To my middle kid, I’m in the middle, too.
I stayed home with you and your brothers today because you’re all swimming in snot and sound like tiny emphysema patients trying to balance coughing and giggling over in the corner as you repeatedly smack elephant-beetle, colored Play-Doh donuts into your plastic table.
Your baby brother is in my arms admiring you, watching your every single move. Your big brother is instructing you on his seemingly genius dip, cook, frost, sprinkle method, and your eyes watch him so carefully as he demonstrates. Your tiny feet, sprinkled with those weird spots on the soles, barely touch the rainbow Play-Doh confettied concrete floor. I spot your tippy-toes swinging back and forth, trying to reach the floor, secretly as your hands keep busy on the tabletop. Soon, I feel you drop your footie-pajama feet on my shins under your baby table. You sigh a big, raspy sigh as your beautiful black-brown eyes lock with mine, and you purse those pink, baby lips that sing more than they say, and smile—relieved you’re no longer carrying the weight of trying to be something you aren’t quite yet.
Because after all, you’re right in the middle—of everything.
You’re in the middle of a baby and a big boy.
Of fulfilling dual roles as both a big brother and a little brother.
You’re in the middle of bottles and sippy cups.
Of needing me and not wanting me.
You’re in the middle of growing big and staying little.
You can’t yet touch the ground with those perfectly symmetrical toes, but you’re not quite sure enough of who you are and what your path is to release your grasp, tuck your claws and fly solo, either.
You see, my middle little, you’re my most low-maintenance kid and that’s hard for you during this season of our life. You’re not throwing up eight different kinds of formula or relentlessly arguing with me about how many reindeer there are while ripping ornaments off our Christmas tree and throwing them. You’re easy. You’re compliant. You’re happy. You’re consistent. You’re a dream.
Sometimes, when I lay you down each night in your baby crib with your Avengers, big-boy covers and kiss you three times under your chin where baby rolls used to be, I’m overwhelmed with guilt.
I wonder if you feel forgotten as you watch me walk to the nursery with your baby brother from the bathtub, promising you I’ll be right back to get you.
If you feel lonely in your crib as you watch Monsters, Inc. and drift off to sleep listening to me sing your favorite lullaby to the baby just feet away from where Spider-Man, not your mommy, is keeping you warm.
I wonder if you feel loved enough after watching your daddy constantly console your 3-year-old anxiety-riddled brother.
If I held you enough because your love language is snuggling, but there’s a 3:1 kid to lap ratio right now.
I wonder if, and then I hope and pray, I made you feel on top of my world instead of in the middle.
Because, precious dude, I know what it’s like to be in the middle. In the middle of a season where I don’t recognize myself. In the middle of a season that is so uncertain. In the middle of being everyone’s someone. In the middle of waiting to become who I was meant to be.
Just like you, my hands and heart are busy and I’m holding it together, but I’m navigating the emotional path of self-discovery. I, too, am in the middle of figuring out how to put my feet on the ground under the table, clutching self-security long enough to let go and fly . . . just like you.
So this morning in the middle of our living room floor, covered in snot and tears and other questionable baby fluids, in the middle of baby babbles and a ridiculous 3-year-old toddler tantrum, you backed into my lap and slowly sank into me. You let out that big, raspy sigh as I wrapped my arms around you and held you so tight. Your perfectly round head rested against my chest, and your snowy white-blonde curls tickled the bottom of my nose. You smelled like lotion and Teddy Grahams and apple juice. We stayed that way for a long time. Right in the middle. Because I see you. I get you. And in the middle, right where we belong for right now, we found ground in each other.
Previously published on the author’s blog