Mine In The Middle

Middle kids. Always drawing the short straw, am I right? This one feels it the most. My middle is stuck between an older sister who has several different appointments throughout the year and more demanding developmental needs, and a younger one-year-old brother who constantly keeps us one our toes.

Her independence makes her easily overlooked; often leaving her to take the backseat to her siblings. It’s the unfortunate role that sometimes comes with birth order. As cliche as all the middle child stuff is, she is a textbook case. Never one to play independently and always wanting us to impress us with a new skill she’s learned. She has big feelings and vies the hardest for our attention. Sometimes I have remind myself that her meltdowns are simply her way of saying that she needs us. Because life and time don’t always allow for everyone’s needs to be met on cue, she’s learning to be a little more patient and I’m learning out how to pick up on her signals sooner.

We’ve found our happy place on Mondays this summer. Her big sister has respite and her younger brother goes to daycare. Leaving us with a few hours to ourselves. Once we run the errands and complete the household tasks and paperwork, we carve out special time for just her. Yesterday I promised an afternoon of pedicures. When the nail salon was closed–because, of course (thankfully I called first)–I had to improvise quick. I poured her a smoothie, turned on Pandora and set up a home spa; allowing her freedom to choose as many nail stickers and colors as she wished (including the glitter polishes that take three years to dry). She talked so comfortably with me, and we bonded over our love for Kacey Musgraves.

After her nails we’re done, we baked a giant batch of cookies together. I let her dip her fingers in the cookie dough more than once and scoop all of the cookies onto the pans. We grabbed two glasses of milk and a few cookies, then settled in for a treat. Her smile radiated throughout the afternoon. “This is the best day ever mommy. I liked this better than going somewhere,” she told me. “I just like being here with you.” 

I am not a perfect mom. Far from it. I yell more than I like and I mess up plenty as I go through the motions of motherhood. I’m always learning from our kids. I love how each of them specifically teach me something different. She shows me it’s not grand gestures and big things. It’s not expensive days out or long weekend trips.

While those things are still great and we still enjoy doing them, it’s that extra ten minutes of snuggling or one more book before tucking her in that matter so much to her. It’s playing catch outside or taking a quick walk down the driveway. It’s one more extra high push on the swing or a living room dance party. It’s sitting down to string beads into a bracelet and wearing it after she gifts it to me. It’s finding patience when she’s most upset. It’s giving her the space to be herself and making time for her. It’s simplicity in a world that constantly tells us we need to do more in order to have happy kids.

I am extra thankful for the opportunity to spend our Mondays together. From one middle child to another, I relate to her in ways she doesn’t yet understand; and I see her more than she realizes.

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The Last Firsts

I can’t imagine a bigger thief than time. The fact that one year can pass by so quickly is both amazing and upsetting. At this time last year, I was preparing for our baby boy’s impending arrival. Swollen, grouchy and uncomfortable yet embracing those final weeks.

Man I miss that bump…sometimes.

Somehow I am currently preparing for his first birthday in a couple weeks while trying to figure out where the last twelve months have gone. So check in on me friends, because I am struggling at the thought of never having an infant of mine in the house again.

You would have thought that I mourned this phase once already when we sold all of our baby items after our second daughter was a toddler. We (and by we, I mean my husband) were sure there wouldn’t be another baby for us. Whatever I didn’t pass along to family and friends, I sold at a garage sale. It didn’t sting at the time for me, though, because I secretly knew that there would be more one day.

Maybe that’s why this time feels different. We have officially committed to the completion of our family, and the realization has set in that we will never again live out those beautiful first year milestones with a baby. As my son’s first birthday approaches, I find myself hopelessly longing for those precious and fleeting moments once more. It all caught up with me at once. These are our last firsts and there is no redoing them.

Basking in newborn splendor as the summer sun crept across the corner of my bed early in the morning. The up-all-nights that had me running on fumes and coffee for days on end. The first time I saw his face and our first nap together in our birthing suite. The first sleepy smile and the first time he slept through the night. His first bath, first trip, first foods, first tooth. The first time I heard his rolling laughter and the first time he army crawled across the living room floor rug. The last time he used the bassinet and the first time he went to the crib. The last time he wore newborn clothes before packing them away. The last time I used my pump and the final time I fed him a bottle before transitioning to sippy cups. The very last time I walked out of the hospital as a new mom, and the final moment we welcomed a brand new baby home.

No more dirty burp rags scattered throughout the house. No bottles drying on the drying rack or empty formula containers on the counter. No jumperoo, play mat or walker under the living room window. The spaces in our home that were once totally occupied with baby necessities are freeing up as he grows, and it is a bittersweet reminder of how quickly time is passing by.

Looking back I think of all those sleepless nights I was quick to wish away, the challenges that tripped us up and the times I desperately wanted things to be easier. Life goes by fast enough without me rushing along the rough parts. There is room for growth in chaos, too–a lesson hard learned this past year. So don’t worry mamas and daddies of the itty bitty ones; we’re all just wingin’ it.

Side note: babies were easier in my twenties. 

Gone are our baby years, yes. An incredible season that has come to an end. Transitioning from one stage to the next is busy and beautiful. In an effort to shield my mama heart, I am trying to not dwell on the finalization of our baby years by welcoming gratitude for having them in the first place. Walking the very fine line where change is good and necessary, but also surprisingly hard. Such is the contrast between grasping the things that keep him a baby and letting go (ever so slightly) so that he can grow into the wild toddler I suspect he will become.

Before I know it, another stage will pass. More rapidly than I will ever prefer; just like his sisters before him. And that’s okay because I can take all of this with me. Every memory. Every milestone. Every little thing. I write them down, share it here, put some in a slightly neglected baby book and refer back to it all anytime I want to say, “…look how much you’ve grown.” That’s the best part. Being able to say we did it all together.

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Baby boy, I am so excited to celebrate your first trip around the sun. We love you beyond words!