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Divided Mom Stands. United She Falls.

Shh! Don’t anyone make a move or say a word. I don’t want to scare them off by alerting them to my presence. Right now at this very minute, my three boys are in the other room – get this – playing nicely together.

I have not heard one of them yell “Stop it!”. I have not had one of them run from room to room searching me out to complain. I have not heard the heaving cries from a child flailing underneath his older brother, or the mocking taunts usually accompanied by the gyrating victory dance of “Oh yeah, I’m good, you suck, oh yeah.”   There have been no tattlers coming to tattle or whiners bemoaning their plight. The house is eerily void of the usual, “He hit me! Get off my chair! You can’t play! Leave me alone!!” banter always punctuated with a loud “MOM!” at the beginning, middle and end.

Right now, they’re all cooperation and consideration.

I don’t know what’s gotten into them.

Maybe they are still a bit shaken from earlier, when I found them jumping from the top bunk into a sea of pillows and comforters that they had pulled from the beds. Until I informed them, apparently they had no idea how dangerous this was. No one strips off all my linens unless they’re doing the laundry.

Waiting for the other shoe to fall – or hit me in the head, I tentatively peer by the archway to the living room. The floor is covered with action figures. They are very busy, setting up Skylanders, army men and Mario Bros figures; each boy with his own castle to protect.

I listen in on complicated trade negotiations.

Oldest – Can I have Hot Dog? I’ll give you 5 army men and Bowser?

Youngest – No way. I love Hot Dog, but I’ll trade you Spyro.

Oldest – What? You have Spyro too? You have all the good guys!

Oh no. Trouble.

Middle – How bout I trade you my Trigger Happy?

(Pause)

Oldest – Yeah, okay, I can do that.

Wow. Problem solved and crisis averted without parent intervention.

I love it!

Quietly I tip-toe away.

But then I realize something. If they really joined forces, I would be outnumbered in movie choices or eating out. I might have to schlepp to unwanted outings like Game Stop or the town pool if they all agreed. Oh God, I might have to get a dog. I often relied on their division to keep from doing things I didn’t want to do. Alone they were a single, sometimes whiny voice but united they were a force, their powers tripled. If they really started working together, they would be unstoppable!

Uh oh.

“Hey guys,” I call out, testing the waters, “What do you want for dinner?”

A chorus of conflict immediately responds.

“Chicken!”
“Pasta!”
“Cheeseburgers!”

Whew. Still safe.

 

Trouble..

Oh, that’s trouble.

 

 

 

 

Left the kids for a few days. It only took 12 years.

“So we’re going to grandma and grandpa’s bungalow…” My 6 year old repeated back to my nodding face. “But you and daddy are going somewhere else?”

He looked at me somewhat uncomprehending. It’s not his fault. This would be the first time we left our three boys to take a couple of days to ourselves. Of course it should have happened years ago but for one clingy reason or another, it just didn’t.

But now that we were, we weren’t just dropping them at their boring old house. We were leaving them at the bungalow colony where they spend their summers, a virtual kid haven when my husband and I were growing up, which of course is now a literal senior haven. Still, there were random kids about, long green lawns, a pool, frogs and salamanders… what else do 12, 9 and 6 year old boys need?

Their mommy, I thought guiltily.

“Yes,” I confirmed enthusiastically to his soft brown eyes and sweet chubby cheeks. “Daddy and I are going to have a little vacation and so are you and your brothers.”

He didn’t look thrilled.

Even at 6, my youngest is still the baby. He isn’t quite ready to do playdates outside of our house. He doesn’t like to go places if I’m not going, even with Daddy and his brothers. He hugs me vigorously when I leave to go to the supermarket or out to dinner. He has made some major progress towards independence this past year – Hello Kindergarten and camp! – but it’s slow going.

“It’ll be fun!” I cheered which only made him scowl at me skeptically.

