At church, I play peek-a-boo with 17-month-old twin boys and watch them approach me with a curiosity both timid and adventurous. I wonder who I am to them. A big human? And are they just little people? They are… a spectacle, falling over their cute little pants and waiting for their mom outside the closed bathroom door, pouting and almost-crying until the door whooshes open and they forget their early tears. They are pink and they are the epitome of laughter, of joy, of wonder. They are new. They are beautiful. The boys giggle, so shy behind the familiar fabric of mom’s dress as I continue to hide my face behind plastic chairs and other furniture to entertain them. Perhaps I am all the more amused. I wish to pocket them and take them with me, to take this sunshine home.
And at home, the youngest is entering her teens, popping blue bubblegum she insists is green while painting her toes an odorous red. I love making fun of her new training bra, recounting my own stories of having walked down the shiny aisles of Target looking for female cashiers. I wish to be the older sister I always wanted, but my human-ness often gets in the way. I argue with her and then apologize, swallow my pride, feel silly for getting angry with someone so… young. That’s the thing. Growing up as the eldest of four, maturity and responsibility has been/is expected. I need to put their needs above my own, and in doing so, prove myself. “Act my age.” Aren’t I too old for silly games? Don’t I know better than to throw tantrums? I learned early on that my parents’ word was final, that I was to set an example. If I left the house, I should look back and find three smaller shadows. But I was never so good at following house rules. Many mistake my younger sister to be older. I blame her straight posture, but I know the strangers have a point. I am torn because I want to be known as the eldest, as the one who understands her dad’s sleeplessness, as the one who is quick to wash the dishes, but… but. I am quick to cry and needy for attention. I watch my sister seek independence while I cling to my mother’s skirts, afraid of what the future holds. The irony. I am full of contradictions that keep me restless and excited and curious… and constantly in need of a savior.
Right now I am watching my mom read storybooks to two girls. I watch their chubby faces light up in delight as my mother changes the tone of her voice to fit different characters. I wish to be curled up beside them, but I know the over-read book will not hold the same magic for me. Instead, I watch. The girls are talkative and fun and annoying. They know everything and they know nothing. They are endearing beyond comprehension. They are beautiful.
I know I am growing older, but I do not think I will ever be old. I will throw the occasional tantrum, and I am thankful my heavenly father is never quick to anger, as my earthly father might sometimes be. I will cry easily and then feel both sheepish and relieved while wiping dry my eyes. I will crave sweets for a long time to come and immerse myself in hide-and-seek and peek-a-boo and silly games exploring the woods and mountains and beaches. And I hope to be more like children as I grow: to forgive easily, to laugh without apology, to be filled with wonder, to seek help when I need it, to believe, to love freely.