I don’t know how the cantankerous child that screams, “You idiot, NOAH!” is the same one who crawls into bed with me and peppers me with kisses each morning. But he is.
The more carefully I watch, the more I am inclined to believe that the screams are more in self-defense than anything else.
My little Jesse is the tail on the dog. There is something about a little brother that lends itself to being pestered from the oldest siblings. Particularly if one of those siblings has Asperger’s and is absolutely energized by the little one’s screams, particularly if his OCD means that repetition is as natural to him as breathing and so his poking and punching and pushing of Jesse mean he flaps and stiffens and grins with delight. That is a thing I hate about Asperger’s: the way it makes hateful things delightful for my sons. Like pestering. Like screaming. Like the pressure of a heavy hit – against themselves, or each other.
But Jesse finds a safe place in me. He is loving and tender, he is affectionate and grateful. His words toward me are rarely, if ever, cruel. He opens doors for me, because I am “a lady.” He says “may I please?” if there is something he wants. He does his best to clean up. Today, after being asked (only once!) to make his bed, he pulled the covers up over his pillow and tucked his bunny underneath. I very nearly passed out from sheer happiness.
His status as “mama’s boy” is legend among our friends and family. But I wonder if it is because I find all those sweet things in him that his siblings are too young, or too busy tormenting him to see. A mother sees what no one else does. And she rarely, if ever, forgets. She will not forget the hands pressed to her face for a kiss, or the song sung while playing his tablet (“I love my mama, I love my Ma-MAAAA!”), or the encouragements, or kindness, or prayers (“Please Lord, let mama feel better”).
But to others? Well. Jesse isn’t always given a fair shake. He’s written off as “difficult” or “defiant,” stubborn or contentious. And I love him but can’t deny he is probably all of those things. My little boy is as hard to please and as quick to anger as any child I’ve met. But when he is sweet, it is a wonder.
I can do nothing about the birth order of my children. I know Jesse will always be my youngest, and therefore subject to a certain degree of the “obnoxious little brother syndrome,” but I can show his siblings by continuing to love Jesse and point out the things he does for me that he is very often the sweetest thing.