When we walked into the bungalow to drop their bags and our kids, grandma was ready. “Who wants eggs and pancakes?” She asked excitedly as the boys settled in.

We left them there, among many hugs and with devices that could communicate with us with the touch of their fingers.

My older boys were good, only my youngest sat on the fence, looking at me like I’d left him in a basket with a note pinned to his blanket.

It hurt and I worried. Of course, he would be fine with his grandparents and his brothers, but he was sad, which made me sad.

Still I walked out and he let me go which was a huge step in itself. I was intent on blocking out that little face and having fun with just my husband, if we could even remember how to do that.

It turned out letting go was easier than I thought.

The minute we were off, my brain was off them as well. I was excited for our time away; our two nights and a half day. We hiked, played tennis and row boated. We talked and ate and ate. It was good, really good. Of course we face-timed with the kids and they sent back pictures of themselves catching frogs.

We were all happy and we weren’t together.

We could all be happy and not be together? It was a novel concept.

When we returned to the bungalow, their beautiful faces momentarily lit with pleasure before tumbling over one another to excitedly detail their frog catching adventures. The past days of fabulous coupledom were already long gone and it was good to be back, but now that I had drunk the Kool Aid…

“So how was it?” I asked my youngest.

He shrugged in his shy way, “It was good.”

“You were okay?” I pressed. Now that we were together, somehow I was worried again.

“I was fine.” He said and I believed him, because surprisingly I was fine too.

Turns out, getting away was good for us all.

I’m already planing our next escape.

IMG_0222

Happy

 

IMG_0229 (1)

Happy

Finding patience when you lose it

Today I realized I’ve lost something very important.

My patience.

I didn’t see it when I called my kids three times into the kitchen for their lunch but no one came until I stomped into the living room, snapped the TV shut and glared around menacingly.

I didn’t find it in the basement under the mountain of toys, the video games tossed around like garbage and the lego pieces scattered all over the floor. It definitely wasn’t under the one I stepped on.

It was nowhere in sight when my husband told me our baseball schedule for the next week… Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Monday and maybe but not definitely Wednesday.

Nor was it anywhere to be seen when my kids continuously tried to prolong staying up, even though at 11pm it was already past my bed time, by moving so slowly to wash up, then calling for drinks and snacks. I couldn’t even find it in the warm, extra hugs they tried to extract.

It certainly wasn’t under the table when I went to pick up the fork my son dropped and then banged my head.

Or in the sink under a pile of dishes.

I didn’t even bother looking for it by my father. No way I’d find it there.

Where o where was it?

For many years I gave everything, did everything and accepted everything. I had more of my patience but less of me, and it was all good. It was how it was supposed to be.

Now I feel a shift. I’m finding myself, making my needs and wants count. There will always be the household chores, moments of frustration, and times where you need more strength than others, but now that my kids are a bit older, all of a sudden I feel they’re supposed to get with the program, even though up until recently the program was I do everything.  It’s not their fault. These things take time. I’ve changed the channel on them, and I guess I no longer have tolerance for any other.

Still it’s coming. I see it when my children bring their dishes to the sink without reminder, automatically brush their teeth and get themselves dressed in the morning, make an effort to be nicer to each other, listen by only the second time I ask. And who wouldn’t smile when the kid covered in chocolate swears he ate none.

Of course there’s still…

“Mommy, I wanna build a set up with you!”

“Mommywatch me!Mommywatchme!Mommywatchme!”

“Where are my socks?”

“PLEASEEEEEEEE!”

“He won’t stop touching me!”

“Make him stop siiiiiingingggg!”

But we’re getting there…

Patience.

Could my patience be hiding in here?

Could my patience be hiding in here?

Someone’s going fishing

It was after 10pm and my husband and I had just gotten the three boys into bed. Summer it seemed had its own schedule which was basically no schedule.

I went into my 9 year-old son’s room to say goodnight but instead of a sleepy hug, he greeted me with a firm directive.

