Sibling Love

Spring is a time of rebirth, I think. When the weather starts to get better, the sun is warm and the cold snap in the air is gone, it is pleasant to be outside. Tulips and crocuses begin to bloom, the grass comes back to life, and everyone’s mood is a little more enjoyable. It also is a particularly busy time of year for everyone. Spring cleaning, graduations, weddings, babies, birthdays… there always seems to be a lot going on in the spring. In our family we have Jay J’s 18th birthday and graduation coming up, lots of home improvements including renovating a kitchen which is a ton of fun with a million and half people and enough animals to fill Noah’s Ark living in the house, not to mention school vacation, and the end of the school year. Jay J has something like 27 days left of school and he is re-inventing the term “senior slide”. I can barely slide him out of bed in the morning without yelling in his room that I will beat his balls off if he isn’t out of bed in 5 minutes. To which he typically replies, as he leisurely arises, “You don’t say that, Mom”. I believe, I just did.

Anyway. Jay J is graduating high school and we have talked a lot about that but there is also another huge graduation coming up. Jared is graduating from Middle School. To some, this may not be a big deal, but to me it’s huge. For a few reasons but the first being that I was not able to attend either JoDee or Jay J’s middle school graduation. Both for different reasons and they weren’t missed lightly, I still harbor guilt about it. And the second, my youngest child, my baby, my little monster is going to high school. I simply cannot wrap my head around a world that I have two high school graduates and third starting his high school career. How in the world this happened, I will never know. But it has me reflecting on our life. Right now there are seven of us- AC, his two daughters and my three and me- but it wasn’t always that way. For a while, it was just the four of us. Before Ex Husband Numero Dos, before AC and our new clan. Before addiction was a new character, back when I was judg-y and broke and tired and frustrated. Back when it was just me and the three kids.

Jared was born with a sign on his back that read “After me you will never want another child.” And that was no shit. He was cranky, and cry-y, and sleepless. He bellowed the second he was born, and essentially, had not stopped in 14 years. He has always made his presence known. When he was younger he went through a biting stage, when he got a little older he went through a hair pulling stage (not to be undone by the hair cutting stage JoDee went through that made Jay J look like he was fighting a terrible disease) and his whole life he went through a no-sleeping stage. When Daddy-O and I broke up, Jared was an infant still. And he rarely slept, and he screamed all the time. He was colicky which my other two never were. He hated being fed but he didn’t have any of the normal symptoms of milk intolerance so it took us a while to switch him to soy, which was a brilliant move. Within two bottles he was much happier. And finally slept- a little. But before getting to that point, I remember one night in particular that was very nasty. He was screaming so loud his face was purple. I burped him, and bounced him, and walked him. I tried a bottle, a binky, his swing. I placed him on his belly on a blanket on the floor (which sometimes helped) but nothing was working. I was so frustrated, and tired, and overwhelmed, I was really losing my patience.

By the time 3 a.m. rolled around and there was no break in the crying, I knew I had to get away from him because I was certain he could feel my annoyance. Not to mention, there is only so much a person can take- I was so afraid of losing my temper. So I went into the then-seven-year-old JoDee’s room and woke her up. I told her your brother won’t stop screaming I have to go stand outside, and I plopped him in bed with her, fully wailing, and walked out of the house, to the middle of the front lawn. I could just barely hear him screaming still. Very faintly. I started humming hush little baby to myself, to drowned it out. I looked around noticing that spring had begun. Flowers were starting to come up and our lawn needed mowed. With all the screaming I hadn’t realized how late in the spring it was. I don’t know how long it was, it felt like seconds but it was probably a full minute, and the screaming stopped. I remember thinking to myself that I was finally going crazy. I stood outside, sort of with my ear up, trying to listen. Silence. Slowly, as though each step might make the screaming start again, I walked back into the house. I closed the front door and stood in the entrance for a few seconds. The only sound was the refrigerator humming. Gingerly, I made my way to JoDee’s room. There she was, sitting up in bed, Jared on her lap, belly down, crossways. She was asleep with her chin on her chest, and he was asleep, drool seeping from the corner of his mouth on to her leg. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

I backed into her closet door, and slid to the floor, afraid that I might break the spell that made them both sleep. At some point, I fell asleep too. I woke up several hours later to the sound of laughter. At first I didn’t know where I was or why I had a pain in the side of my face. At some point, I must have fallen over, and I had a Lego stuck to my cheek. I followed the sound of the laughter to the living room. JoDee and Jay J were sitting in front of the TV watching Tarzan and eating Go-Gurts. Jared was sound asleep in his swing, an empty bottle on the floor next to it. When JoDee saw me, she just started reciting the morning events as though she was the babysitter and I just returned home from work. Jared woke at 5 and had a bottle; Jay J got up at 6 and had toast. When Jared was hungry again she made him another bottle and he has been asleep a little while. It was 8 in the morning. I realized then that JoDee was supposed to be in school. And she said she didn’t want to go. She thought (and this is a direct quote) “it is best for everyone if I take a day off from school today”. I couldn’t agree more. We all spent that day in our pajamas, eating every meal on a blanket in the living room. Jared was a little better tempered, probably a reaction to my being a little better tempered. At the end of the day, I ordered a pizza much to JoDee and Jay J’s delight, which was a huge luxury  for our limited income family. Jay J rolled his little black truck all over the place, JoDee made me play Hungry Hungry Hippo at least 13 times. At one point, we all napped together on that blanket. It was a wonderful day.

It’s hard for me to believe, when I realize spring is springing again, that JoDee went from that independent, reliable, loyal big sister to the addict that stole from her brothers and belittle them with Rage-High. And not just stealing possessions, but stealing time and attention. When I think about the three of them I know they will always have each other. They will always be siblings. They will always know each other more and better and longer than any other person that will ever be in their life. I hope with all my heart that addiction and the things that happen during active addiction and chronic relapsing haven’t done so much damage that they can’t get close again. And not just that, I hope that the scar from that Lego eventually fades!

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