Both, And

Not long ago we were at a family event where a speaker began with an icebreaker question for her audience, “Who here is the oldest child in their family?” Hands went up around the room. As I raised my own hand, I glanced over as my firstborn shot her arm up in a confident and calculated manner.

The speaker went on, “What about the youngest in the family? Who here is the youngest?” I suddenly realized that our second born had casually thrown her arm into the air, half her body goofingly along with it…

She hadn’t considered the question – she didn’t pause or think, she just raised her hand and looked around the room to see who else had joined her.

I felt a nauseating jolt of adrenaline in my throat as I internally quipped, “Put your hand down – You’re wrong! You are NOT the youngest child in our family!” How badly I wanted to correct her, remind her… Really I just wanted to grab her little arm and yank it down.

Instead, I carefully swallowed as I looked above my daughters’ heads and met the knowing gaze of my husband.

With resolute disappointment, I began to change the tone of my own voice inside myself. “Forgive her, this isn’t about you. This isn’t about Graham… the deck is rigged for our family – she gets to answer that question however she wants… Because even though she’s wrong, she’s also right.”

As I carried on my internal conversation, I heard the speaker ask her final question, “And what about the middle children? Do we have any middle children here today?”

Nora, whose hand had already returned to her lap after the last question, quietly and enthusiastically rose to her feet and stretched her arm into the air as high as it could go. She didn’t hesitate, didn’t even consider…

A smile stretched across her face, as she tilted her head back and met my eye.

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