With my daughter, it’s so much more than simply "the youngest child" or "the baby of the family."
A few days ago, Autumn announced that she wanted sisters.
Her 4-year-old face was pulled into a scowl. It wasn’t a request—it was a demand.
She’s said similar things before but usually framed that she wants to be a big sister. I’ve told her that we’re not having any more babies, but she will get bigger so (in a sense) she is growing into a “bigger” sister to her older brothers. At the time, that seemed to be enough to satisfy her.
But this time was different.
“I want sisters,” she said, arms crossed over her chest. “Two sisters.”
I bristled a bit. Luckily Ger jumped in, surprising me with his response. “You already have two sisters,” he replied, referring, of course, to Nelle and Iris.
While the acknowledgment gave me relief, it did nothing to appease Autumn. “NO I DON’T—I DON’T HAVE ANY SISTERS!” she yelled. “AND I WANT THEM.”
I walked away, leaving Ger to explain what he meant by “having sisters that are not here.” We don’t instill much of a concept of heaven or hell with our kids, so saying that we have babies somewhere else would likely confuse her. And be wholly unsatisfying, since she clearly wanted sisters she could play with.
I parent her differently because she is my last baby. I’m sure many parents feel this way, especially as baby bottles, toddler toys, and diapers leave the house. Just last weekend we got rid of the toddler bed and Autumn is now in a “big kid” bed: a loft with a twin mattress that she’ll use for years.
When I pick her up from preschool each day, I always say, “Hi, baby.” I’m very conscious of my word choice. It’s a reminder that she’s my baby… and she is getting bigger. She will start kindergarten in the Fall.
But with her, it’s so much more than simply the youngest child or the baby of the family. Her big smile and boundless joy ease the reminders that if either of her sisters had lived, she would not be here. The large age gap between Autumn and her brothers makes it easier to view her as the “baby.” She feels so little, so young. Even though I know she is saying and doing things at a normal pace for a 4-year-old, it’s always a comparison to a 10-year-old and 12-year-old.
I don’t wish for time to slow down, since I love interacting with my older kids. But I revel in her age far more than I did with her brothers. I was perpetually exhausted by kids that were only two years apart. Now they are far more self-sufficient. She gets the undivided attention of a parent tucking her in at night or can ask someone to sit and color with her. Being able to parent her differently is an unexpected gift of the age gap.