My son Berto made me proud on Saturday. I saw the love of God shining through him several times in his interactions with his younger siblings.
I will tell you that, as oldest siblings are quite likely to do, he often is hard on his younger sisters and brother, telling Ana to speak up, for heavens sake, and then telling all the younger kids to shush up in turns. He tries to parent them, scolding and sometimes boldly remarking that I don't discipline them enough. He rolls his eyes and crosses his arms when Ella's teacher praises her for being so caring and responsible, murmuring that she should see how Ella Boo behaves at home. He barks at all of them to stop singing, dancing or watching him play video games. He tells Daniel to stop acting like a baby.
But then there are the moments when I catch him being the ultimate big brother. I pass by the recliner where he is letting Boo snuggle up to him to watch weekend TV. I see him playing football with four-year-old Danny and letting him win. I hear him advise Ana kindly and wisely about school issues.
And on Saturday tears came to my eyes watching my oldest boy's big heart manifest itself in little ways.
Ana and Berto play for their Papa's soccer team. During this past game a boy from the opposing team and Ana collided with each other. Ana bounced to her feet right away, so that she could help the other player up. He ignored her proffered hand, but Berto walked behind his sister and laid his hand on her shoulder. It was a momentary thing, but it expressed a good deal: Hey, teammate, glad you're okay; Don't worry about it; Come on, let's kick this game into gear!
We went to our good friend Kim's Halloween party that evening. Danny Sam is shy sometimes. He doesn't even want to stay for bubbles after library story time every week, because he would have to mingle too much, I think. At Kim's party he was too nervous to jump into the games. Berto, instead of running off with his friends to get started, encouraged his little brother to join the mummy wrap.
"C'mon, Daniel," he said, kneeling down and speaking cheerfully but gently. "You can wrap me up! You want to?"
No matter how many times he tried to persuade Danny, he couldn't get him to go. Daniel hugged the porch railing. I told Berto not to worry about it, and Danny called after him uncertainly, "Maybe later, okay Berto?"
When it got dark the huge piñata was hung for the children to admire, covet, and beat the carp out of it. Kim's husband Deane is an expert piñata manipulator. The children were blindfolded and got three swings a piece, but though a couple dozen superheroes, princesses and monsters took a crack at it, it didn't break. There were many swings that didn't connect to the bouncing, colorful ball. However, every time it hemorrhaged some candy, kids rushed in at their own peril while their compatriots were still batting. It was heck for us parents to keep swatting them back to a safe distance. We knew that once it shattered, those little pirates would pile on that grass, shoving each other out of the way, with wild abandon.
So it was no surprise that Danny was too afraid to get in on the candy-snatching mayhem when it showered out, despite the fact that parents were throwing extra treats into the mix from outside the commotion. He came up to Matthew and me, crying and holding out his treat bag.
"Danny, what's wrong?"
"I didn't get any candy," my little red-eyed fellar said, slumping into me.
"That's okay," I assured him as I held him close. "You brother and sisters will share with you!"
His little face was still droopy and dejected. Ella came up and gave him a piece. Two more older friends dropped treats into his hand. Then big bro showed up, the pop star kneeling once more by his little firefighter dude. I watched them as Daniel told Berto that he didn't get any of the candy. Berto listened carefully, said some soothing words, and then surreptitiously threw some candy behind Daniel's back.
"Look, Daniel!" he exclaimed. "There's some!" As Danny scooped it up eagerly, Berto cheered, "And you grabbed it all by yourself!"
That's when my eyes welled up. I looked up at Matthew. His eyes looked moist, too.
"He's such a good big brother," I said, leaning against my man.
We both gazed on our oldest with pride.