The kindness of a snow fort

On Sunday night, we got the call from our school district around 7 p.m. With snowfall of 5 to 8 inches expected to hit in the early morning hours, school would be cancelled.

Of course, all four of the kids were elated. But the youngest couldn’t wait to make plans for the next day.

“Maybe we can get everyone to build a snow fort?” she suggested. “The other kids told me that one time there was a blizzard and they built a fort with tunnels throughout the WHOLE back yard!”

These are the moments that my heart sinks with mom guilt. I know that the primary objective of her siblings will be to sleep in, hang out with friends or maybe play XBox. I feel terrible that her older three siblings all got to be young kids at the SAME TIME. They were their own permanent play group. The three of them would work together to build a sledding hill, a snowman or a fort. They would gather their friends and go sledding together.

While there are so many benefits to being the youngest, I often hate it for her. I want her to feel like she’s part of a family that plays together, not an only child who is stuck with just her mom and other friends to provide entertainment.

I also was the fourth child in my family, so I tend to go overboard to protect her from feeling the sting of being lonely or excluded. I beg the others to take time to play a game with her or take her out for ice cream. While they often respond with open hearts, the reality is that they are busy with their teenager lives and just don’t have a ton of time to invest in their little sister.

I was trying to get as much work done as possible Monday morning before she woke up. As soon as she was out of bed, she was ready to start planning a day of fun in the snow. I told her I needed to work a few more hours, but maybe she could use her cuteness to convince her oldest brother to help her get started on a snow fort.

I came downstairs a little later and found the two of them searching for their snow pants, boots and gloves.

Then, he surprised me with the news that made my day. He had sent out a group text to his friends inviting them to come over and help build Jayda’s fort.

Around lunchtime, teens started showing up. They filled big containers with snow and packed it down to make large snow bricks. Within a few hours, she was standing inside a fort that was so big and tall she wouldn’t have ever been able to make it with only friends her own age. They filled garbage cans with snow and carried them to the backyard.

As the temperature dropped, they all came inside for big bowls of soup and chocolate cake. They sat around telling funny stories about their childhood and laughing. They let her into their circle without question and included her when they decided to play a game.

Her childhood is different than it was for the older three. I try to remind myself that it doesn’t mean it’s worse. It doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s the only version she will ever know.

But the fourth born mom of the fourth born child is always exceedingly grateful for the special moments when they extend so much kindness to their little sister.

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