“I’m not going to camp tomorrow.”

It was not unusual for any of my three boys to randomly request a day off but usually it was more of a plea than a demand. I sighed. I wasn’t in the mood for negotiations. I really wanted to be downstairs watching Breaking Bad. My husband and I were in the final 3 episodes.

“Really?” I questioned. I was pretty adept at sidestepping this appeal and sending them on their merry way. They had a limited camp schedule to begin with, and I had no intention of losing a day to myself for no good reason. “Why?”

“It’s the fishing trip. I don’t want to go.”

“Why?” I asked again, searching for more.

“It’s boring.” He answered, but his tone was already exasperated.

“But you’ve never gone on a fishing trip. A lot of your friends love it. You might too.” I thought it was a reasonable argument, but I should know better than to reason with my middle son, especially after a long day.

“I don’t care what anyone else likes!” He yelled, sounding on the verge of tears. Then he flipped over in his bed to face the wall and ordered me out. I had lost him.

But instead of leaving him be as I should, I pressed on, hoping to draw him out.

“Is there a reason you don’t want to go fishing?”

“I just don’t want to!”

Feeling like there must be more to his adamant refusal, I continued casting questions aimlessly about to my exhausted, stubborn child, who I couldn’t even convince earlier on to try a cupcake I baked.

“Are you afraid of the water? Do you not want to touch fish? Or bait? Did something happen at camp today that upset you?”

“I don’t want to go!” He cried.

I stood there in the silent aftermath, staring at his back, considering my next move.

“But if…”

“Just go!” He finally yelled.

Annoyed at his tone but more at his unwillingness to share, I left frustrated.

This was my son who wanted to sing, played recorder, piano and was considering drums. He played soccer, tae kwon do, football, baseball, tennis, gaga and of course baseball. This morning he announced that he was also a runner and wanted to do our town’s annual 5 mile Thanksgiving run with me this year.

I just didn’t understand. He was always up for anything.

Except fishing.

I wanted to delve deeper and get to the bottom of things, but I apparently I couldn’t hook him.

Today just wasn’t my day. Maybe tomorrow.

I could wait.

The only fish that's happening around here.

Home fishing

 

Teen interrupted

“Mommy, there’s a problem,” My newly minted 12 year-old says, plopping down on the other side of the couch, interrupting a rare moment of quiet where I am actually relaxing with a book.

This better be good.

I look up at his greasy hair, clothes dirty from a day at basketball camp and face still unnaturally sheened by sweat and sun block. “ls it that you desperately need a shower?”

“Silly Mommy,” he says, flashing me his goofy grin. “No. It’s that I’m bored.”

Well stop the presses.

“Should I mention the shower again?” I ask.

“Later.” He says, and absently starts twisting the top of his hair in his fingers.

Oh. My baby is tired. The simple gesture says so, immediately tugging at my heart and taking me back at least a decade. I see him in his crib putting himself to bed, his fingers twirled in his hair. I see him at nursery when I sneak peeks through the door before pick-up, drowsy on the camp bus after a long day, at the breakfast table the morning after a late night, in bed before sleep. I see him a thousand times, his eyes a little heavy, his fingers going round and round.

A dozen times over the years I told him to stop because he was making knots in his hair. He never listened, but then he did, just by growing up I guess. I almost forgot this little signal that had me nodding and knowing that it was bedtime. God, it’s sweet.

I smile, so happy for this intrusion to my moment alone to have this moment with him. My husband and middle son are off at his baseball game. Tonight I have elected to skip the 8:30pm game, yes that’s 8:30pm for a 9 year-old, and stay home with the other boys who have been out almost every night this week. It’s not often these days that we have this quiet. It’s always race race race.

“So how was camp?” I try, although I already asked this question earlier and received the standard blank stare, followed by the standard “fine,” which seemed an effort to extract.  But now he starts talking, telling me about his day, his birthday, his last baseball game; twirling all the while.

