My youngest child sits, sobbing and defiant, in her time-out spot by the front entry-way, next to the discarded shoes. These evening meltdowns have become more and more frequent this summer.
“What’s going on here, little one?” I ask her, only to be greeted with more noisy tears.
“I ca-ca-came in l-l-last at g-golf!” she manages to answer.
“Babe, you can’t cry because you don’t win, we’ve talked and talked about this.” I try to be gentle because of her exhaustion, but firm at the same time. ”And mini-golf is hard to do.”
Eden looks at me with her tear-filled eyes and says so sadly that it almost breaks my heart, “I’m always last. I never, ever catch up with everyone.”
It’s then that I understand. She is tired of being the baby, the youngest. Eden has spent the entire summer trying to catch up to her older brother and sister, to do the things they do, to understand all the things that they know. She is tired of hearing all of us say to her “You’re too young to try that, let’s wait until you’re older.”
I have no idea what to say to make everything better. I have no words of wisdom to give. I am the oldest of my siblings and I can’t understand her desolation at being left behind. I was always the first, the one who blazed the trail for those who came after.
I hold Eden on my lap and whisper into her hair, “You’ve lost a few teeth this summer, haven’t you? You have some new, big teeth.” She nods against me.
“So, there are parts of you that are very grown-up. And there are parts of you that are still tiny. And there are spaces right now where you are not big or tiny, spaces that are getting ready for grown-up teeth.”
She frowns. ”Will and Trinity have all big teeth. They aren’t tiny at all.”
“You are right,” I agree with her. ”But someday you will loose all of your baby teeth. And all you will have are grown-up teeth.” I draw her close in a tight hug. ”I promise you, one day you will catch up.”
Eden pulls away and looks at me. ”Will it happen soon?”
I smile and tell her, “Sooner than you think. Before you even know it, you will be big and I will be a sad, sad mommy.”
“I hope it happens fast,” Eden whispers. And I think to myself, “I hope it happens slow.”