Day 3 – When you Showed Up

My Dear Third Child,

CaraNewbornThose who say that birth order doesn’t matter, must have been born first.  We know better don’t we?

You were due to arrive in this world on 10-10-10, but you just couldn’t wait.  Instead, you joined our family in the early morning hours of October 2nd, 2010. Our lives will never be the same.

A few days after your birth, your dad and I brought you home.  When we brought home our first child, there were four doting adults and one tiny baby.  It was a different story for you.  I brought you in the house and you were immediately greeted by your siblings, who had been cared for by Grammy and Papa.  Once we settled in Grammy and Papa hit the road.  There we were; two parents, three kids, and nary another grown-up in site.  What a difference a few years makes!  I remember looking down at you, looking at your brother and sister, and thinking, “well then, I guess here we go!”

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When you showed up our hearts got bigger.  It is not true that you have to make room for another child.  The part of the heart that stores a mothers’ love is limitless. My love for you was immediate, intense, and everlasting. The same is true for your brother and sister.  I didn’t love you any more or less than your other siblings, just differently. You were never last, never just another daughter, just yourself all in your own right. My love for you is all your own.

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When you showed up I got more tired.  The work of caring for two small children was easy compared to caring for three.  The diaper bag got fuller, the mini-van got dirtier, my patience got thinner, and the bags under my eyes got so much darker. It has been fun, and crazy, and busy, and brilliant. It has gotten so much easier in five years, but I am still tired.Cara 3

Since you showed up the world has been brighter.  You are a girl with a quiet strength.  People have to earn your affection and smile, you don’t give it away casually. You carry yourself with a peace and joy that is beyond your years.  You have provided endless smiles and comfort just by being around those who love you.  You have walked alongside me during some really tough times. Your famous “bug-hug” brings delight to your family members.  Your caring heart sets you apart.

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Since you showed up, I have become a different kind of mom.  You receive parenting from a “third-time-mom.”  This is a unique variety of supervision.  It’s a type of mothering that is less about milestones and more about presence.  It’s more about surviving, and less about achievement.  It’s much less about cleanliness and bedtime, flashcards and matching outfits.  It is much more about delighting in who you are, and giving you freedom to show me the way. You have always been loved and cared for, but you haven’t been pushed.  Amazingly, you still bloom, all in your own time.  Maybe that’s how it is supposed to be.

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Cara, when you showed up, I did know you would be my last child.  I didn’t know that three short years later our family would fall apart.  I didn’t know that you would spend more than your fair share of days watching your mom struggle deeply.  I didn’t know your carefree days at home would be shorter than the other kids, or that you would say good-bye to a carefree childhood so early. I didn’t know that caring for you would keep me going during some dark days.

Your brother, sister and I have delighted in you every day for five years.  Your jokes, your affection and your contentment are gifts to our family.

Since you showed up our family is complete.

IMG_1177Happy Birthday Cara. We love you.

Love, Mom

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Because I Know it Won’t Last

imageIt is true that everything in life can change on a dime. Life is full of experiences that mold and shade the lens through which we view things, whether we like it or not.  It is like involuntarily going to the eye doctor, putting your chin on the strap and looking through the refractor. The Doctor flips through the lenses, in search of the right ones.

“One or two? One or two?”

Flip. Flip. Click.

“Now two or three?

Which is clearer Dana, two or three?”

I focus on the letters before me.  I just can’t tell. I don’t want to be here. I thought my eye sight was ok. I agonize, debate, arch my brow and take my best guess.  Keep trying.

Flip. Click.

Then we get to a lens and I know immediately.  It is so clear.  I am still looking at the same line of letters, but now they are bright and crisp.  I see things that I didn’t want to see before.  I see more clearly, and with a lot of time and help, I see beauty.

Now I know how I am meant to see.


It is 8:45 on a pristine Colorado morning.  I walk alongside my children as they ride their bikes to our neighborhood elementary school. Upon arrival, my oldest two kids hug me goodbye, and then line up with their classmates. My baby still has one more year before she too must kiss me goodbye and join her peers. Not today though, today she is all mine. I turn to her and spread my hands:

“Lead the way Cara!”

Her face lights up and her feet hit the pedals.

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She leads the way alright; her way. The paths in our neighborhood wind and twist all through the houses and green space. She tells me where to turn at each junction, and I obey.  She doesn’t care that we backtrack and go the long way. She is enjoying the freedom, the fresh air, and my attention. Her small little shoulders bounce as she fights to command her bike and keep her balance. Wild ringlets stick out from under her helmet and a huge grin covers her face.

“Mom, you see! We are going this way! I know the way, right mom?!

I take deep breaths and I look around.

Yes, she knows the way.

We are finally headed toward home when she veers predictably towards the park.  There is nowhere I have to be. She is calling the shots, and I let her. I let her, because it hasn’t always been this way. I let her because she hasn’t gotten to call many shots in her short years. I let her because I haven’t always been able to be around in the mornings, and I won’t always be able to. I let her because I don’t know how the heck I am standing here today, and I can’t believe I am here, and yet I am, we are.

Today I am here, and so I will take it. Today is beautiful. My heart swells in my throat. I just stand there and soak it up.

imageAt the parks’ pavilion there is a gathering of eight or nine young moms with infants and toddlers. It is clearly a child’s birthday party; complete with cut-up grapes, juice boxes, mini-muffins, and baby wipes.  I sit on the outskirts of their group so I don’t intrude, but I can’t help but overhear their conversations.  They compare notes on potty training, sleep training, preschool visits and tantrums. They shift infants in their arms, wipe faces and fix plates of food, all the while chatting with their friends. I recognize their unique brand of exhaustion; it hasn’t been that long since I was there myself.  I want to tell them that it won’t last, that I too had babies, and now they are bigger and I don’t even know what happened. I know even if I told them, they wouldn’t believe me. It wouldn’t help them.  Today is all that they can make sense of. All that I offer is a warm and tender smile of solidarity.

I turn my attention back to my wild and free youngest child.  She climbs and slides and leaps like she doesn’t have a care in the world.  She is blissfully unaware that this stage of her life won’t last. She only knows today.

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Next year I will walk the same path home from the elementary school, but I won’t have my buddy by my side. No one will tell me which way to turn, or divert me to the park. I will feel happy and sad, lonely and wistful. I will enjoy the beauty of the walk, and I know it won’t last.