“I have the greatest sister ever,” my 7-year-old son, Jackson, chirped as he skipped along the beach, chasing 20-month-old Olivia. I smiled and sighed. I knew that my son truly meant it.
Jackson adores his sister, with as much love as a boy can have. His love for Olivia bubbles up inside him, spilling out in hugs, playful games and words that many 7-year-old boys would never dare say.
But two years ago, the scene was very different.
To understand it, you really would have to know how intensely Jackson feels every emotion and how desperately he longed for a brother.
When Jackson was 2 1/2 years old, he even had an imaginary older brother—who had died. His name was Kieric and he had been hit by a car.
Jackson talked about his imaginary dead brother every day for about eight months. He told his preschool class about Kieric on family-tree day and asked me, “Mom, why didn’t Mrs. Wagg put Kieric on my family tree?”
A year later, my twin sister had a daughter, Julia. Jackson was devastated. “I didn’t ask for a baby sister, I asked for a baby brother!” he cried. “How can we fix it, Mommy?” I think he honestly thought God had brought the wrong baby. (And yes, for months Jackson insisted that the baby was his sibling, not his cousin.)
Julia helped ease Jackson’s loneliness and, eventually, he stopped talking about Keiric.
Then I became pregnant. When I told Jackson, he was elated!
But shortly afterward, my baby died. Coming home from the hospital and having to tell Jackson that Mommy was wrong, we wouldn’t be having a baby, was the worst day of my life.
He burst into tears. “No, Mommy, you have a baby in your belly. I saw it!” How could I tell him that under that tiny bump was a baby whose heart had stopped beating?
I had to wait two weeks until my body finally miscarried. Then the long months of trying began. Eventually I was ready to give up. But I knew I had to keep going for Jackson.
Finally I got pregnant again. Now I just needed to prepare Jackson for the chance that the baby was not a brother but perhaps a sister.
“No, it is a boy,” Jackson insisted. So I decided we would find out for sure. If it was a girl, I didn’t want heartbreak on the day of our baby’s birth.
The doctor gave me the news in a sealed envelope. For some foolish reason, I thought I would let Jackson be the one to open it.
I gave him the envelope in the parking lot of his school—another mistake. He tore it open and handed it to me to read. My heart sank. “Congratulations, you are having a girl!”
told Jackson. As he threw the crumpled paper on the ground, he screamed, “I hate that paper. I don’t want a baby sister.” I was horrified and devastated. Tears welled up in my eyes and I thanked God I had my sunglasses on.
How could this happen? This was the sibling Jackson had begged for! God, what am I going to do?
“Jackson,” I reasoned with him, “Some families have one boy and one girl. Some boys don’t have brothers. That’s life.” He looked at me and spat out, “Well that is not the life I want!”
He was still crying as we drove home. It was my second-worst day.
As the months passed, Jackson continued to insist that the doctor could be wrong.
But then Olivia Jenae was born. And Jackson fell in love with his baby sister. It was instantaneous. He was gentle, protective and proud of his baby.
For months, I never heard him even whisper about a brother. And when he finally admitted that he still wanted one, I knew it wasn’t because he didn’t adore his sister. He just still had his dream.
But I’m not sure that even a brother could bring Jackson more joy than Olivia has. They are a perfect “match.” They’re both bright and extremely verbal. They both are obsessed with relationships and desperate to love and be loved. And they both are hysterical.
Olivia is a tough little toddler who believes she is a big kid. She’s never intimidated by her older brother and cousins. Most importantly, Olivia is not afraid of her brother’s wildness. She is wild like he is.
When I watch Jackson delight in his little sister, it is with relief and joy. I realize there is no “planning” when it comes to having children. We don’t know which children we will be given and which children will be taken away.
But I am holding on to the happiness we have. I don’t know what will happen in the future. And I don’t think about what might have been.
I just thank the Lord that I have a son and a daughter who were made for each other.