Before Maryn left the Caterpillar class at our church’s preschool, her teacher told me something that I didn’t pay attention to at the time. She warned me that Maryn was so quiet, so easy going and so agreeable that she might get overlooked in kindergarten. “I don’t want her to get lost,” she said.
While her teacher was concerned that she’d get shuffled around in the mix of other kids — hardly noticed because she goes with the flow — I don’t think she ever thought that it might happen at home.
Having two daughters has been easier than Mike and I imagined. I envisioned sibling rivalry and all sorts of other possibilities that are red-flagged in child development books. Ava is sensitive and a tad dramatic, and Maryn seems to be made of steel. She is exactly like her father. Keep calm and carry on.
Is Maryn ignored? Hardly. But she’s not the headline act in our house right now. Obviously, there’s more news to report in the life of our pre-teen, who’s starting to develop stories of her own. She has her music classes and her friends, harder homework (and more hours of it), and invitations to this and to that. It’s obvious given the number of appearances Ava has made in this blog. But Maryn, now 6, flies under the radar.
How was your day at school? ”Fine.”
Do you have homework? “A little.” Do you need help? ”I’ve got it.”
You sound like you’re congested. Do you feel a cold coming on? ”I’m OK.”
You’ve done your homework all week without being asked. Do you want to go to Toys R Us and pick out something as a reward? “No, I’m good.”
She is good. But that makes me nervous — not that I’m borrowing trouble again or failing to count my blessings. Maryn is so “low maintenance” that I feel like I’m missing cues and clues to dig deeper. Is she really OK?
I’ve told my pediatrician that I know Maryn’s truly sick when she cries. The kid never loses her composure unless she’s very hurt or very scared. She fell on the blacktop at the park over the summer, scraping her face from chin to eyebrow. Maryn wailed in pain, but Ava screamed louder. I heard Ava’s call for help before I heard the little one. Mike and I were walking on the trail; the girls were running ahead of us. The minute I realized something was wrong, I blew past Mike as if he were standing still.
It’s true that kids “bounce”. They get knocked down and they get back up. However, we parents can take that for granted. I’m starting to think that we should give more attention to the child that demands the least from us. I never want Maryn to feel as though the daughter that was born first comes first. I never want her to feel second best.
Clearly, the approaching middle school years worry me. I’m trying so hard to keep Ava on a straight path. We’re monitoring Kindle Fire apps, scanning text messages via Words with Friends, listening for hints that boys suddenly exist, and counseling girlfriend squabbles. ”Delicate” female matters weigh a ton. Ava knows more than I think she’s ready for, and I’m trying to stop the clock. This in and of itself is a full-time job. Am I distracted and off balance? Yes. But I don’t want to lose one child because I’m too focused on the other.
Recently, Maryn shocked us by inviting her classmates to a playdate at our house. Clearly out of character (I thought), she told a few of her friends (who told a few of their friends) that she was having a party (on a Wednesday), and to have their mothers drop them off. When she got in the car after school, she told me that friends were coming over soon. I smiled and said that would be fun.
No…that would be at 6:00.
Three mothers contacted me to see if the invitation was real. I stuttered and stammered and slobbered. ”Uh, no…I think there’s been a misunderstanding…”. As I talked myself out of a mess that Maryn had put me in, I heard a rare noise coming from the dining room. She was under the table, sobbing.
As to be expected, I overreacted and scolded Maryn. The parents figured that it was a kid-planned event, and most of them knew I wouldn’t throw a non-birthday party on a church night through a verbal invitation extended by my first-grader. But the kids in her class might not be so understanding. In fact, they might be downright angry that she let them down.
Was this a call for attention? Probably. And that’s when I realized that I didn’t need to reschedule the impromptu party, but I needed to spend more one-on-one time with my baby. From here on, Mike and I are going to alternate going on dates with them. Once a week, we’re going to do what that particular child wants — even if it’s nothing more than walking at the track.
I grew up wishing I had a brother or a sister. Being a solo child had its advantages, but more often than not, days were lonely. Sometimes it’s hard to understand that our girls can feel the same way even though they have a roommate. It’s our job to reassure each daughter that she’s one of a kind.