Displaced Family Home Evening

 

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by Heather

One Monday in April we drove past the Temple here in Boston on our way home from taking Dave to the airport. It was almost 8pm and there were virtually no lights on. The girls commented on this and I explained that Mormon temples are closed on Sunday and Monday. “Why Mondays?” Millie asked. “Because of Family Home Evening,” I guessed.

Georgia said we forgot to have FHE last week and needed to do it tonight (she is our rule follower). When we got home I put Bea in bed, lured Jonah upstairs with the promise of the TV show”Chuck” after, and we all piled onto Georgia’s double bed with the latest issue of The Friend. Millie picked a story about an 8 year old boy whose parents divorce. When the mom remarries and has twins, the kid feels neglected and displaced. The metaphor for it all is the family walking to church, mom and dad side by side, each holding a twin, and the son trailing behind trying to keep pace. It was actually very depressing but led to a great discussion as Millie wanted to understand why the boy was so sad.

In the spirit of that whole new “let’s connect this to me” literary movement, I explained displacement to the kids. I told about how Jonah, age 2.9, reacted to Georgia’s birth. While he never took his angst out on the baby, anything new made him really mad. When I switched the dresser in his room, he flipped. When we got a bigger car, he threatened to “dump oil on it and smash rocks on it and bite its tires!” They all giggled, imagining our now 12 year old being so enraged. Next I told about little Georgia, just 22 months when she was kicked off the Baby Throne, leaning over and pretending to kiss Millie and then biting her with all her might, leaving dental records on poor Millie’s forehead. At that they all laughed really hard.

Now came the hard part: addressing the arrival of Bea and the impact on Millie over 3 years ago. Millie was 4 and lived the role of “Baby” the same way that method actors like Daniel Day-Lewis embody a character almost to the point of madness. Every time I nursed Bea, Millie looked like she too was desperate to latch on. Gingerly I commented that unlike Jonah and Georgia, who never remembered life without a younger sibling, Millie did. And she was Jonah’s pet (see Exhibit A below). Until the new one arrived. I then turned to Millie and did what I should have done a while ago: I publicly acknowledged her pain. “It was hard for you when Bea came. You feel like Jonah doesn’t love you as much and it hurts.” Millie collapsed into sobs and out of her mouth rushed 4 years worth of displacement pain.

Exhibit A: Joe habitually snuck into Millie’s crib.

And then the sweetest thing happened. Jonah took her in his arms and told her how much he still loved her, would always love her, and that now that Bea was getting older and into his stuff, she was the irritating one and he actually preferred Millie. She stopped crying, “Really? You’re not just saying that?” He patted her head like he would a dog’s. Jonah replied, “Nope. I kinda can’t stand her right now.” Millie beamed and threw herself back into his arms. At which point Georgia joined the hug, laying her head on Millie’s shoulder. I wanted to dog pile them all, but felt like this was their love fest. When they stopped hugging, Millie commented that it wasn’t fair that Jonah’s birth didn’t bump anybody. That’s when I told them that though their Pop would thoroughly deny it, Jonah’s arrival wasn’t always easy on him, and sometimes he felt edged out. The girls’ jaws dropped. Jonah grinned.

I also got personal about some of the drawbacks of being the baby: feeling left out, hand-me-downs, being the last one in a booster seat… I asked Millie why Bea was in the other room asleep while we were all hanging out chatting. The light bulb started to go on. “Oh…” she said. “Big kids get to do stuff babies don’t.”

We skipped the song, said a prayer, and then they asked if they could all sleep together that night. I tucked them in and they giggled themselves to sleep, treats and “Chuck” forgotten.

I’d love to report that our sweet FHE miraculously transformed my family. It didn’t. Just tonight Millie socked Georgia in the stomach because her big sister had “tooted on me on purpose!!”  But I do sense less jealousy towards Bea, and more solidarity between the big 3. Jonah has taken to including Millie more and she just glows under his attentions. I have always known that my kids really love each other. Now I know they know it too.

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11 Responses

  1. kay says:

    This was wonderful to read. I think we forget sometimes that children have feelings too which can be intense. I mean their feelings of pain rather than their pure intolerance of each other which show up so much. I cannot imagine the day ours admit to loving each other like it. As for FHE, it is my least favourit part of the week although I dutifully hold it. When they were young we all loved it, now it is like open warfare.

  2. Erin says:

    That was a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. mmiles says:

    Beautiful!

  4. Heather says:

    1. You’ve PERFECTLY exhibited the GENIOUS in the purpose of the institution of Family Home Evenings. Every family needs a regular forum for discussion!

    2. This brought out tender feelings in myself; and for you; and for children; and just everyone- we all need to feel loved by those we love! Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Tiffany says:

    That is an awesome FHE! I sometimes wish our FHE were more spontaneous like that. I to love the touching moments of siblings. I have never had a sibling so that relationship is new to me. Watching my 8 and 7 year old fight most of the time. It is always touching when they genuinely show love for each other. I cherish those moments because I know at this stage they are few and far between.

  6. Cindy says:

    I just recently found your blog. THis post was such a treat!! Thank you so much for sharing!! Im a grandma now, and have forgotten those precious moments, otherwise known as tender mercies that parent receive every once in a while. Bless you!!!

  7. Alisa says:

    I love this story. A mesh of pain and love and healing that comes naturally from our family relationships. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Brooke says:

    You put me to tears, Heather. Great post

  9. Jonette says:

    I love your post Heather!

  10. Kiri Close says:

    beautiful

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