I eat it all up and then say, “You’re tired, baby.”

“There’s a problem,” He continues and lifts his feet up so they rest on my legs. “I need a snack.”

Even through his socks I can smell them. “Oh, there is definitely a problem here.” I agree and push them off. “Come on, go shower.” I gently order and he slowly gets up to go but stops, bends down and rests his head on me for a hug. A warm, greasy, stinky hug.

I watch his hulking, itching to grow pre-teen body go. He’s so far from that little boy in the crib, but there’s still some baby left in there. And just like with all the milestones, this leap to teenager is bittersweet. I love watching him grow physically, mentally and socially, but of course with every step he takes and every inch he grows, I lose another piece of my baby.

I hear the shower go on upstairs. Afterwards, he will wash up and then retreat to his room either to read or play on his phone. He’s disappearing more and more these days, with friends, school, sports, life…

Putting my book aside, I get up as well to slice him an apple, cutting off the skins just like he likes it.

It’s not a problem.

Don't get too close

Don’t get too close

The good old days

When my grandmother used to call and ask “What’s douching?” Her quirky way of asking what’s doing, I’d generally answer, “Nothing really, same old nonsense.” To which she’d reply, “Good. That’s how you want it.”

Often I argued. “Well, sure, if you enjoy changing poop diapers or chasing down a maniacal two year-old with a blue marker and the glint of crazy in his eye.”

“Best years of your life.” She’d scoff, “Goes by like a dream.”

“Or a nightmare.” I’d quip, to be funny and also because some days it was true.

“You’ll see.” She’d counsel knowingly, “You’re gonna miss it when it’s gone.”

Not that I’d admit it at the time, but in my heart I knew grandma was right. Each night looking down at my sweet sleeping babes, I mourned the loss of each passing day; each precious giggle and milestone now stored away in the picture and video folders on my computer.

But, of course, those wistful, reflective moments always seemed to happen when my beautiful little rats were sleeping.  Before that I was counting the minutes till bedtime; puffing out deep breaths while cleaning up a bowl of cheerios my toddler had flipped to the floor, or realizing the reason why my baby had just peed through his romper and all over me was because I had put the diaper on backwards.

I couldn’t help day dreaming at times about doing my private business in private without some small creature pushing the door open, crawling in and yelling, “Mama, I sit on your lap!”  Or simply about being back with adult people and feeling smart. And not mom smart like convincing my kid that he was safe by spraying a water bottle of “monster remover’ all over his room, or sensing before seeing that my child was about to fall off a chair he somehow climbed in the 3 seconds I turned away.

Not that I’d ever knock mom smarts. Where would we be without the forethought to pack an extra diaper or stash a lollypop in the bag for just the right moment? Up shits creek, that’s where, but still, I longed for a little adult appreciation.

Although I occasionally fantasized as I sleepwalked through my days after walking from bedroom to bedroom each night; from nursing a baby, straight to comforting a child with a scary dream back to the woken baby; in so far over my head that I couldn’t even see the surface, I knew I was living my dream. That this was it. These were the times of my life, working and playing up through the ranks of ‘mommy hood’; where the work could be grueling but the gifts were overflowing.

When else would I be needed so? When else would babies nuzzle in my neck? When else would I rock in the blissful solitude of 3am with my child sleep-nursing at my breast? When else could I skip out of the house with spit-up on my shirt, dried sweet potato in my hair singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, and happily enjoy an ice cream cone with my kids without dwelling on my non-existent exercise routine.

Those were the times to remember just as much as they were the times to survive. Where the most exciting thing in my day was staying awake to fall asleep watching a movie with my husband; a long hot uninterrupted show was the epitome of pleasure, and a night out with the girls left us all flush with wine and laughter and still home by ten.

