No matter where you stand on the whole issue of feeding your just-about-1-year-old-kid french fries, that chubby little hand reaching out for a french fry from his big sister’s sweet little fingers just has to melt your heart…right? Everything in moderation. They were just so cute, I had to snap a photo – Pen Elaine happy to be sharing her treasure with a beloved little brother and Snuggly Man giddy with happiness and relief that she was giving him some of that french fry goodness. (Of course, he would have continued yelling at her until she chose to share food.)
More than just sharing french fries, I love watching this relationship blossom and grow, from my front row seat. Pen Elaine has always loved Snuggly Man, from the moment she knew about him and then met him, she has showered him with plenty of hands-on affection. We have early photos of her adoring gaze at his tiny, sleeping face as she holds him, propped up with pillows. She instantly embraced him as one of our family. When she worked tirelessly to set up our empty danactive smoothie containers for “bowling,” she accepted the price of playing with a crawling, little brother.
In her family drawings, all four of us get equal crayon-time and paper-space.
Over the past year or so, however, that love has deepened, faced with challenges of course, but now, I think she loves him not just because he is her cute baby brother, but she also loves him because she enjoys him as a person, not just a baby to hold. Her affection for him has grown into a friendship of mutual adoration. This really hit me the other morning, when the three of us were having a plastic tea party. Snuggly Man had managed to confiscate all three toy stir-spoons, one in each hand and one in his mouth. He was very happy with this accomplishment and was making happy little noises through his full mouth. When Pen Elaine noticed and realized his antics, she started laughing hysterically, giggling and making sure that I was witnessing the spectacle as well. It was the cutest thing, and of course, Snuggly Man’s pleasure at the setup increased tenfold with an appreciative audience. They were having this magic moment of sharing life.
This young sibling relationship, that I’m privileged to observe, paints a picture of free, unearned love and affection, with no strings attached. Snuggly Man adores Pen Elaine, always watching her and wanting to copy her antics. This is despite the fact that Pen Elaine has taken to tucking a bathrobe belt into the back of Snuggly Man’s shirt, so that it serves as a leash and makes him her puppy. Likewise, Pen Elaine wants Snuggly Man to be her playmate, so she tries to “lure” him into her room by showing him toys that he’ll want to play with; she wants him to be where she is, even when she has to take a bathroom break. It doesn’t matter that while he is in her room, he may try to rip any books left on the floor or spread all the play kitchen toys across the floor…This observation reminds me of the Charles Dickens quote:
“It is no small thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us. ”
This imperfect love has somehow been pointing me back to God’s perfect love. Their generously given love reminds me of the completely free gift of God’s grace. So often, I rationalize and overthink and secretly try to earn God’s love, forgetting that I am completely incapable of earning God’s favor because it has been freely given. I recently listened to Christine Hoover speak on this topic, and I was reminded how Jesus Christ took care of it all. What a relief.
1It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
2Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
Galatians 2:16 & 20-21
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified…“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
This delightful sibling relationship is echoed in the book Princess Penelope Takes Charge, by Todd Mack, and insightfully illustrated by Julia Gran. This sibling pair has a it more of a roller coater ride of affection at the star, but they come to appreciate each other as they grow and develop. This is a really fun read that we highly recommend, particularly for when a new baby is expected!!
I had to include the following pic of Snuggly Man’s first time to tag along on a Starbucks date with Pen Elaine and me – we shared a mini scone with him, and he fully appreciated the outing.