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 on 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.