When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much.
His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can.
Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.”
Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same.
He loves her at 9:45, but then at 9:46 they are having a fight because he insists on looking out her window in the car, and she insists on giving him a good smack for getting too close, which in turn, makes him get even closer and then Daddy threatens to pull over and stuff . . .
Later in the day, they will each stand on either end of the hallway and take turns giggling and running into each other’s arms in a loving, blissful embrace that would make a great commercial for some kind of medicine with horrible side effects.
You know, the kind where a grandpa is tickling a toddler on the rug while a lady in the background casually says,
“Darnitol is known to cause simultaneous liver, heart, and kidney failure . . .”
(Grandma walks in with cookies.)
“. . . loss of control over important bodily functions . . .”
(Golden retriever licks someone.)
“. . . spontaneous bleeding from the eyes . . .”
(Blissful family strolls through the park.)
“. . . and death.”
They really know how to tug at the heartstrings, those drug commercials.
Anyway, back to Forest.
I really should read Siblings Without Rivalry, but ain’t nobody got time for that lately. I told Graeme we should write a book called Siblings With Rivalry because we’ve achieved that very well. The first chapter would be titled “Have More Than One Child” and then it would end.
It was on a particularly sour day that Forest was reflecting on how his life has deteriorated ever since Grace started living outside of my uterus.
She was taking a nap and Graeme and I were preparing lunch while Forest sat at the kitchen table, with a sorrowful look on his face, torn clothes, and a little pile of ashes on his head.
“I wish there was only one boy in this family.”
“Um. There is only one boy, Forest. Chica is a girl,” replies Daddy.
“No, I mean I wish there was no girl!”
“Aw, come on, dude. That’s not nice,” says Daddy, somewhat absentmindedly while making quesadillas.
“I’m serious! I wish I was the only kid in this family.”
Graeme turns around and now, not absentmindedly at all anymore, says, with that gaspy, shaky sort of voice that comes from true shock:
“Forest . . . No! Don’t do THAT!”
I turn around just in time to see Forest, that forlorn fellow, with his right elbow resting on the table, and air surrounding his middle finger on all sides.
There’s no mistaking it.
It’s sticking straight up, like Katniss volunteering as a tribute, and he’s staring at Daddy right in the eyeballs with a bit of a scowl.
Graeme looks like he’s about to lose control over a couple of important bodily functions, like speech and one other. He’s just frozen, staring at Forest with his mouth open.
Well, well. What have we here?
What if he doesn’t know that’s a bad thing to do and we accidentally teach him? My friend Charissa can testify that this approach is sure to backfire in public. Her cute little four-year-old (now in her teens and an entirely respectable citizen) heard the teacher say “Shut up,” which was in the story she was reading to the group of kids, and she stopped story time to give her teacher a lesson.
“Shut up is not a nice thing to say,” says little Hope. Then, with everyone’s eyes still on her, she raises both hands and gives the entire Tulsa, Oklahoma Christian Homeschool Co-op double middle fingers: “And we should NEVER DO THIS!”
Fearing Forest might give Pastor Dan a friendly reminder never to flip someone off, like this, I decided to take a different approach.
“Hey, Forest, what happened to your finger?” I ask, real casually.
He shrugs and says, “Oh, I dipped it in my tea and now it’s a little wet, see? I’m blowing on it.”
Graeme begins to thaw out and is trying to control a belly that wants to shake like a bowlful of jelly in hilarious relief. He turns to me and says quietly, “Good thinking, Mama.”
Forest couldn’t figure out what we were still laughing about five minutes later.
He realized a few days after this that he really does love his sister when they played at a friend’s house and one of the kids made it his life’s purpose to terrorize Grace. Indignant, Forest later recounted all the offenses and wrongs HIS SISTER endured at the hands (and boots, too, from what I gather) of this young fellow.
I smiled. “So you do love her, then?”
“Well . . . yeah. I guess I do.”
The following morning he came to snuggle on my bed and as he lay there, thoughtfully looking at the ceiling fan, he said, “I would like another baby sister. And a baby brother.”
“Yeah, I would.”
“Is your uterus gonna fill up again?”
We shall see what we shall see, shan’t we?