Laney in the middleWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
No matter what the circumstance and no matter what the degree of uneasiness, it always hurts when you have to watch your child struggle. My 6-year-old son is already experiencing those twinges of discomfort we all encounter when someone we love just can’t quite get to where they want to be.
Jack’s 5-month-old sister, Lucy, is still fighting to roll over with any sort of consistency because of his unwillingness to let her try. It’s not a case of him not having her best interest in mind. It’s quite the contrary, actually. He just can’t stomach watching her writhe around in what he perceives as pain as she grapples with figuring out how the world works. As much as I plead with him to let her labor through it, he always pulls out his chivalrous sword and saves her at the very first sign of struggle.
I know how he feels. His 3-year-old sister, Elaine, seems to be struggling, too. She’s stuck between that big brother rock and that baby sister hard place that is middle child land. It’s difficult for me to stand back and stomach her pain.
As dense as I was to not realize that our cat’s urinating in the baby’s car seat was a not-so-subtle indicator of how he was adjusting to our new addition instead of the random act of unkindness I had thought, I do realize the significance of Elaine’s here and there efforts to find out who she is. One minute she’s trying to squeeze her way into every babies-only item in our house and the next she’s trying to prove just how grown up she can be. It’s hard not knowing which way to turn when you hit that fork in the road.
On top of trying to figure out how she fits into our family since the addition of Lucy, Elaine’s propensity toward shyness makes it difficult for her to know how to fit in anywhere. As many times as I have attempted to teach her how to respond when a friendly little girl approaches her along the way, I can still just see her brain yelling at her to remain as invisible as possible. She just stays as still as she can because she just doesn’t know exactly how to be who she wants to be.
I know how she feels. As an adult, I know that this is just the beginning. I know that there is not one single fork in the road; there is fork after fork after fork. It seems that just when we gain the confidence to choose a path and get going along at a steady, comfortable pace, the crossroads catch up to us once again.
The great advantage of getting past fork after fork after fork in the road is that the more forks you maneuver through, the more quickly and confidently you make it past the next one. The great disadvantage of just starting out on your road like my daughter is now, is that you just can’t see past that very first one. As far as she can see, not knowing if she’s a baby or a big girl is the worst thing that’s ever going to happen to her.
As her mother, I wish it were.
I know what’s coming, though. I’ve already been through it all. All of the insecurity and the loneliness and the fear that visits each of us from time to time or all the time throughout elementary school and adolescence and young adulthood. You would think that such a resume of emotion would give us some sort of ability to take our children by the hand and walk them right past any such melodrama and heartache to a place of clarity and wisdom. It doesn’t.
We could tell them how to roll themselves over from here to eternity. But without letting them go through those motions and build those muscles, they will never learn to do it themselves with any sort of consistency. I have to admit that although I want Elaine to grow up and be the big, strong, wonderful girl I know she can be, some days I’m just as happy as she is to hold her and rock her and enjoy that little piece of pre-fork-in-the-road, mother/baby bond we’ll hopefully always keep.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.