Grandma knew those days would be the good old days. But honestly, these days are pretty good as well. There’s holding my breath as my boy strikes that last guy out; proudly signing a 100 on a test after torturous studying, negotiating whether to play Payday or Monopoly.  There’s catches on the lawn, water balloon fights and a growing communication and understanding between us. We’re a little older, a little wiser but we’re still living the crazy. It’s just different.

And sometimes when I see a sweet little one giggling and smeared in chocolate, or a baby making out with his mother’s cheek, I feel my heart squeeze and just for that moment I long for the good old days when my boys were little, nothing was ever new and grandma was still around to see it.

grandma & jack

She made the good old days better.

The other chicken dance

Even though I’m busy dropping sweet corn in the boiling water, from the eyes in the back of my head I see what’s going on, or more accurately, what’s not going on.

“Why are you standing on your chair instead of doing your homework?” I turn and calmly ask my 6 year-old who smiles mischievously, bounces a bit up and down, then with contrived indignity produces a sweaty looking blue crayon he’s clutching in his hand. “I am.”

Uh huh. I roll my eyes and go back to pressing my chicken cutlets into the egg, into the breadcrumbs, then into the pan.

“He’s not doing his homework.” My middle guy accuses. “Mommy, he’s not.” His affront is never mild. It’s always palpable.

“You just concentrate on doing yours.” I say. Dip. Press. Flip.

My oldest wanders in to take his place at the table but before he does, drifts over to me for a hug. He wraps his arms around my waist and I immediately respond to his warmth. He really is the sweetest boy. There aren’t that many almost 12 year-olds who love to linger in a hug with their mom.

We start to sway a bit and all of a sudden it feels like a dance. I have a flash of my husband and his mother at our wedding; his dark head bowed to her blonde one, just a mommy and her baby slowly moving together to Through the Years; a public hug before 200 guests for a private moment where a son leaves his mother and takes a wife.

So now I’m silently crying.

And of course, my middle son who notices everything from the non-existent speck of green in his pasta to the exact amount of minutes more of computer time his brother got than he did, wants to know why. “Mommy, you’re crying.”

“No I’m not.” I laugh. “I drank too much water, so now I’m leaking.”

My little guy giggles, “Mommy’s leaking!” and my oldest smiles sheepishly then pulls away. The dance is over, there’s homework to do and dinner to finish, but irrationally I don’t want it to end. Our time together seems suddenly shorter.

“You’re not leaking,” Accuses my middle son who is also the defender of truth and justice, “You’re crying. It’s true Mommy, say it. Say it!” How did a prosecutor get in my little boy’s body?

“Okay, okay. Fine. I was a little emotional.” Then I made the mistake of continuing. “You see, I was thinking about you guys and how fast you’re growing and when we were swaying it reminded me of…”

I looked at my boys. Not one of them was listening. They all amazingly had their heads down and were deep into their homework.

Huh. Note to self. You don’t matter.

“I’m hungry.” My oldest announced and my other boys piped in the backup chorus.

Okay, so I do matter. For now. For the next few years, they need me and love me, but before I know it, they will be grown starting lives and families of their own and I will be wondering where the years went; where my babies went.

“Dinner will be ready in ten minutes boys.” I assure them and pick up the pace.

Dip. Press. Flip.

I don’t ever want this dance to end.

 

dancing with jack

 

Room to Grow

For years he refused.

“Let’s get you a new rug.” I’d say, nodding toward the 8×10 baby blue Pottery Barn square lined with fire trucks that warmed his floor.  “And maybe a new lamp?” I’d add hopefully, pointing at the matching old one by his bed.

Each time it was suggested, he’d scrunch up his face and shake his head adamantly, like a toddler who had just been offered broccoli.

“Come on,” I’d coo. “I’ll get you cooler new ones. You know you’re eight.” Then nine. Then ten. Now eleven.

“No. I like my stuff.” Was all he’d say on the matter, year after year.

