Dear Youngest Child,
The other day when you crumpled on the sofa and told me your brother and your sister never wanted to play with you anymore, I felt my tears getting ready to spill over.
I know you miss the days when your siblings didn’t care so much about their friends and their social lives, and this is new for you. I know it’s hard to understand why your big sister no longer wants to make blanket forts and have slumber parties in your room on Friday nights.
I know it hurts you when you ask them to ride bikes, and they ignore you or seem too busy.
I also know you don’t mean to hurt my feelings when I offer to play with you, and you say no. I know playing with them beats hanging out with your boring mother.
I know that your relationship is changing, and you’re wondering why they’ve left you. I know you miss the friendship you used to share.
I know it hurts when they don’t laugh at your jokes as hard. No one likes to feel replaced, and just because you’re 11, doesn’t mean you don’t recognize that.
Seeing your clutch your toys a little tighter as your siblings walk away crushes me. There are times when I think maybe it’s even harder for me than it is for you. I want to make it better for you, but I can’t. I’ve even thought about forcing them to play with you, but no one wants to be forced to do anything.
I know this isn’t about me, but I am making it that way for a moment because I know I may never hear the sound of you whispering with your brother and sister again the night before a big event that excites you all so much you can’t sleep. I realize the days of you spreading Legos all over the floor and losing yourselves together for hours might not ever happen again.
I try not to let on how much it hurts me. Not only do I feel sad for you—I know it’s not easy being the youngest—but it also reminds me of how quickly you all change, which guts me. It’s a small taste of what life will be like when you’re no longer with me every day.
But maybe that’s what these stages of letting go of each other are supposed to do for a parent: let us down easy with one change at a time, so we’re okay by the time you do leave us.
And the thing is, I know you will be fine. I know it won’t hurt so much after some time has passed. I know the three of you will coexist, do other things together, and this is the end a stage in your lives that you will look back on fondly.
But to me, it feels like something is gone that we can never have again.
It’s okay for you to miss and mourn that time. And it’s okay for me, too. I know there will come a day when this doesn’t hurt us so much, but in a way, these pangs are gifts. They remind us of moments when we were deeply happy.
Believe it or not, you will create new memories with your siblings. It won’t be long before the three of you are driving off together for a day at the beach, or are all sitting around the kitchen table talking politics. Our family will change, but we will always be here for one another.
Just remember, your mother may not be as fun as your siblings, but the love I have for you is immense. And I’ll play with you anytime.