Keep a straight face, keep a straight face, keep a straight face! The whole thing will be blown if your oldest sees you smirking.
He is sitting shotgun right next to me. And he doesn’t miss a thing. So if I and his younger brother, my middle son, are going to continue to enjoy this moment, I must keep from showing my grin.
I have no idea what it must be like to grow up in the middle of the family. My best friend growing up was the middle child and after watching how much she struggled with her place in the family I vowed I would never do that to someone.
Then I had a surprise that turned my baby into the middle child. And my heart has ached for this tension in his life ever since.
To be fair, sometimes I think I struggle more with Colby being a middle child than he does. He certainly loves his brothers with a depth I am not sure any of us can fathom.
But sometimes I can tell it wears on him. Someone always going ahead of him, learning everything first, excelling at everything he tries. And someone constantly behind him being cute and adorable and the youngest.
Then a few weeks ago, I realized I had been hearing a new sound. A sound I had never heard from a child in our home before.
Our oldest whistles through his teeth. It qualifies, I have reassured him, but there is not a whole lot of umph behind it.
I called the whistler over to me and said in a stealthy but clearly exuberant voice, “Colby! YOU are whistling!!!”
“I know.” His notorious deadpan.
I cup his face in my hands. “Do that again.” My eyes dance with delight as the air goes from his lungs and passes through his pursed lips, making a song as it goes.
I look around and then I say very quietly, “You know…..your brother doesn’t know how to whistle. Not like that.”
“I know.” His smirk and twinkle tell me everything I need to know. He knows. He learned to do something his brother can’t do.
I would love for my children to be satisfied in who they are without comparing themselves to one another. But the fight for alpha exists anyway. So I work with it and try to celebrate their individual strengths anyway.
So a few days later as we drive in the car and my oldest starts whistling in his own special way in the front seat and a minute later I hear a (real) whistle coming from the back, keeping up, fluffing his feathers, and I know it is completely intentional, my heart does a little happy dance.
This middle child now has one thing he did first. He can do better. And in his sweet little non-confrontational way, he is celebrating. And so am I.
And it’s our little secret.
As long as I can keep a straight face.