Tonight is the eve of my oldest daughter's birthday. She is turning 10. It is an exciting time for her as she begins to explore her independence. She is spreading her wings and testing them out. She revels in the fact that she is quickly growing as tall as me. She enjoys taking bike rides with her friends in the neighborhood without me accompanying her. She is helpful and wants to do things on her own. She is blossoming, figuring out who she is and what makes her happy.
While this is an incredibly fun and exciting time for my oldest, it is excruciating for my youngest daughter. She desperately wants to be older. She wants to experience independence and wants so much to be a part of everything her sister is doing. In many ways, she is growing up much faster than my oldest, but she gets a daily reminder that she is still five-years-old.
Tonight I put her to bed a bit earlier than usual because she was exhausted. She, of course, fought tooth and nail, first on the principle that it was early and second because her sister didn't have to go to bed yet. She cried and challenged my decision. She shared in between her sobs that it is so hard to be little, and she wants to be big. Instead of arguing, resisting, or getting annoyed, I listened and connected to her sadness. I found myself choking back tears as I listened to her and watched her little body sob. It does stink to be the youngest. It stinks when your siblings get to stay up later than you, get to do things you can't do, and get to go places with their friends. I let myself remember those feelings as a young child, and I connected with my youngest and her sadness.
Instead of getting frustrated because I just wanted her to go to bed, we talked. I acknowledged the sadness, frustration, and anger. She spoke of the jealousy inside her and how she wanted to be older than her sister so she could do things, and her sister would have to watch her. As we talked, she snuggled in, and I wrapped my arm around her little body, and I held her tight. My heart was so heavy as I put her to bed because I knew all too well the sadness she was feeling. It is so hard to feel like you are being left behind. It can leave you feeling like you aren't important or loved by your siblings who are busy growing up and experiencing their newfound lives.
For those of us who "get left behind," it can feel like our worlds are falling apart. It can feel like the people in our lives who we hold in the highest regard are turning their backs and walking towards the sun. The reality is that's what they have to do, and one day, we will all do it, when it is our time. I did it, just like my brothers did before me, and my youngest will do it just as her sister is beginning to now. The truth is that the love our siblings have for us when they start to walk their life journey and become independent doesn't disappear. It may feel that way to the one being left behind, but that is the farthest thing from the truth.
Messages to My Daughters: There are times in this life that you will walk together and times when you will walk alone. There will be times when you are first, times when you are last, and times when you will be somewhere in between. My wish for you is that you enjoy your moments wherever you may be. You will experience so much in this life that lies before you. Instead of comparing where you are to where someone else is, embrace your journey. It is yours and yours alone!