Youngest and his best friend were going for a marathon play date. Following a birthday party for a mutual buddy Friday night, the best friend stayed the night and then stayed over through the early afternoon. When his friend's mother came to pick him up, she took Youngest with him. And they traveled from futsal game in another town to San Francisco and back again. Somewhere along the line, we decided Youngest would be spending the night at his friend's house.
That meant dinner time left us a family of four, a peaceful family of four, a markedly quieter family of four. Dining al fresco at a local Italian chain, the two kids both noted the difference in dynamics. Youngest talks. A lot. Youngest talks authoritatively. A lot. Youngest wants to be right. A lot. Youngest never admits being wrong. A lot. Youngest bugs the shit out of his siblings. A lot.
I stared down Daughter as she said something about him being such a twerp. She responded to that stare down by saying, "Yeah, I know, but we have to love him."
"No, you don't. You don't have to love him. No one can make you love someone else," I said.
The adults at the table both admitted that Youngest drives us crazy at times, too. What we want is for them to give him some slack. We want them to understand how much he wants to be their peers. But he's at a disadvantage because he trails behind him by 4 years and 5.5 years. He's gotten much better, certainly, we said, but they still react to him as they reacted to him when he was a 3-year-old butthead.
My mother always tried to force me to love my siblings. And I would argue -- because I am always right and never admit to being wrong and am an authority on many subjects and talk far too much -- that I would never love them and she couldn't make me. [Okay, I was wrong on the never point but I was totally right on not loving them at the time.] But as a kid and into early adulthood, I hated them. Truly.
I don't expect anything to change with my own kids right away. But as Youngest matures and realizes he doesn't really have to be the center of attention all the time, as he begins to yield that center stage to others in the coming months and years, yeah, they'll start to see him not as a twerp but as a human being. I'm hoping that transition ultimately leads to love. I'm pretty sure it will. And I'm nearly always right.