In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Living a Late-in-Life Child Life

Life is hard these days for Christa.
One of her big sisters left for Nicaragua 3 weeks ago on a 9 month missions trip.
Nine months is a long time.
Especially when you are 7 1/2 years old and you're waiting for one of your favorite sisters to come home.
Such are the travails of a late-in-life child with older siblings.
Christa wants so much to be older--as old as her big brother Josh and two big sisters, Kate and Amy. She wants to do what they do, be who they are.
But there's no way I can speed Christa's life up. And there is no "slow" button on my older kiddos' lives.
I realized early on that I couldn't fully understand my caboose kiddo's life. But I knew someone who did. My friend, Jamie, was a late-in-life child with three older siblings. Part of being a savvy Mommy-Come-Lately®, is understanding your late-in-life child's feelings--as well as being knowledgeable about the particular challenges a caboose kiddo faces.
And so, I interviewed Jamie for my book Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35.
Jamie warned me Christa might feel abandoned when Josh and Kate and Amy left home for college or got married. She suggested several ways to help Christa cope:
1. Talk about the change.
2. Create some rituals that comfort the caboose kiddo.
I've taken Jamie's advice. Christa and I have talked a lot about Amy's trip--both before and after she left. Sometimes all Christa said was, "I don't want Amy to go. I'll miss her." And I said, "Me too." I wanted to validate her feelings.
Amy gave Christa lots of special time before she left, taking her to the movies and to the pottery shop to paint a ceramic doggy.
Amy also left a special teddy bear name Jeremiah for Christa to cuddle while she's gone. She hugged it over and over again and told Christa that Jeremiah was filled with hugs from her. That way, if Christa wanted a hug from Amy, Jeremiah could give her one.
We've started another ritual since Amy left.
Every night, Christa falls asleep in Amy's bed, snuggling with Jeremiah.
So be it.
If it eases the ache in my caboose kiddo's heart, I don't mind. I told her she can keep Amy's bed warm for her until she gets home.

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