The other night there was an epic meltdown over the mere suggestion that my youngest might try a music camp this summer or fall. The Husband is convinced we must push him to do something and he will push sports if I don’t intervene. It’s not because The Husband is pushy. It’s just sport is the no-brainer. Sports is what we know and what our other kids do and this kid would probably be good at whatever sport we pushed. However, sports is not his thing and as a youngest child who played sports because everyone else played sports before me but I probably would have loved just being in the chorus of any school’s production instead, I’m extra sensitive to this kid being signed up for soccer against his will.
Thus the conversation about music camp, or electronic camp or inventor camp or any damn thing he wants camp. All this camp talk led to massive tears and screaming that might have alerted our neighbors to call protective services if they were so inclined.
In the middle of the meltdown I had an a-ha moment and shared it with the boy. “This thing you’re feeling”, I said, like the sage that I am, “this things that’s got you all wound up like bugs are crawling all in your heart and through your lungs” (we’ve clearly had this conversation before) “this thing is fear”.
He responded with silence and wide eyes so I jumped on the chance to explain.
This led to a family conversation about how we’re all afraid of new things and things we don’t really understand, even mom, mostly mom. We can choose to give in to it and never try anything but then we’ll be old and angry because everyone else is off doing cool stuff and we’re stuck in a rut. Or, we can fight it and try new things and then use those “Trys” to decide what we really like and what we can leave to someone else. All three kids joined in the conversation and it seemed to pacify all of us.
Later, when I walked the dog, the real a-ha came.
This boy is exactly the way he was as an infant and so are the other two. You know how you’re supposed to teach babies to self soothe in order to help them gain a bit of indepenence (and allow you some much-needed sleep)? Well, with each kid that self-soothing pattern has almost exactly translated to the way they act today.
The Girl loved a wind down period and was content sucking a pacifier and looking around until she got naturally drowsy. But, if she woke up in the middle of the night, she cried and cried until someone came in and gave her back her pacifier and then she fell right back asleep. She knew what she needed. She just sometimes forgot how to get it. Now, she still knows just what she needs, but sometimes she loses her place and wants someone to step in and point her back in the direction she’s always known she wanted to go.
The Middle One, he’s been in charge of his own self since minute one on Earth. He dove for his crib and feel asleep with his arms behind his head and his ankles crossed like he was lying on the beach. It was always his decision to sleep, eat, play and the only thing that got him riled up is if he couldn’t figure out the problem and might (God forbid) have to ask for help. Today, as long as he believes he is either in control, or his feelings have been appropriately heard and noted, he’s easy as pie. If you cross him or if he gets frustrated about not being able to do something on his own, the wrath is like nothing you’d ever imagine could come out of such a sweet faced boy.
The Baby? Well, the baby didn’t sleep for two years and quite honestly the only time I could guarantee he wouldn’t cry was if I had him wrapped up against me in the tightest carrier made for babies for years passed the expiration date of those carriers. It was as if he didn’t trust his own thoughts enough to even try to self-soothe. If he couldn’t do what his older siblings were doing exactly the way they were doing it, he didn’t even want to try. Can’t walk? I’ll make mom carry me so I’m not looking up at people. Sleep behind bars? Nope, I’ll cry ’till they bring me into a bed. Scared, nervous, anxious, tired? I’ll get mom to help. Today, he still climbs up in my lap to be soothed. He still gets most upset when he’s asked to decide who he is. “What do you like to do?” at dinner that night was perhaps the scariest thing he’s ever been asked.
He doesn’t know and that is almost as terrifying as what he must do to find out.
Being the youngest is tough. Being the youngest of a bunch of achievers is even more tough. As his mom, I want nothing more than for him to not only figure out who he is, but learn that he is smart enough, capable enough and can trust himself enough to choose whatever is right for him, even if it doesn’t look like anyone else.
As a mom who is the youngest, I’m committed to making this so for my baby because I know how great if feels to figure out who you are and feel good about it. Even if it isn’t like anyone else you know.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.