Another article my sister wrote

Friday, July 25, 2008

The big kid

It’s a picture that will live in my mind forever: Frank walking down the road at Brookfield Zoo, his 4-year-cousin Skylar holding one hand and his 2-year-old cousin Billy holding the other.

Frank, who looks small in relation to Caroline, and is smaller than most boys his age, towers over his much-younger cousins, and he relished the role of being their leader and protector.

Due to a variety of circumstances, the planned zoo trip between our two families ended up including just Frank and me along with my sister and her three children, Skylar being the oldest.

So when she and Billy asked to get out of their stroller, we told Frank he would have to help us keep an eye on them. We piled bags into the stroller seats and pushed it, while my sister carried 5-month-old Zoe in a sling, and watched Frank take charge.

When we came a playground marked as most appropriate for children ages 2-5, Frank hung back and watched his cousins play. When we went into a building, he held the doors. When we went for food, he stood in line with me and helped me carry it back to the table.

Usually, when it’s just our family, Frank is the little guy, the one we try to make sure doesn’t get lost, the one who still holds our hands the parking lots, the one who can’t always see everything.

Caroline, with her 10-year-old sophistication, can be a great big sister, sparking Frank’s imagination with games involving their stuffed animals, or comforting him when he’s upset. But she likes to tell him how things are, or at least, how she perceives them to be. And she perceives herself to be the leader.

That’s good for her, but Frank needs chances to be the leader, too — and not just to lead his parents around, because he knows we’re humoring him.

His younger cousins aren’t humoring him when they take his hands so they won’t get lost. They’re just trusting him to know what he’s doing.

And when he has to, he does. He stayed close to us, asked which way to go when he didn’t know. He told Skylar when she climbed too high on the barriers, and told us when she didn’t climb down. He stopped running around and came to see what he could do when Billy fell and hurt his knee.

He didn’t whine or complain once. He liked the chance to be the big kid.

That’s not to say he always wants to be the big kid. He still likes to cuddle on our laps and to hug his stuffed animals.

Caroline sometimes says she’d like to be little again, with not so much pressure and responsibility. Her pressures — mostly selfimposed — are real to her, even if they’re not the kind that come with a mortgage and kids to feed.

But I don’t think she’d want to trade places with Frank permanently. Maybe just take a walk in his shoes every once in a while. Just like he got to.


Post a Comment