Monday, March 02, 2009
It seems at every turn this weekend, I was struck by how Matthew's quiet and often overlooked compassionate leadership of his siblings has set the tone for our family, and again I give thanks for his wonderful spirit. He is not the "star" of the family, he is quieter than the other two, he is very reserved with his affection and yet IS a very affectionate person...just keeps it close to the vest, so to speak. He just calmly goes about his business of studying hard, getting great grades, being helpful and courteous around the house, and working towards a bright future. He has never been the child who had to have pats on the back, or brags about his achievements. He has willingly let his needs be put aside due to the sometimes greater needs of his brothers, whom he loves very, very much.
Thursday I was walking towards his classroom and his reading teacher pulled me aside. She and another teacher I know were standing guard in the hall, and she said she needed to share something with me. Matt was working on a paper in her class about "Hopes and Dreams", and she had just corrected them the evening before at home. She said I needed to read Matthew's when it came home that day, that it had her in tears...he had written on it "I want to someday be an architect or engineer to build people homes. Mostly I want the paperwork to hurry up and get done so our girls can come home soon.". She said that she was so touched that a dream of his was to have his sisters home, that most people would expect our other kids to have their noses pushed out of joint about it but she loved that he was excited about it. I said that most people assumed that the boys would not want more additions to the family, that we got asked all the time what they thought about it, as if we were forcing something on them that they wouldn't want. The other teacher who I know fairly well piped in "Well then they don't know your family very well, do they? You guys parent differently, that's why your kids are the way they are.", which of course made my day to hear something so kind spoken about us. But also, just knowing that Matthew was carrying his sisters around in his heart all the time really touched me.
And again I am reminded by my quiet son that I am not alone in this.
Matthew went to work with me this weekend, and he told me that even if he didn't earn money he just wanted to spend time with me. We chatted the entire drive about all sorts of things, about his brothers (He said he wished Kenny didn't have to work so hard in school because he is SO SMART, and he was glad he had such a cute little brother in Josh), about President Obama, about his camera that his grandma got him for Christmas. He worked so hard that day, I felt almost as if I had a real employee there! Not much longer and he will be capable of taking orders and running the cash register. He even explained that he thought working there was helping him be less uncomfortable talking to people, which I thought was great insight for a 9 year old.
That evening, we had a friend of his sleeping over and Kenny slipped coming off the 2nd to the bottom rung of his loft bed ladder and fell on his arm. After icing it and calming him down, I determined that we needed to go to the ER, as to me it was obvious from the kind of swelling that he probably broke it. I told the other boys it was time for bed, and Matthew was the first one, in front of his friend to say "I'll be praying for you Kenny, that it won't hurt and isn't broken". Of course, it was broken but thankfully not badly. Kenny left the ER with a splint and we will be taking him to the orthopedic MD this week to determine if he needs a cast or a removable splint while it heals. Kenny actually did really well considering his incredible fear of all things medical, and once he realized it would probably be only Xrays taken he settled down. My brave soldier walked out with a smile and a sling, and slept well that night. I count ourselves lucky that with 3 boys this is our first broken bone.
Kenny's big concern was being at school and having to use the bathroom, and being unable to get his pants up or snapped. I asked him if he would feel ok if we asked Matthew if he would help him, and he brightened up saying "Then I wouldn't feel scared, Matthew would help me!!". So last night I explained it to Matthew, telling him how uncomfortable it would be for Kenny to ask someone else to help him in the bathroom, and Matthew readily agreed laughinly saying "Yea, I see him naked all the time, it is no big deal for me and he shouldn't be embarassed if I help!". He then proceeded to take a shower with Kenny and wash his hair for him.
I thought about it a lot last night, how Matthew's kind, quiet leadership of our sons has made such a difference in our lives. Not many 9 year olds would willingly talk about prayer in front of their friends, or would show such care of their injured brother. They wouldn't admit that they love spending time with their mom, or that they carry hope that sisters they have never met will join our family even when one of them will once again take over his place as the eldest in the family. Quite honestly, without Matthew's special heart I doubt we could ever be successful at any of this, we are breaking all the "rules" by adopting out of birth order once again. But Matthew is a true leader of his sibling tribe, he is the Quiet General who leads by example. And what an awesome example that is.
During these waning days of summer, new adults are slowly blossoming and, for one, childhood is very gradually beginning its tentative wave...