyes as she cried.

"What is it?" I asked her.

She looked at me and said something in a very soft voice.

"I can't hear you, babe, what is it?"

Again, she spoke from beneath the fleece princess blanket in a whisper.

"Briar, I cannot hear you," Fin was starting to fuss in my arms.

Briar stared back at me and said another impossible to hear sentence. Fin thrashed and squealed and I snapped.

"Briar! I cannot hear you, just say it!" My tone was harsh.

She sat straight up in bed, slamming the blanket down on her bed and with her body tense as could be, she turned her head sharply my way and shouted, "But I didn't get a present!" As soon as the words were out her shoulders slumped and she began to sob.

My heart broke. Of course she was hurt, exhausted by the attention given to Avery. I t wasn't that she was unsympathetic, acting throughout the day like a sort of handmaiden for Avery, bringing her juice, toys, blankets and more. To have a puffy, cuddly monkey delivered to her sister at the time of day when Briar, our poor sleeper, is at her neediest, was simply too much. Her tears and anguish were every bit as genuine and painful as Ave's fracture.

I perched on her bed and caught her up in my arms, her silky head resting on my shoulder and against Fin's face. Her tiny shoulders were wracked with sobs. I murmured "It's oks" into her head. I made no promises for presents, as I stroked her back and told her how much we loved her. I realized that the 3-4 weeks in a cast was going to mean suffering not just for Ave, but for Briar too. So, as we figure out how to entertain Ave, we'll also work on how to keep Briar feeling special too.

Lucky for me, she's a sucker for princesses so a quick homemade crown made for a brilliant ear-to-ear grin.

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Mrs. Chicken said...

Ack, this mothering gig is so hard sometimes, isn't it? I've been snappish lately and I don't have half the stress you do.

Briar will be fine, she really will. You are the one who will suffer and remember this time.

Thinking if you and your babies.

Crystal D said...

Ugh, heartbreaking. Thank goodness they bounce back so quickly. And of course it is always those times at the end of a really long day that we snap a little and they say something that just makes us feel how small they are. I am not sure how we are to get through all these little heartbreaks like learning about jealously.
Hopefully the next month will just fly by.

Amy Y said...

Awww ~ bless her lil heart. I'd have been jealous, too, at her age. Luckily she's resilient and she is the owner of one creative mama who knows just what to do.

(and I'm proud of you for not promising presents) :)

Christy said...

Being a sister isn't always easy that is for sure. There is 5 years between me and mine, and I still vividly remember when she was born her getting gifts and not me (I know not exactly the same thing). I couldn't for the life of me understand why I didn't get anything. I figured it out though, just like Briar will too.

Oh and yes kudos to you for not promising her anything...I totally would have been guilty of that one.

Janet said...

A new baby sister, extra attention for an injured little sister. It's a lot for a the still-little-big-girl to cope with. My kids are still all about the fairness. I'm glad you could soften her sorrow with a special crown.

flutter said...

ooof! My heart!

Damselfly said...

...and Mama made it all better. Poor thing.

BetteJo said...

First there was a new baby, now Avery is in the spotlight, it's tough no matter how aware you are to divide the attention equally. When you throw visitors or guests into the mix - the perception of being the one left out is hard to prevent.

You just can't explain to little ones how unfair things are sometimes.

Sweet, sweet Briar, and this too shall pass. Sigh-h-h. (((HUGS)))

karen said...

Poor Briar! She can't have any real idea of how much pain hides behind that "boot" on Avery - she only sees all the extra attention and presents (presents! I want a present, too!). My kids were jealous of my cast and crutches last year. They each took turns trying the crutches and wishing they could have a cast of their own - it seemed THAT NEATO. Mine were old enough that I could point things out like my toes, painfully swollen to the size of vienna sausages. Or the inconvenience of not being able to carry anything in my hands. Not being able to go rafting on the Delaware (a favorite summer activity). They slowly...slowly understood that the neat-o purple cast was more of a consolation prize than an actual win. I doubt Briar will be able to grasp this concept completely but think you can help her understand on a basic level. A trip to the playground where Briar gets to run and play and Avery has to rest on a blanket might be a good start?

jen said...

you say it's not balance. but sister, you are balance.

Kat said...

Great big cyberhugs for Briar.

This is why mine are 19 years apart. The three year old does not get upset over the 22 year old's stuff, and vice versa. :)

Myshka said...

Ohh, sweetheart. You have given those girls the biggest present ever. Your ridiculously amazing heart. Hope to see all of you soon xo

Lisa said...

Understanding life is a never-ending journey, isn't it? It's hard when little ones have to try & figure all of this stuff out.

Yay for you for helping put the bounce and smile back in Briar!

Cathy said...

Poor baby. You're right, it's going to be tough on her too.

Love the crown!

andi said...

It's so hard to explain to them that being fair doesn't mean treating everyone equally all the time. That sometimes other people need presents more than they do. I'll bet Avery would much rather her foot wasn't hurt than have the present, but it's impossible for Briar to understand that.

Poor thing. I'm glad the crown raised her spirits.

Julie Pippert said...

Such a challenge! But what a clever solution you had and what a cutie pie. Of course she felt that way.

That's why when my Patience was 3 and her sister was born I kept a little bag of dollar store toys in my closet. A friend taught me that. Now I also make sure to take presents to older siblings if they are tots.

As soon as my girls got old enough to understand, I taught them sometimes the day/moment/party isn't just about us and we need to be happy for that person.

They're learning.

Mommy of Mayhem said...

Wowie. I relate. The only thing she'll remember from this experience is the hug from her mama. I think only we remember the bad parts. I often claim it as my punishment for the shit I put my poor mother through. Then I STOP claiming anything negative, realizing that life is to short to do anything other than build on the good that I manage to run across. You sound like a fantastic mother.