Anna is the middle child.
I don’t know what that means really. Neither does Andy. We are both older siblings. We get being the first child. We also sort of get being the baby of the family because we each have on younger sibling. But, the middle?
It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.
Everything, everything will be just fine, everything, everything will be alright, alright.
Hey, you know they’re all the same.
You know you’re doing better on your own, so don’t buy in.
Live right now.
Yeah, just be yourself.
It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.
-Jimmy Eat World
I watch her sometimes sitting quietly. Sometimes. It’s a scarcity. There’s hardly a moment when she’s not bouncing, jiggling, moving, this constant vibration, eternal movement, flitting from one spot to another around the house like that elusive hummingbird near our front door, always on the edge of my visual periphery, all potential and kinetic energy wrapped up in this one unbearably cute, little, curly-headed bundle.
And then, she stops. And stares. At nothing. Everything. I wonder, what is she thinking about right now? What has enough force in this reality to make her cease and perch statue-like on that chair or rock or table or ground? It’s usually brief. But that’s when I watch her the most. Something about the spaces, the white between the lines, the pauses, tell me more about her than anything else, or at least, I wait and watch wondering what will emerge to the surface of her eyes and face.
But, I pause, too. Seize up a little with anxiety and uncertainty. Should I say something? Should I make her laugh? Should I teach her something? Should I ask her a question? Because I’m afraid of what voices are in her head already. I’m afraid of the #yesallwomen stories and details that flesh out rape culture, purity/modesty culture, slutshaming, and the most powerful one of all – the insidious, seemingly innocuous mentality that women are simply lesser – and the way that waits in the dark for her biding its time like it does for all our children – a predator waiting to eat away at her self-worth and self-understanding. I’m afraid my words, my teaching, my raising, my loving will only be “paper tigers and no match for the…pain inside her.”
i say love will come to you hoping just because i spoke the words that they’re true
as if i offered up a crystal ball to look through where there’s now one there will be two
dodging your memories a field of knives always on the outside looking in on other’s lives. – Indigo Girls
These are the fleeting thoughts as I watch Anna in that tractor ride listening to the older girls talking shouting laughing obnoxiously and teasing their sister – the quiet, sweet, thoughtful looking girl sitting on the other side of Anna and Desmond, the one that I wish would talk to the kids instead of the loud ones – I couldn’t help but feel helpless at the thought that I would not be the only one to influence her. But being away for the week – we had them with the grandparents while Andy and I staycationed at home – I realize I felt grateful that we wouldn’t be the only one to influence our children.
I won’t be the only voice in her head. Because I remember what it means to have the ones who you love and need the most actually be the source of the bad voices. So I’m thankful again for those other voices, the other stories, the other souls in her life. There will still be those ugly, violent ones but there will be good and graceful ones, too. Part of my job as her parent will be to help her listen to, orient and position herself towards the life-giving ones, to recognize them as the truthful ones, as the Truth, to see that she has the strength and courage and beauty to overcome the destructive, malicious ones. Even without me.
Ultimately, she doesn’t need me – she needs all of us, all of the ones who truly love her, love her in the middle, in the middle of her joys and discoveries, in the middle of her dark nights of the soul, in the middle of her heartbreak and rejection, in the middle of her becoming more and more herself. And then I remember again, with awe and wonder, as I clumsily teach her, love and raise her…the way she is raising me.