Clara is heartbroken. She sits on my lap wailing with toddler abandon into my chest. She repeats the same words over and over. "Is Boo Boo? Is Boo Boo?"
Boo Boo - the nickname we have for her brother. With urgent insistence she makes her demands, as clear to me as if she had said, "Where's Ben? I need him. Please go get him." I try to console her, repeating words that are now like a mantra. "Boo boo's not here. He's at school" and then she cries harder, her sadness momentarily replaced with anger at being denied what she wants most. In finally learning how to speak her wishes she believes she has earned the right to have them answered, immediately and without question.
And then her anger gives away again to grief and she asks again, plaintive and frustrated, certain I must not have understood. "Is Boo Boo?" And the cycle begins again. Anger and sadness tumbling over each other like kittens. We've been doing this for ages now, minutes that feel like hours. And it was the same yesterday. And will be again tomorrow.
Clara misses Ben.
I remember when I made plans for this school year. Ben would go to preschool 3 days a week and I would have those mornings alone with Clara for some special time together. To get some things accomplished. And I think it actually was like that at some point. I remember it vaguely, like a pleasant dream. Laundry and housekeeping interspersed between play dates and books, stacking rings and snuggles. Was it really only a few months ago?
At some point, however, my spot at the center of Clara's universe was displaced by the silly, sandy haired three-year-old in my home. Her love for Ben is now an obsessive, all-consuming first-love kind of love. (Albeit a trashy version that includes public screaming matches and occasional violence.) "Is Boo Boo?" are the first words she utters when she wakes up each morning. "Is Boo Boo?" is what she says each time she cannot locate him. "Is Boo Boo..." off and on for hours each morning he attends school unless I spend every moment distracting her in play. I now count the minutes until he gets home, so I can have a reprieve, and accomplish something without a distraught toddler hanging on my leg.
I should be thankful she adores him so. And I am. Mostly I am. In fact, in a bizarre way, it is an answer to a prayer given when she was born. Lord, let my children grow to love each other. And they have. For Ben loves Clara as well, in a less intense, doting kind of way. He says often "I am glad we had a baby sister" and my heart melts right then and turns into a puddle on the floor. Thank you, Lord.
But this. This new need to be with him constantly, it does not bode well for our Clara. Even now, I am seeing Ben start to crack under her unrelenting attention. Pushing her away as she throws herself on top of him to smother him with affection when he awakes from his nap. Locking himself in his room to play with trains, while she sits outside the door screaming. Saying, earnestly to me "Clara needs to take a nap." Translation: "Please, mom, I love her but I need a break." And who can blame him, it is a tiresome, endless job even for one who is thankful she is here.
And I am reminded yet again of a love affair. One that is hopelessly, jealously lopsided. And as she sits on my lap wailing for him, off at school and thankful for his hours of freedom, I know she has a long road ahead of her. A road that will hold much disappointment and waiting between her hours of joy. It's the road of one who loves unequally.
And to her, for now, he is worth it.