Perhaps it’s because he walked in their feathers when he wasn’t yet two, but Xander is the champion and friend to our chickens.
Without fail, he daily fills their food and water bins and peeks into the nesting boxes for eggs. When the mercury dips below freezing he frets over their welfare and changes out the frozen water barrels twice a day.
Caring for the chickens was never assigned to Xander– he can’t check it off his job chart or collect coins for his efforts– he simply cares.
Lucy too, recognizes Xander’s heart. Throughout the day, there isn’t one child who pets Lucy or fills her food bowl more often than the others (and I’m the only one, forever and always, who changes her kitty litter), but at night she seeks out Xander’s bed and curls herself contentedly at his feet. When we did the great room switch this fall, she followed Xander to his new room and the top of the bunk bed. We laugh nightly, watching her navigate the window sills and lampshade just to reach her favorite sleeping partner. And when the littles drag their blankets and pillows under the Christmas tree or to the basement for a slumber party, Lucy seeks out Xander and nestles at his feet. He is safe; he is good.
Everything about home life delights Xander, he is always eager to work in the garden or chop vegetables for soup. He is the child who pushes me to decorate early and lavishly for holidays and takes great pride in our family culture. A perfectionist at school, Xander is never happy with anything but 100% and straight As; his teachers are alternately amused and overwhelmed by his demand for knowledge.
But from me, Xander never demands perfection. He blatantly adores me and tells me so almost hourly (will that change as he enters his teens?). I never anticipated this part of mothering– the affection and acceptance from these people I love more than life.
Twelve is a momentous age in Mormon culture– much like turning thirteen for Jewish children. In a few days he’ll become a Deacon: passing the sacrament and walking through the neighborhood on freezing Sunday mornings to collect offerings for the poor. At our house, it means he’s responsible for his own laundry (though, overachiever that he is, he’s been doing it since last summer).
I am not anxious for this child to grow and change– but I know he’ll do it well.
p.s. I know this seems like an over-the-top braggy post, but 4th children get very little recognition. And I restrained myself quite a lot… a lot a lot.