I never even considered mentioning the piles of stuffed animals that adorned his bed. They were untouchable. Besides, I was really in no hurry for him to grow up either. Still, when the ‘baby’ stuff in his room outweighed the ‘kid’ stuff, I worried about the random friend of his who might come over and comment. Many are second or third born boys graced with a social maturity that my first born just doesn’t have. But while I prize his innocence, I certainly didn’t want him being singled out by a snarky 10 year-old.

My son’s attachment to his youth wasn’t just about his stuff. Easily, from his third birthday on, he would mourn the loss of the passing year. To never be three or four or five… Growing up was painful for him. He resisted hard, wanting to remain a baby forever.

I hurt physically watching him struggle, completely understanding his pain; wanting him to stay little and nestled in my arms and afraid of his growing up and away. I got it, probably more than he did.

But I also knew it was my job to help dissipate that fear, so while I continued nuzzling, I whispered warm tales of the fabulousness he would enjoy at each growing age to his covered up ears. We continued that way for years, holding on to each other, working up the strength to let go.

When he turned 11 and entered middle school, he naturally just took a step forward and I watched holding my breath. The boy who barely crossed the street on his own was now walking home with friends. And on Fridays, they all wandered en masse down our town’s main street invading local pizza and ice cream stores. It was an explosion of freedom, baby strides not steps, and my boy happily hopped to it.

But it still took me by surprise last night, when after the cat pooped on his rug, and we brought up once again, the idea of getting rid of it, he actually said, “Okay.”

My husband and I looked at each other momentarily startled, and it took us a beat before we burst into action. Immediately, my husband started clearing the rug of all the toys and crap, literally and figuratively, and rolled it up.

Then, all of sudden, my son looked around his room and said, “I don’t think I need all this stuff.”

Instantly, hoards of papers, trinkets and little toys that he had been compiling for years suddenly found itself in two separate bags – one to be tossed and one to go down into the basement.

My husband and my son worked hard and efficiently, but instead of being enthusiastic, I grew more and more melancholy. Still, I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop this locomotive. It was good, I told myself. Sudden, but good.

Then came the moment when my son looked over to his bed and asked, “Do you think I should put away my animals?”

Uh oh. I heard a tear and realized it was my heart ripping. “All of them?” I asked quietly but I was drowned out by my husband’s enthusiastic cries of “Yes!”

Ultimately we left his two favorite stuffed animals on his bed, bagged the rest and placed them in his closet. By 10pm, we were done and my son had an entirely new feeling room. One without the toddler rug and lamp. One without dinosaurs, matchbox cars and piles of drawings and games he spent endless nights creating. One with very little baby left in it.

Except of course mine. The baby who was now pushing 12.

For years he refused, but now it seems he’s ready to grow up a little. It’s a really good thing, which I’m sure I’ll realize once I stop crying.

There's no schtuff!!

Not playing is hard work

From somewhere in the house, a voice cuts the quiet with a serrated edge…

“Mommy! Where are you? Mooooommeeeeeee!”

Don’t find me Don’t find me Don’t find me.

“MOMMY!”

Sigh. “I’m in the kitchen, honey.”

“Mommy. I want to play!”

Ugh. I really really don’t want to play. “I’m washing the dishes, baby.”

“Mommy! Come on! Pleeeeee e e ease.”

“How bout I set you up at the table and you can draw?”

A brief pause for consideration, followed by a fetching tilt of the head. “Will you draw with me?”

Sigh. “Maybe later. I’m washing the dishes right now.”

“But I wanna battle dragons and Skylanderrrs right nowww.”

I hate battling. Hate it. Hate it. “Why don’t you go play with your brothers in the basement?”

“They don’t want to play.”

Well, no duh. “You have to wait, honey. I’m busy. (Warning: Combination bribery and poor parenting ahead.) Hey, how bout I put on a show for you? Maybe get you some goldfish crackers while you watch?”

