Back-to-school buzz is everywhere, isn’t it? I know you’ve noticed—you sat in the shopping cart while we picked out school supplies for your big sister, frowning over all the brand new pencils, notebooks, and markers (“Can I just have the orange one?”). You watched as we labeled and packed them up in her backpack, and dutifully tagged along as we dropped her off on her first day of first grade.
As the second born, it probably feels like you’re constantly playing second fiddle. Your sister is older, taller, more self-assured. When she does something big like heading off to school for the first time, your dad and I can get a little carried away because it’s a milestone we’ve never experienced as parents either.
But I want to remind you of something really, really important: your firsts matter just as much as hers.
Right now, you’re too young to grasp what it means to be the middle child, sandwiched between the pioneering oldest and the “awfercute” youngest. Believe me, I get it—I’m in the middle, too. People will tell you how lucky you are to be second, how you’ll benefit from having more experienced parents, skirt the coddling as the baby of the family. Well-meaning teachers will compare you to your older sister, say how much they loved having her in class, what a great student she was. Strangers will gush over your adorable little sister, exclaim how fun it must be to have her around to play with.
Sometimes, it will feel like it’s always about them, and never about you.
In a few days, you’ll start preschool. Your dad and I are veterans this time, of course, having sent your sister a few years ago into the very same room. We know the teachers, and they’ll remember your early morning perma-scowl (it’s why we enrolled you in the afternoon session, by the way). But what they don’t know, what your dad and I haven’t yet experienced, is you in this moment. Not your uncertain half smile as you pose outside the door for a ceremonial photo. Not your finger painted wobbly letters and gluey macaroni art. Not your puffed-out chest distributing cheese crackers as the designated “snackee” of the day. It’s all new to you, which will make it all new to us.
Because even though this path has been blazed by your older sister, you’re making it wider. You’re adding unexpected detours and giving us beautiful new views.
Before you were two years old, you talked in complete sentences. I remember us standing in line at a department store one day; we’d just dropped your sister off at school, and you started jabbering in your tiny toddler voice. A woman ahead of us glanced back, then did a quick double-take when she saw it was you doing the talking. “How old is he?” she asked, incredulous that such a small person could carry on such conversation. When I told her, she shook her head and smiled down at you. “What a smart boy you are, with so much to say!”
How right she was: you have much to contribute. You have stories to tell and pictures to paint of things we thought we’d already seen. From your spot in the middle, you’re discovering the joys of life in a new way—in your own way—and helping us discover them again, too.
And that, my child, is something only you can do.
This post originally appeared on Assignment Mom.
Carolyn traded a career in local TV news for a gig as a stay-at-home mom, where the days are just as busy and the pay is only slightly worse. She lives in flyover country with her husband and four young kids, and occasionally writes about raising them at Assignment Mom