It’s not unusual for the youngest child in a large family to sometimes feel like an afterthought. They are the ones who often receive the hand-me-down clothing from their siblings, the ones whose baby albums are largely untouched, if they got one at all. They are the ones who often have to learn to “go with the flow” at a very early age, being toted from one activity to the next.
And I’m discovering that with my youngest child, my 7-year-old daughter, is seemingly “growing up” faster than either of her older siblings did at that age. Even though she's only in second grade, she enjoys playing in her teenage sister’s makeup, or wearing her older sister’s jewelry. Long gone are the days of hairbows and “cute” kid clothing. Sure, she still carries around her favorite stuffed animal, even to school, and is scared to go to sleep in the dark. But when she speaks, she speaks like she’s 7 going on 17. I guess I have her big sister to thank for that.
There are glimpses of her teenage years already coming into view, and I’m not ready for it. But there come surprises with that, too.
Last week, I was reading a book to my youngest child at bedtime, a ritual that we do every night. It had been a long day at work, my oldest child had had a doctor’s appointment and a dentist appointment that day, our two oldest kids had had a Scout meeting that evening, and I had to work later than normal that night. Life with three school-age children is a practice of detailed scheduling and transportation management.
And it was while reading a book and going over the long mental checklist of getting things ready for the next school day that it hit me — we failed to do homework. I had gotten an email from my daughter’s teacher about math homework that night. But my husband had been at home with the kids after school and I knew he hadn’t seen the teacher’s email.
“We forgot homework!” I told my daughter, upset that after a long day of juggling we had seemingly dropped the ball. I yelled down the hall, toward my husband, “We forgot homework!” as I started to question whether or not it was too late to get out the backpack and get it done or if we should get up earlier than normal and do it before school.
But then my daughter interrupted me. “I didn’t forget,” she said. I asked her what she meant.
“I did it after school in my office,” said replied, referring to my home office that she commandeered as a part playroom, part “homework room” after I stopped working from home because of the pandemic.
“You did your math homework — on your own?” I asked her. She nodded her head yes.
“Did Daddy help you?” I asked. She said no.
“Did Daddy remind you to do it?” I asked her. Again, she shook her head no.
“I did it on my own,” she said. “It was actually kind of fun.”
I sat there in shock for a moment, stuttering on my own words, before I congratulated her and told her how proud I was. She took initiative, she took responsibility, and it was another reminder that she’s getting older and can do more things on her own.
Childhood is full of surprises, and children grow up way too fast. But sometimes, those surprises turn into proud moments when you think to yourself that maybe you are succeeding at parenting after all. Moments when you realize, your kid is going to be just fine.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Math homework crisis turns into proud parenting moment | THE MOM STOP