The Gift

As I have written before, Maggie is a special little snowflake. She is not like other children in a lot of wonderful ways…and some not-so-thrilling ways. We have been coping with a bugger of a case of sibling jealousy here. Maggie seems to not take Moira herself personally; she’s very gentle to the baby. No, no, she haaaaates us to the point of hunger strikes and tantrums so violent she breaks out in hives. It’s just boundary-testing to see how much nonsense she can pull before we push her away in favor of the new baby and of course, we would not do that. We just need to wait for Maggie to internalize what we’ve been telling her all along: that we will always love her and that she is a very important member of this family. It doesn’t make it any less trying, though.

Enrolling her in preschool has been great in terms of giving her a space of her own during this transition; she is opening up to other adults, if not other children, and is settling in rather well. This year the preschool did a reenactment of the nativity for the parents with a few holiday refreshments afterward (and big, big thumbs-up to a school that will serve alcohol to the parents at noon). Because I am essentially naive, I decided Maggie would be joining everyone in the nativity play. Lots of stimuli, organized activity, responding on cue? What could go wrong?!

Obviously, this did not work out. Specifics need not be mentioned but as we walked in you could practically see the words “Bull. Shit.” pop into Maggie’s eyes. There were about 20 kids in various costumes, including an angelic little choir, and Maggie in her striped fleece hat and puffy coat, resigned to the “musician” section. Her job was to ring bells.

She did not.

Maggie did, however, come sit with Moira and me to watch the nativity play and enthusiastically clap for her classmates for a few minutes before she wandered off to rummage through a bin of stuffed animals. No doubt she wanted to cherry-pick a few good ones while her classmates were all occupied. She pulled out two I recognized from earlier in the term (“No, Maggie, those don’t go home with us! Sorry!”) and brought them over; she cuddled them as the obvious favorites that they were. I had Moira in the wrap and had juuuust enough room left on my knee for Maggie to perch.

I briefly was jealous of the other parents with their enthusiastic participants and wondered if we would ever get to the point where we could take photos of our firstborn participating in…hell, in ANYTHING. It was brief, though; she is still so young and I have vivid memories of being backstage at my first dance recital with my mother unsuccessfully trying to convince me to join my classmates in performance. Who can blame her for not wanting to don angel wings for a group of strangers?

Then I realized something else was going on. Maggie was making her animals dance and chat to each other, as per her usual. Then she stopped to stare at Moira. She thought for a few moments.

“Moira needs a toy.”

Then she tucked one of the animals–her beloved favorite–into the wrap next to Moira’s face, patted her sister gently, and resumed playing with her lone animal.

Onstage the tiny wise men were offering their gifts to the son of God, the miracle of Bethlehem. But in the audience we had our own tiny miracle too.

Happy winter holidays to you all.


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