Dear Youngest Daughter,
There are so many times I want to say I’m sorry. Times when I feel that in being born second, you somehow got slighted.
I remember a few occasions when you were a baby that I had to stay home from work with you; it felt so foreign to be just us. As I entertained you with Sophie the Giraffe, I realized how little I did this, how much I had with your sister. But the minute she came home, I understood why. She was your playmate whereby I had been hers. I worried when your sister didn’t want to sign up for tee-ball or dance, but all she really wanted to do after school, she said, was play with her baby sister.
Your sister had four whole years of my undivided attention. Even after you were born, there were days when she and I were off from school that you went to daycare and we did something fun together, something you were deemed too little to do: an afternoon matinée, a trip to the pottery store, a round of mini-golf. You grew wiser, and these rendezvous became more secretive, but I told myself that it would all even out in the end.
As notices come home from preschool reminding parents to write their child’s name inside their coats, I never need to comply. Yours are already labeled in black Sharpie marker with your sister’s name. Your crib, your clothes, your books, your bows–all of it, before it belonged to you, it belonged to her.
When you got your first cavity, I nearly cried. This was certainly my fault. I meticulously brushed your sister’s teeth well into kindergarten, but you? In the bathroom you were left under the watchful eye of your sister. Even when you asked for my help, there were times I was too busy or too lazy to assist you. “You’re a big girl; you can do it,” I would tell you. Walking into the dentist’s office for your filling, I worried that I would be mom-shamed. The hygienist reassured me that many children, a lot younger than you, got cavities. The dentist told me that sometimes air pockets form in a child’s baby teeth, making them more prone to decay: I shouldn’t fret. But I did. I watched from the folding chair as they numbed up your little mouth, and I was convinced I was the worst mother in the universe.
When your sister’s Friday folder came home from school asking parents to register their children for the upcoming school year, I immediately went online to take care of it. It wasn’t until weeks later that I sat up in bed in the wee hours of morning, my eyes popped round in horror. I hadn’t signed YOU up for kindergarten. You weren’t in the school system yet, and I had neglected to add you. I had neglected to remember that you too would be attending elementary school next year. And as I rushed to the computer to take care of it, the system would not let me: Your application is complete. Try as I might, I could not beat the system. Instead, I had to walk into the main office of the elementary school and admit my mistake: I had forgotten about you.
I could write a whole list of things that your sister has gotten to experience that you have not, and I could go out of my way to spoil you in an effort to make up for it all. I could buy you clothes and toys that you do not need. I could throw you lavish birthday parties to reconcile for the past four years where I tried to get away with convincing you that your sister’s birthday party was also for you. I could do that, I could, but I’m not going to.
You see, there is one thing that you have that your sister does not. There is one gift that I gave to you that I never gave to her. A gift that is better than any other material gesture I could make. You will never outgrow it; you will never tire of it. You will never be at a loss when it is around. That gift, is having a big sister.
Even when there are times that I may fail you, she will not.
Your sister has loved you from the moment you entered this world. From the second you inhaled your first breath of cool air, she has been there. You have, nor will you ever, be alone.
Your sister has fed you bottles of milk and spoonfuls of mashed peas, but she has nourished your soul in more ways than your body. She has provided you countless hours of laughter and has rubbed your back when you cried. She has played with you on the living room rug for entire days without tiring and had sleepovers on your trundle-bed, night after night, upon your request. She has taught you songs and read books to you. Together, you have created works of art.
She has paved a path for you, letting you watch her work so that “you’ll know what you’re doing in third grade.” She has told you “That’s good problem solving!” when you were working hard, and she has believed in you. Remember that time at gymnastics when you were scared to jump out of the butterfly window into the foam pit below? She kept telling you that you could do it, and as she and I watched you fly from the ledge that first day, she looked at me with a gigantic smile. Your success was partly her own.
Your sister has a very sweet heart. She is sensitive and kind. When she accidentally does something that hurts you, it is she who cries. Selfless. Patient. Her traits will serve you well, especially in times when you may not see eye-to-eye. For even when you annoy her, she will love you more.
When the summer starts dwindling and you take those first steps into your kindergarten classroom, she will be right by your side, and she will be so proud of you. If you get hurt on the playground, your sister will pick you up and kiss your bruised knee and your bruised ego. And later on, when it is your heart that is hurting, your sister will heal that too.
You see, like you, I am the little sister. Like you, I had cavities when my big sister did not. Like you, I wore coats inscribed with someone else’s name. In so many ways, I am like you- or rather, you are like me. And your sister- she is just like my sister.
When I watch you two building towers with Lincoln Logs or dressing up Barbie Dolls, I see me and my sister, many years ago, doing the very same things. I remember how my big sister played school with me, something I believe shaped me into the teacher I am today. I recall the conversations we had in the dark, stifling giggles so as not to wake our mother, or times when I reached my hand out across the expanse to hold hers and was comforted.
As we grew, we created memories that were just for us. I know that you and your sister will do the same.
I may not always be the perfect mother. There are times when I will be disappointed that I didn’t do better by you, or by your sister. But in giving you a big sister, I will always be thankful: It is one of life’s greatest blessings.
Photo Credits: Jami Lynn Photography
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