Then there are times when they make us so proud, and it's easy to love them. These moments can be fleeting, and I'm sure there are plenty more than the ones that come off the top of my head. I want to write them down and make sure I don't forget them.
First, the one that gave me the idea to write this post: Delaney. For all her good characteristics, she has never been the kid we would call our most generous. Generosity is something we try to encourage in all the kids, but she would be the one least likely to share the bag of popcorn she brought home from school with her siblings, for example. It just wouldn't occur to her. We try to be patient about that, especially me, because I know I have plenty of selfish tendencies. When I'm browsing Pinterest, let's face it, 9 times out of 10 I'm looking at stuff that's for ME. Well, the other day, Tim took her and the other kids with him on a quick trip to the Exchange. When they got back, Annie was excitedly telling me that Delaney had gotten the baby a present. Sure enough, Delaney proudly presented me with a baby blanket that she'd used up all her spending money to get. This is not something I took lightly. I know how much easier it is for her to spend a few dollars on a toy for herself. I hugged her and told her what a good kid she is, and how much her baby brother and I appreciate it. (Tim told me as an aside that she had wanted to get this blanket for him last time they were at the Exchange, but hadn't had the money. This time she still hadn't had the money but was looking at it again, so he'd gone halvesies with her on it.)
Annie, our second-born, has for a long time been the one most likely to blow us away with generosity for her siblings. For example, she'll happily offer to buy something for Delaney or Timmy at the dollar store. She shares the bag of popcorn every time. We have always been sure to praise her whenever she does something nice for someone else that we would never ask her to do or expect her to do. Lately, however, I am seeing a new development, a new kind of generosity .. one that I take every opportunity to praise and encourage. It's little things, like a spontaneous offer to help Timmy clean his room or find his shoes, or read him a book. These little things are really a big deal. There was the time not long ago she went to my closet and picked out my outfit for church. It was a better choice than the one I had in mind, and it was kind of refreshing. She has good taste. Annie and I have not always seen eye to eye, and of course she and her siblings still have plenty of moments of strife. But to see this spirit of kindness and helpfulness in her fills me with gratitude and hope. It makes up for the rough times.
Timmy, still the reigning baby of the family, usually doesn't stand out as a big helper or sharer. In fact, he often poses as helpLESS in order to get us all to do things for him. I am especially susceptible to his babyish charms, and I rarely deny his request to pick him up or get him his lovey, or put on the shoes that I know he is perfectly capable of putting on himself. He's not a complete bum. He'll fetch me the water that I don't feel like getting off the couch to get myself, and do things like that. But his most winning characteristic is his sweetness. I watched from the porch one afternoon as he ran down the sidewalk to meet his sisters who had just gotten off the bus. His arms were outstretched. Annie dodged his hug (oh, Annie!) but Delaney bashfully hugged him back. He gives the best hugs. At bedtime he wraps his arms around my neck and squeezes as hard as he can, then asks, "Can you breathe?" He lets go only after he's sure that I can't. When Timmy does something for himself, especially without being asked (like last night when he changed his undies and put on his pajamas), I tell him, "I love it when you do big boy things like that." I want to encourage him to be a little more of a big kid, a little more independent, but keep the sweetness, keep the hugs!
Our kids are such gifts to each other and to us. We can't claim much (if any) credit for when they do great things, nor should we shoulder the blame for when they do things that disappoint us. They are their own individuals, unique and full of surprises. Like us, they are imperfect. They drive us crazy sometimes, but they are good kids and we love them.