I know it’s developmental. Kids are wired to be self-centered, and part of our job is to help them understand there are other people in the world. Sometimes they impress me, like when Jaden insists on bringing his big sister a treat if he’s getting one. Haircut lolipop? He’s got an absolute code of honor that he takes a second for his sister, asking nicely for it, and actually saving it for her. She manages to thank him because it gets more sugar into her system.

Shayla struggles more with empathy, being so acutely attuned to injustice. She measures to the milimeter what her brother gets, and whether she’s getting an equally good deal. Unfortunately the past rarely fits into her calculations, so a horseback ride she got from her amazing uncles Rob and Jeff one morning during our New Year’s getaway seemed completely irrelevant to her when Jaden got a solo ride in the car with them. In her eyes it was betrayal pure and simple, and she let everyone know it.

And a polite thank you when the gift she just unwrapped isn’t what she was hoping for? Not there yet. When friends gave Jaden a snuggly blanket, Shayla was so sure her present would be similar, when she unwrapped a different toy she was unconsolable. Off the charts. You have to give her credit, she goes the full distance with her feelings. It’s embarrassing that she’s melting down and ungrateful, and I’m not always graceful about it. Though in my heart I know she has every reason for her dark moods. It has nothing to do with current circumstances, and of course that’s a lesson we could all stand to remember: we may offer a catalyst for people’s feelings, but often the cause is elsewhere. It’s not personal.

Because he’s still baby faced, Jaden gets away with more. When Uncles Kenny and Paul brought over a gorgeous brunch worthy of Gourmet, Jaden did not like the look of anything, and wasn’t shy about refusing every bit. But he loves his uncles, and is polite, so when they were leaving he expressed his gratitude: “Thank you for the yucky food.”

No little white lies for him, that boy is in touch with his truth just as his sister is.

Fortunately, as challenging as social graces can be, the kids’ access to joy is immediate and pure. Get them to the beach, the pool, a puddle, a chair that spins, couch cushions that can be stacked into a landing pad, and you won’t have to look up the definition of “glee.” There it is, the blur right in front of me, and for that I’m deeply, humbly thankful. No lie.