Watching from the Sidelines

My sister in law and 9 year old brother in law are here for a visit. Today was a lot of yelling and squealing (and of course, tears). We made cookies and bubble gum and pizza and I was exhausted by the time the girls got in bed. I had gone non-stop all day and came down to veg.

My brother in law struggles with reading and part of the arrangement he had made with his mom is that he would keep up on his nightly reading while he was missing school.

When I came into the living room, his eyes were red and welled with tears as he tried to sound out simple words with his sister. He squirmed and wouldn’t sit still and got red in the face and oh, my heart broke for him.

He is such a wonderful little boy. He plays babies and dollies with the girls when I know very well he would much rather be playing hockey or baseball. He lets them have turn after turn, forgoing his own. He lets them choose the movie or the bubble gum flavour, you name it. He loves them so very much and quite solemnly informed me, as a five year old boy sitting beside an infant Leila that he would die for her.

Watching him struggle, watching him get so upset, I wanted to pick him up like he was my own child and rock him and tell him it would all be ok. I wanted to take the book and read it with him and somehow, magically fix it. I wanted to call his mom and ask her if she had thought about a tutoring centre or an after school program and what has his teacher said and have you thought about reviewing the basics again and, and, and…

But I won’t, because I can’t, because quite frankly, it’s none of my business. It’s not my place.

How do you watch from the sidelines? How can I not worry about his self-esteem? He’s a smart boy, but I can see in his face that he doesn’t believe it. What about the kids at school, do they tease him? Is his teacher understanding? Does she help or hinder? But like I said, it’s not my place.

This is when family lines blur considerably. When your mother in law is still raising children of her own. Or when your husband’s family insists you are family, but that line exists, still, that you can’t cross. And I’m not saying that’s right or that’s wrong, it’s merely the complicated nature of human relationships.

But oh, how I worry about him, through the years as I watch him grow. His heart is pure, but his life is complicated already. How quickly innocence begins to fade, and self-doubt and insecurity starts to set in.

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