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By Contributing Mama Diane LeBleu

I just attended my third preschool graduation as mother-of-the-grad. It was Sabrina this time in another completely over-the-top celebration of that grand rite of passage known sentimentally by parents as the pay raise when no more tuition fees are due. I was a wreck and completely unprepared for the tears that flowed freely. I don’t cry at anything – not even when I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year – but when they showed the DVD and played the schmaltzy music, I found myself unable to stop the tears – even looking at photos of other people’s children.

It was just Tom and I today for Sabrina’s big event – a rare occurrence indeed, in a family of six. Danielle and Travis were off at camp and Caroline in her last day of preschool. As we were waiting for the lights to dim and the 5-year-olds to march out in their caps and tassels to ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ we were recalling the first two we had attended. As the ‘Memory Keeper’ of the family, I easily recalled the exact details of each, even Travis’ event when Caroline was just 3 weeks old and Sabrina just 14 months and I was in early days of sleep deprivation and hormonal mood swings. Tom said he didn’t remember the preschool ceremonies but he did remember Danielle’s graduation from elementary school last year. I had to remind him that he did not in fact attend – we were at the hospital for one of my many surgeries and a friend took some photos for us. His recall was a few great digital images, which is actually a very efficient way to make a memory. You don’t actually to have to go to the trouble of attending a long and painfully dull ceremony. Now if someone could just figure out how to do this with childbirth.

Why did I get so weepy this time around? I’m as sentimental as the next person, but I didn’t shed a tear when the first two stepped on the morning bus to kindergarten (Thank God, someone else has to deal with them for a whole day!).  I think it is because I feel like I missed out on getting to really know Sabrina in her 2nd through 4th years of life.

I look at the photo of me holding Sabrina on the day that Hurricane Caroline made landfall that day in May four years ago. Sabrina is just a baby herself and I am about to rock her world by bringing home another one. I have a very clear memory of me sitting in the rocking chair in the nursery when Caroline was just three months old as she cuddled in my arms, clothed in her footed pajamas, breathing softly as she slept. “This time,” I vowed, “I will treasure these moments because she is my last baby.” With the first baby, you are as clueless as they come and with the second, you are two tired dealing with a new baby and a toddler. Fast forward two months and four positive pregnancy tests later (Yes, I do know where babies come from) and it was MY world that would soon to be rocked.

Truthfully, these last four years were pretty much a complete blur with the exception of some pretty nasty poop scenes and a flushed diamond wedding ring during the really rough days of potty training. And then there was the year of cancer and treatment. I did have enough wits about me to capture these years forever in pixels of every birthday and holiday that I can continue to enjoy as long as I remember to back up my computer. Most days, it took my best efforts to keep my head above water and I confess I have not enjoyed my children as much I should.

Most days Tom and I have to divide and conquer – he takes the big ones and I get the little ones as a high-energy, blonde, blue-eyed unit. The older ones have plenty of undivided parent time as Tom shuttles them to swim (Danielle) and football (Travis) but I have been incredibly remiss in making the time for these one-on-one sessions despite the advice from an older, wiser mother of four who urged me to make special dates with each of them – that her children always treasured these true mommy-and-me times.

I know how time flies. My daily reminders are a five-feet-tall, makeup wearing 7th grader that steals my shoes and a nine-year-old son that plays tackle football. So why is it that some days, I am in as much a hurry as they are for them to grow up? Is it because I am bone weary of Chuck E Cheese birthday parties and picking up plastic goody-bag junk from the back of my minivan? Or is it the lure of that mythical and highly-elusive me-time that seems just beyond my reach? Perhaps I am just counting the days when they can all do their own laundry.

I don’t know if Sabrina will remember the events of today but I do know that the smile she had on her face as her father shot the cursory video and her dopey tear-stained mother waved at her from the third row of folding chairs will stay in my heart forever. For an hour today, we were a family of three and the effort and cost to make it so seemed to be worth it to her as she was the object of our undivided attention and love.

In a scene from one of my favorite movies “The Parent Trap,” Lindsay Lohan (darling before she became Hollywood white trash) greets the grandfather she had never before met. She hugs him and smells his shoulder. “What are you doing?” he asks curiously. “I’m making a memory.” I’ve got two months before Sabrina’s first day of kindergarten and a year before Caroline’s. I won’t forget to bring the tissues this time and I won’t wait another four years before I figure out how to give each of my children a little bit of solitary mom time. I hope that they won’t think this is punishment for wrongdoing, as teens are apt to do, but instead a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon or two. It may just be my memories we are making but I’m ok with that. I’ll bring along the camera, just in case.

5 Responses to ode to the middle child

  • ErinB says:

    this was so very sweet. its so hard to find a balance with kids- whether its work and kids or kids with other kids or just life in general. we have such high expectations for ourselves and always feel like we should give more and do more than we do….when the truth is anyone else looking at your life would say you are doing a most fabulous job.
    We are always hardest on ourselves and being pulled in so many directions makes us feel like we are never doing enough…but you are!
    Keep taking those pictures (even of the crazy I so dont want to remember these moments) and sneak in those special mommy days when you can…even when they hit those teenage years- they will remember and appreciate it…I know I did with my mom! :-}

  • christy says:

    What a moving post! I just loved reading it. And though I don’t know you, it’s clear as a bell how much you love each of your children, and I’m sure they know it too!

  • beachgirl says:

    🙁 you made me cry as its so true. I only have two but contemplating a third and worry about the balance of love for all three. Mommy guilt 🙁 how come there does not seem to be a thing called daddy guilt?

    BTW I love the way you write.

  • Mama Fly says:

    Beautiful writing. We have four children under 10 so I can completely relate to your words. I always say I am going to spend that extra one on one time, but it seldom actually happens. Your post is a great reminder to try to do better.

kelcey kintner