On the sidelines

My Younger Kids Get Dragged To Their Siblings’ Stuff & I Feel So Bad

With two older siblings, it’s a daily shuffle of driving, dropping, and watching.

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Two cheerful girls sisters are lying on green grass on the lawn. Children are having fun in fresh ai...
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It’s 7:45 in the evening, and I’m finally heading home with my two girls. Their big brothers are still at football practice, where my husband is coaching, so I just picked the girls up from the sidelines, where they’ve been not-so-patiently waiting while I finished up work for the day. Ideally, they would have been home — fed, bathed, and in their pajamas — by this time of night. That’s definitely where my older kids were at their age. But with two older brothers and a wild family schedule, it’s a daily shuffle of driving, dropping, and watching. One that requires my littles to get dragged just about everywhere. And I’m starting to feel guilty about it.

I think I feel the most guilty when I remember the toddler-center lives we created for my first two. Our entire schedules revolved around their needs. We never skipped naps, dinner was always served promptly at 5, and every bedtime involved a lengthy, calming family routine before we slowly rocked them to sleep. But today, my 2 and 5-year-olds are hammering Happy Meals in the darkness of their car seats before being chaotically rushed inside and thrown into bed, so I have enough time to prepare dinner before their big brothers get home. Ugh.

And they spend so much time as spectators of other people’s stuff. They go to practices and games and all the rides in between. They get dragged to open houses, school concerts, and even birthday parties when I need to stay and help chaperone for a bit. And while they seem to enjoy a lot of it, I feel bad that these events rarely revolve around them for a change. We rarely attend the latest preschool and kindergarten exhibits or at the toddler playground down the street with the perfect height swings. Instead, they’re forced to find their fun at the big kid stuff most of the time. And that feels sad.

So, last week, during a conversation with my mom, I mentioned this worry. Of course, she had terrific advice. “But wait,” she said. “You don’t need to look at this as a bad thing. They love the fun and friends they create at their brother’s things! Plus, they are learning all about support, sacrifice, and family. As long as you are sprinkling in some of their own things, they will be fine.” Whoa. Yeah, I think she is right.

My girls are rarely as happy and excited as they are when tagging along to a lot of these things, mostly because other siblings are often tagging along, too! The sidelines end up being its own playground, where they create an extensive collection of snacks and toys they brought and play with one another for hours. Maybe that’s not so different from the more purposeful social excursions I created for my older kids. It comes together in a different way, but the end game seems pretty similar. And it has the benefit of forcing them to rely on their own creativity.

If anything, my younger two are far more adaptable and independent than their older siblings. Living a life that has been less centered solely around them seems to have given them the tools to entertain themselves and modify easily in different environments and situations. They need less perfectly curated fun and entertainment. Which, now that I am saying it, is an essential life skill.

So, overall, I think my mom is right. I will not waste more time on this worry (Lord knows there are enough other things in motherhood to worry about). And I will continue semi-chaotically shuffle my family around in the best way I can. Eventually, it will all likely even out anyway. And if it doesn’t — that’s life.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.

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