When his little brother was about to be born, my oldest grandson asked me if his parents would still love him as much as they did before. He had been the only child in the family for seven years. I knew he didn’t want platitudes; he wanted an answer that would assuage his doubt.
I asked him which parent he loved more. When he struggled, I intervened. I told him it didn’t matter if he had a favorite. I asked him which grandmother he loved more, me or his other grandmom. Once again, I stopped him before he was forced to answer. Did he love both his parents, both his grandmothers?
He said yes.
The heart is a muscle that stretches to accommodate all the people we love. It never runs out of room. I shot names at him, all family members and family friends. Do you love them all?
That is how your parents will feel about you when your brother is born. They will love you as much as they loved you before your brother came along, but they will make room for your brother and love him too.
That was years ago before he became the oldest of four boys. Come June there will be five in his family when his little sister is born. I understand my grandson’s dilemma. Will he be loved as much as he was before four other siblings came along?
My answer is yes. Each child is distinctive and amazing. Some of the grandkids have been mine since birth; others crawled into my lap after their parent married into our family. I like to spend a bit of time with each one, alone from the others, so that they know just how special they are to me. We talk, we giggle, we sit in quiet silence. They ask me questions or advice that they cannot voice to either of their parents, and I answer them but always encourage them to consult their parents as well.
Before each grandchild came along, I never realized how easily my heart would stretch to make room for them. The heart grows with each person we learn to love. That is probably why we hurt when they are gone.