Shop the fall collection ➔

It’s time to talk about my middle child, because I tend to carry a lot of guilt and anxiety about her and just push it aside. But I’m facing those feelings today; naming the reality. Maybe some mom somewhere is dealing with similar feelings. I’d love to read a helpful idea that I could glom onto. 
No sibling experience is exactly the same; I know. But my middle child is already showing classic signs of middle-child-ism. I’m hoping that’s not really a thing, but I think it might be. There are books about birth order, after all.
She hasn’t been a middle child for long. Just weeks after her second birthday #3 arrived, and a rivalry was born. She climbed up on the bed and joked. What? No, I don’t see any baby…
Lovingly characterized as our little “imp” because of her wily ways, she doesn’t always have her polite face on. I can tell she gets tired of having a good attitude all the time; saying please and thank you. She has to ask about practically everything, either because she’s still too small, or because there are others who are first in line. Oldest child is used to being first; youngest child is already a pro at the squeaky wheel principle. She’s sandwiched in the middle, which is simply code for being shoved into last place.
It’s my turn to hold you now, Mommy.
That complex phrase came out of her mouth only a few days after little sister was born. Watchful; catching me the instant I had set the baby down for a nap in the bassinet. I couldn’t. Midwife said she was too heavy. The tears didn’t stop that day. The fog of postpartum guilt was intense. 
She’s independent, and keeps it inside. When she takes a fall or stubs her toe, she just shrugs it off. No, DON’T see my owie!  I’m FINE!  It’s getting better!
I’m afraid she’s not getting the attention she needs, much less deserves.
For instance, there’s the potty. She’s transitioned really well, and even wears underpants to bed now. But sometimes we’re too consumed with the baby to remember to help her up to use the toilet in the middle of the night. Lately, she’s been waking up dry, even when we forget.
I’m so thankful. But I worry she’s having to grow up faster than she would have without a little sister to push her into this cramped, middle-child position. 
Recently, she had a birthday. (Three!)  At the same time, I finished a book. Called, How to Really Love Your Child, by Dr. Ross Campbell, it spoke to me and my husband; to the way we hope to parent, and to our current project, which is to love on the middle child better. The author explains that loving parents often unknowingly stop short of expressing love effectively. Children need to know they are loved. He’s very clear about the “how to” which is helpful.
In light of what we’d learned, her dad and I sat down to discuss what to do for her on her special day. She had asked for several things, and we wanted to understand what she was communicating to us. Something about Ariel. And a parade. She named friends her age and stature. No big kids. No babies. We realized she wanted the limelight for a little while. She wanted to feel special. 
We, of course, wanted her to feel that way, too.
I made a banner with her name on it, declaring this special occasion as all her’s. (I plan to make a banner for each one of my children, to hang when we are celebrating something for just them.)
We made chocolate cupcakes because that’s her favorite.
We played with kids her size.
We wrapped a box of cereal that would be all hers (I’ll have to write about why that’s such an effective – and affordable – present for our kids some other time).
We ate a special “breakfast for dinner” of blueberry pancakes with whipped cream, because she HATES traditional supper food these days.
And we told her a little about the bright day in February that she was born; about how special and beautiful and wonderful she is to us.
That we love her.
I really hope she knows.
I think she does.
But when the feistiness rises up in her again, I plan to cuddle her and look her in the eyes and listen to what she has to say, so she feels like she’s the only one that matters right then at that moment in time. If only for a little while.
Then hopefully, if she had any doubts, she’ll believe it’s true again.

Stephanie Ross

Stephanie is a kindergarten teacher turned homeschool mom. She’s finally living the off-grid homesteading dream (that took about a decade to agree on) with her hubby and three girls. For her, writing is a way to get the words out without having to talk; though she really loves to talk. Her favorite person to talk with (mom) has been in heaven for eleven years. She writes about living with grief, parenting, and relationships.  

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

I Wipe the Slides

In: Kids, Motherhood
boy on slide

I want you to have the most fun possible at your tiny playground stars program, so I wipe the slides. I don’t want you to have a meltdown if your clothes get wet while I’m gone, so I wipe the slides. I want to have three precious hours of only managing your little sister, so I wipe the slides. RELATED: I’d Rather Serve My Kids Than Have Them be “Self-Sufficient” I don’t want you to feel embarrassed by a big reaction to wet clothes when I’m not there to help you, so I wipe the slides. I want you to...

Keep Reading

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading

My Daughter is “Extra” and the World Needs More People Like Her

In: Kids, Motherhood
girl jumping

She is . . . extra. She just is. All the time she is extra sad, and then extra “OMG, Mom-that-was-so-epic-let-me-tell-you-everything.” Extra energetic, then extra I’m too tired to help with any family chores. Extra hungry, then extra refuses to eat the food she just asked for because she’s full. RELATED: In Defense of the Wild Child Extra loves to show how much knowledge she has, then extra doesn’t want to do her homework because she’s too busy “being.” Extra defiant, then extra brings home adorable “I love you, Mom” art from school. There is no middle ground with this...

Keep Reading