“No!” Followed by a drop to the floor and pulling on my pant leg, “I want to playyyyyyyy.”

Come oooon. Go a wa a a ay. “Seriously dude, find your brothers. That’s why you have brothers, so I don’t have to play.” Quizzical look of the 6 year-old followed by quick repositioning of the mother. “I mean, you and your brothers are kids. Kids are supposed to play. Mommy has work to do.”

Smug, happy little boy bouncing up and down. “You don’t work.”

Internal sneering, eye-twitching, but voice stays reasonable. “These dishes aren’t gonna wash themselves.”

Big manipulative, adorable smile, “How bout you play now and do dishes later?”

Sideways, raised brow – what-do-you-think-you’re-a first-kid – look. “How bout you go find your brothers.”

“They don’t want to play.”

“They do. Go ask them.”

“They’re playing one-on-one basketball.”

“Then you need to go play by yourself. Do your legos.”

“Will you do them with me?”

Time to fight fire with fire. “Will you wash dishes with me?”

Silence.

Whew. Finally, he’s going to play by himself.

Then he shrugs and starts dragging a chair over to the sink, smiling brightly. “Okay, and when we’re done we can battle dragons!”

I look left. I look right, but I am backed into a sink, I mean a corner.

Damn. I’ve been played.

 

Oh we're so doing this!

Oh, we’re so doing this!

 

You say middle. I say center.

When my middle son was born, he wasn’t yet my middle son, he was the baby. Yet even then, some of his strong characteristics seemed to foreshadow another baby in our future. Like tantrums. Serious tantrums that would leave us with our heads cocked like a retriever or wondering if he needed medical attention. And social acuity. He would chat up the postman, a dog walker, a teacher. He was always finding a lap to sit on that wasn’t necessarily mine. He was the boy I worried would happily get in the car for free candy. He didn’t even need the candy, just a ready ear for his chatty little mouth.  And negotiation skills? Dang if that kid couldn’t sell a fur coat to a cat.

He had middle written all over him.

Two and a half years later, he officially was a middle child, and not just a middle child, a middle boy between two boys. Double whammy. I focused all my attention on giving him attention. I would ignore the baby in front of him and say things like, “He can wait. What do you need?”I carved out time especially for him. “Just you and me.” Wink wink. “Let’s go get donuts.” I allied myself with him. “We’re the only ones in the family with green eyes. We see better in the dark. We’re like super heroes.”

I thought that if I was careful of his feelings and was extra attentive, that we would sidestep the middle child syndrome altogether.

But he wouldn’t let me do it.

When I ignored the baby, he’d remind me that I should check on him. When I offered time alone, often he’d turn me down or enlist one of his brothers to come along. When I allied myself with him, he’d call me out. “That’s not true mommy.”

I wanted to protect him but the more I focused on him, the more he fought it off. It was like he already had a shield of armor around his heart which pretty much broke mine. I thought I had sealed his fate and he was punishing me.

But really he was unconsciously fighting against this notion that there was something wrong with him or at least his lot in life. Always the defender of justice, he wanted what the other boys got, no more, no less.

I had made a mistake. I was so worried, I was over doing it. He fit in just fine with his own unique gifts; his own strengths and weaknesses.

There is nothing wrong with being a middle child. It’s the center of things. And that’s usually where he is in most situations, right in the center. If his older brother is having an argument, he’ll interject himself into it. If his younger brother is vying for another snack, he’ll point out why I should give him one. If there’s a playdate somewhere, he needs to be on it.

He’s the only one of my children to really put himself out there and take chances. He’s the bold one; the one who will try things (Well, except food, but that’s a whole different topic.), the one who speaks his mind; who isn’t afraid of mistakes. He’s super stubborn, independent, responsible, a skillful manipulator, sensitive and full of fire.

No matter the labels, my kid knows who he is.

He is my baby.

And he’s right where he belongs.

Beginning, middle and end of story.