It's freezing here in the Big Apple and this morning I felt bad for little Louisa, toddling around in the apartment for the third day in a row. So I did something truly out of the ordinary. I took Louisa on an outing that was completely for her: a crosstown journey to an indoor playground at Chelsea Piers.
On arrival, I picked up right away on what the caregivers are meant to do: sit on the side of the room and stare at our phones. I so wanted to join the nannies, but the trouble is, Louisa isn't very good at climbing or sliding or crawling through tunnels. This poor third child has not had much playground experience at all. I had to show her again and again how to climb up the ladder and then slide down the slide (as opposed to the opposite), much to the impatience of the bewildered two-year-olds who had to wait. I had to rescue her from the suction of the ball pit, and I had to lift her onto the mini trampoline and hold her hands to simulate jumping.
When Bella was born, I befriended other new mothers at a childbirth education class, a new parents' group at the Y, and at shul. We would spend hours--whole days, even--in the playground. Ruby, who was born 20.5 months after Bella, could climb to the top of the tallest play structure soon after she could walk (which was, frightfully, at 11 months old).
So what happened? Why is Louisa getting the short end of the stick?
Well, maybe the stick is just a different shape. Louisa came into our lives when we already had a busy family life that revolved around her big sisters' schedules. Louisa found a place in established routines, but she didn't completely rewrite them. (And, to be quite honest, I don't want to spend hours in the playground anymore, and that's ok.)
I've heard it said that each child in a family gets different parents. Indeed. We are different, because of the experiences we've had, the time we've lived, and the effect that each child has on the family structure and on ourselves. I didn't just become a parent when I had Bella--I kept becoming one when Ruby joined us, and I still am. Every child teaches us something new.
When Louisa starts therapy one day to talk about her early playground-skills deficiency, she can invite Ruby to join her. I realized that I hadn't mentioned my "middlest" child (so Ruby declared herself, after Louisa was born), until this post. Classic: lots about the first kid, cute pictures of the baby, and nada about the one in the middle. As a middle child myself, I should know better. Here's a photo of darling Ruby, of big personality, distinctive tastes, and infectious energy.
Louisa is lucky to have two big sisters to show her the way. Spring will come (eventually), and she'll get better at climbing and sliding. And Bella and Ruby will be there to help.