Friday, February 06, 2009

The middle child

The other night when we came home from our Africa meeting, Dennis, Allie-15 and I were on a high. The whole ride home from the meeting, which was at the closest Starbucks, 15 miles away, we talked breathlessly about the details. We need to get your passport! We need to research where to get immunizations! What is the weather going to be like?

The other four kids had gone to church and were dropped back at home by a friend. By the time we got home, it was after 9:00. They'd had 45 minutes to get a snack, to get ready for bed, and for Ruthie-5 to become hysterical.

I could hear her crying from the moment we walked in the door. "Mommy! I thought you weren't coming back!" This is my child who doesn't even look back when I drop her off in Sunday school? Soon the wailing progressed to, "I don't want you to go to Jamaica!" She was sobbing uncontrollably and hanging on me.

(Jamaica is the trip Dennis won to some fancy-schmancy resort that we suddenly realized is NEXT WEEK!! I guess I'd been talking about it too much in front of her. Did she think Dennis and I had left for Jamaica without telling her? )

Annie-7 meanwhile was picking out her clothes for the next day. "What do you think about this, Mom?" I spent the next few minutes trying to calm Ruthie down and to get Annie-7 to stop pulling clothes off hangers and get in bed. It's a school night, after all!

I left the hysteria for a moment to get something in the kitchen. Libby-11 was sitting in a chair and gave my arm a hug as I walked by her. She looked up, hopefully, oblivious to - or maybe just used to - the noise around her, my middle child: Allie researching Africa facts, Neal making himself some chocolate milk and doing homework - and of course, at the other end of the house, the ever-rising clothing pile and the crying. "Hey, Mom, how'd you like to come sit with me?" She patted the spot beside her. "We can make some hot chocolate and just snuggle!"

My heart sank. "Oh Libby, that sounds awesome!" Her face was so expectant! I hesitated. I never mean for it to happen, but it just seems that whenever Libby wants to do something with me, the timing is terrible. More often than I'd like to admit, things fall through. But I have also learned that I should never, ever say 'no' to an offer to sit and hang out with a tween or teen. More wails from the little girls' bedroom. "It may take me a while to get Ruthie calmed down. Just give me a few minutes."

"That's okay, Mom, I'll just read a little while and wait for you." It seems like she's always waiting for me.

I went back in the girls' room and finally just got in bed with Ruthie. She clung to me with a fierceness that showed me she was truly frightened. Remind me not to say too much about our trip this week, okay? We prayed and sang songs and she finally started to relax.

Libby poked her head in the door. "How's it going?"

"Almost there!" I whispered.

Just about the time I was about to leave, Neal-14 looked in. "Mom, do we have any more pillows? Cowboy just threw up all over my bed and some of it got on my pillow."

Ruthie was suddenly wide awake again. "Ewwww! Can I see?" Can we just have a little more going on here, people?

Dennis had stripped the bed, but by the time we got everything remade and everyone settled back down, I realized Libby had given up on me. She was in her bed, almost asleep.

"I am so sorry about tonight," I said. Here I go, apologizing again. "Things got a little crazy, didn't they?"

"It's okay, Mom. I understand." You always seem to understand. That's why I feel so bad.

"I owe you some hot chocolate and some snuggles," I said.

Tomorrow morning, come what may - doggie barf, Africa-bound and/or hysterical sisters or Jamaica-bound parents - we are going to breakfast, my ever-patient middle child and me. We'll have hot chocolate and sit by each other and snuggle, and NOBODY is going to interrupt us.

I can't wait.


Unknown said...

Having four children, one in college and three teenagers at home I SO relate to this. Our middle son always seemed to be the one waiting. There was always some sort of commotion/crisis that needed my attention. A few times he just gave up and boy that pulled on my heart strings!

I pray that your breakfast will be special and a time for great conversation. I love those times when I can sit UNINTERRUPTED with one of my children and truly focus on them.

Thanks for sharing! I love your blog but never comment. At times it is almost like you are a mouse in our house and witness to all our shenanigans that are going on.

Cara said...

Thank you for this post! I have three kids 5 and under and I feel like my middle one gets lost sometimes. Our youngest was adopted this past summer and he has several special needs and my oldest started school this year and always has lots of exciting things going on. My precious middle child is a snuggle bug too. Thanks for the reminder to make special time for her!

the funky mom said...


I pray you have a wonderful breakfast together.


Mary@notbefore7 said...

Oh the balance of time with everyone. So thankful you are making time for her tomorrow. I know you both will be blessed.

You are a great example. Thanks for sharing this "reality" so honestly!

Mommahen said...

What is it about the middle child that makes them such peace livers (and I don't mean the things that come out of chickens). Mathew, my middle child, walks in an attitude of "come what may." He just goes with the flow. Never complaining. Last night I had my three and my sisters three. So in my house there was a 12 yo, a 10 yo, a 6 yo, a 5 yo, a 4 yo, and a 2 month old. Who was helping? who was trying to make things as stress-less as possible? My 10 yo.

I hope your breakfast is refreshing for you both.

Emily said...

Praying for your breakfast.... right now! Let us know how it goes! :-)

TheFiveDays said...

What a sweetheart! I hope you had a wonderful breakfast together! I've got three little ones ages 5 and under, and my middle always has to wait too. Her older brother has autism and her younger sister is "just a baby" so she often has to be the mature one (at the ripe old age of 3). It's tough being a mommy and trying to be in all places at one time!

Maureen said...

Awww, I hope you enjoyed your breakfast today. Wow can I understand that scenario. It is almost comical, although I am sure I am the only one laughing. You are not laughing you are guilt ridden. My 15 yr old daughter is always waiting on me too. And I know that this time in her life is critical. I am thankful that during these teen years she is still so receptive to me.

When my family was growing large that was one of my concerns. How in the world am I going to be able to divide my time between 5 kids, a husband and oh myself and oh my goodness God! Gotta go now off to spend time with her!!

Anonymous said...

I can totally relate to this. I have three boys (13, 6, and 2 months) and one girl (11). The girl seems to be the one always waiting. My oldest has Type 1 Diabetes, my 6 year old is demanding attention because he is suddenly not the baby anymore, and then the baby has to get a lot of attention. I always feel like I don't spend enough time with my daughter. I may try your idea of having breakfast alone with your daughter. I hope your breakfast went well!


Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

This made me all teary, and I am neither the middle child nor do I have enough children (yet) to have a middle child! Just so sweet - your compassion and tenderness for your sweet middle one. Hope yesterday's breakfast was WONDERFUL!

count it all joy said...

I can empathise entirely. I kept my third youngest up late last night just so I could hear her read. She's in third grade and I haven't listened to her read properly for a couple of months. Soooo guilty and feeling inadequate. Thanks for keeping it real.