Almost 12 years ago, when our eldest child was just toddler, we discovered that we were having another baby.
I was dazed. Totally didn’t expect it. Wasn’t trying or hoping to increase our family at the time. I had just recovered from a long drawn out something (maybe I’ll tell you about that some time, but probably not).
But what I truly felt was pure joy. After all we had been through in the previous year, a new baby was joining us. We started thinking up names. Girl names. And boy names. For some reason we kept coming back to the name Rachel Marie and I became convinced that this baby was a girl.
And then we lost her. I never got to hold Rachel here on Earth, but I fully believe I’m going to meet her some day in heaven. It was a hard time for all of us.
A few years later, we welcomed Mary into the world. David then was no longer an “only,” and that rocked his world.
I’m not saying that he disliked her or was hateful to her. But imagine being the only apple of your parents’ eyes for 4 years---for your entire life. And then losing that.
Being an only and then being the eldest---it’s a gift. My husband and I are both eldest children. You get to curl up in Mama’s lap before anyone else is ever there vying for the other knee. You teach Mom and Dad what being a parent is all about. You get to do most everything first (especially if there’s a big enough age gap). As you grow older, you tend to be the one the parents rely on when they need help.
But being an only is hard, too. There’s so much hope and worry focused on you that failure, well, it’s just not an option. And by the time number 2 child comes along, there seems to be a permanent furrow in your brow.
And then a little sister comes along. You love her like you’ve never loved anything else. But she’s kind of annoying, too. And she always wants to tag along. And you have to share Mama’s lap. You have to share everything.
But then, you’ve got dibs on everything. Half her toys are your hand-me-downs. Everything she does you’ve already done. Everywhere she goes you’ve already been.
And just when she’s trying to decide if she’s ready to potty train (20 months), along comes her 2nd brother. And it turns out that he has a rare genetic disorder and all kinds of special needs and suddenly, she’s not the baby anymore.
Except that she really was still just a baby.
How much of who we are comes from when and where we are born?
I sometimes wonder if David would have been a different person if Rachel were here on Earth. And if Mary would be a different person if there had been more time for her to be the baby before Peter came along.
But at the same time, I know that they are the people they are meant to be. And I am the Mom I am meant to be. For some reason, David needed to come first. He needed to be there through the trials that came before Mary came. He is as God meant him to be.
The difficulty I have is in seeing his younger sister outside of his shadow. For 4 years, he was, for me, what being a child was. And even now, it’s so hard for me to see her outside of his shadow.
When we started homeschooling 6 years ago, David was in 2nd grade and Mary was a preschooler. We took her along for the ride, though. She sat there through every read aloud on ancient Egypt, enjoying every minute of it. I tried to teach her to read. But she wasn’t ready. She was only 4, after all.
For some reason she seemed behind to me. But she wasn’t. Not even a little behind, in fact, in many ways Mary is ahead of her peers. She’s even taller than most of the kids on her soccer team (and she’s one of the youngest players). She’s 9 and she wears ladies size 7 shoes.
She pushes herself. She tries to read things that are really beyond her ability, even though she reads far above her grade level. I know that it’s because she wants to catch up to her brother. She wants to do everything that he does.
She looks up to him and yet, at the same time, she sees him as an equal. She doesn’t see the 4 year gap between them. I think she wouldn’t mind being an eldest child herself. It annoys her to share with him as much as it annoys him to share with her. And then there are those other kids behind her.
Mary is the quintessential middle child, and I don’t say this to put a label on her, but to remind myself of her very unique experience in the family.
David got to be an only. Peter is the special needs kid and was the baby for almost 4 years---he’s never lived in the shadow of anyone.
And now Emma is the youngest that everyone dotes on and the true wild child. She’s never been hidden in anyone’s shadow.
Mary has always had to share everything. She’s lived in the shadow of her big brother, been pushed aside by the needs of her younger brother, and now she shares a room with her younger sister who thinks nothing of disrupting anything and everything.
This child needs the chance to spread out her wings in the sunlight. To reveal the dazzling colors of herself, out from under the shadows of her siblings.
I know that I need to refocus my energies on appreciating this child of God, just as she is. Perhaps I can make a start by redoing our sleeping arrangement so she can have her own space.
Do you have a middle child? Do you find that she/he gets lost in the shadows of your other kiddos?
This is the last week of Release the Butterflies! I hope that you have found some encouragement as my friends and I have shared how we are learning to embrace our children just as they are.
In case you missed it, this week’s giveaway is a ticket to the Ultimate Homeschool Expo---this is a wonderful resource for all parents, even if you don’t homeschool.
I invite you to read what my friends had to say this week about releasing their butterflies:
Preparing the Butterfly by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Releasing the Butterflies. Wrap-Up… by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun
And I invite you to join us! Link up your Release the Butterflies post (and grab the button)!