My son Finnly recently became a middle child. He's taking his little sister in stride, he even adores her. Our bigger son, Connor, is a born director and so his new big kid role, with its added jobs and independence, agrees with him.
But Finn is 3. And he was built for summer. The child has to move and cuddle and feel things brush against his skin. If he doesn't, then, well, let the whining commence. If you watch a great deal of Sesame Street (and I do), you know the comic timing of Bert and Ernie. Ernie, with his antics, makes so many adorable calamities befall Bert without really caring much. These are my sons: Connor is Bert, all stayed concentration and oatmeal and pigeons and ORDER, and Finn is Ernie, who dances himself to sleep—much to his roommate's chagrin.
Unfortunately for Finn-Ernie, his little sister arrived in late Fall and Winter was cold and long and a little bit hard on all of us. There were many unfair time outs, some snapping on my part. Even an unmerited spanking or two. I guess it's the burden of being the middle child, having to negotiate the new family system and finding rivalry and jealousy at the same place as comfort and fun. But no matter how much discipline I meted out, Finn was still Finn. You can't discipline a child to go a way he wasn't meant to. You can't slap the me-ness out of a person. But you can direct it. And so, I changed my tactics. Became more responsive and flexible. We all adapted.
I didn't start out meaning to say any of that. What I wanted to do was to capture this specific memory:
Finn looks for somebody to come and play.
We sit at a 16' diameter table almost every Saturday night for Family Dinner. The conversation can be a little chaotic, when three generations who work and play together settle in for a weekly shared meal. A typical gathering, with the Mama Bear and the Patriarch, their children still at home, the sibs who live nearby, with their ever-expanding families, is 16 people currently (I'm sitting here counting on my fingers and toes how many people that is, running through family groups, whispering their names. We do this before every family dinner too, to get a grip on who is coming and how many seats, etc. One day, we'll figure out a way to calculate dinner attendees that doesn't involve counting fingers and toes. It's a right mess to do it that way, but I digress.)
This is the family Finn was born into and it's a little bit perfect for him. With so many options for playmates, he's rarely disappointed.
The boys inevitably finish eating before the rest of us. And we put them off while we finish our conversations, which can get lengthy. It's good to be put off, when you're little sometimes, I think it can show where family values lie. Ours lie in conversation and shared time and space, almost exclusively around the Big Round Table. But, after 20 minutes or so, Finn will start knocking on everyone's doors to see who will come and play.
It starts with him siddling up to me or Caleb and we will have none of it. We have been hassled by the children and their needs through most of dinner and aren't in a mood to deal. Finn will say, "Nobody comin' to pway wif me." And we'll say, "What about your brother?" Finn will say, "Somebody who's not Tonnor." And we'll say, "Well, have not ask not. Go ask someone nicely." And then he'll have that same conversation with the other parent before working his way around the table asking, "Are you done yet? Will you pway wif me?"
Usually someone has pity on all of us and indulges the little boy, to great cheers and excitement from Finn and Connor. Unless it's time to do the dishes, then he's never without his choice of companions.
I love that this is his family and his landscape. It fits his shape. And every time he's asked the question "But who's gunna pway wif me?", I've started singing the song Ernie sings called "Somebody Come and Play." Finn now gives me a stink face when I do it, this happens so often. But it fits. And I love my Ernie and his whole neighborhood of people to play with.
Here's the song. I sing it often.