I'm not sure at what point, "Would you please get off the roof" became a part of my regular mothering, but it surely didn't exist when my firstborn, Branden, was growing up.
I vividly recall making sure that the moment Branden was finished with the toys, they were properly placed back in the toy box. If the binky fell on the floor, I had at least two spares. If the bib failed to perform its duties, I had three other outfits in that monstrosity we called a diaper bag.
I would stare at these poor, struggling moms in the grocery store who were battling their toddler, and losing, over a bag of M&Ms. I confidently told myself "I will be more successful and I won't have that problem."
Two years later, we welcomed a baby girl, Kourtnie, into our family. It was more work, but the routine remained the same. They were close enough in age that even as they got bigger, rules were essentially the same. Truth be told, I relied heavily on Branden. I would make a game out of him getting me diapers and wipes from another room. Or the baby bottle out of the fridge. He became my right hand man and made the days easier.
Five years later, our youngest son, Kolbie, was born. The effort required was exponential. Even though we only added one more child, it felt as though we adopted triplets. Once Mom and Dad are outmanned, it becomes exceedingly difficult to maintain even a tolerable level of chaos.
And by this child, who needed bibs and extra binkies? Spit-up stains became fashionable and the five- or 20-second rule was in full effect.
I wish I could say that the confident and together mom who existed during the early years was still alive and kicking at this point.
I used to run to the pediatrician at the first sign of green snot. Sometime between Branden and Kolbie I received my master's in general medicine and I could diagnose strep throat.
New standards were set for emergency room trips and they were deemed necessary only if a bone protruded through the skin or a child's bleeding couldn't be stopped with a kitchen towel as a tourniquet.
I recognize that those of you still in the trenches with a firstborn toddler find this harsh.
Those with teenagers are giving me a high five.
I don't think I ever knew that as my parenting evolved, the kids' personalities were being modified. As if allowing the baby in the family to become a complete tyrant isn't bad enough, your Type A personality has carried over to your firstborn and you essentially deemed him a third parent. And just when you think you can't embrace any more of your parenting miscalculations, you begin to notice the idiosyncrasies of the middle child.
I never saw it through their eyes until recently. To us, they have to wait exactly the same number of days to be allowed to go to the skating rink, get their learner's permit or attend high school. But, to them, they forget their older sibling had those days before they were born. They just know they have to wait so many days or years after their big brother/sister gets to do it. And it's torture for them.
To add insult to injury, the tyrant, ahem, the younger sibling gets off the hook for actions that would have drawn a rebuke if committed by the older kids.
Simply because we are moms, have been for many years and we are tired.
The middle child appears to always get the short end of the stick. Not old enough to get to do anything first. But too old to be able to get away with breaking the rules. That unfair assessment isn't completely accurate, but it certainly reflects their perception of reality.
I'm gradually making changes to restore the tranquility of the house. Okay, tranquil never existed, but a girl can dream, right?
I'm taking back the authority I gave Branden.
I'm holding Kolbie more accountable for his actions.
I'm paying more attention to Kourtnie.
It will never be even or completely fair, but it can be better than it has been in the past. It just requires a lot more effort from this tired mom. But, us moms know that these times are when we shine.
After all, there's no protruding bones or blood.
Heather Tempesta is a Brandon wife and mother of three kids: a 16-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. She balances a full-time job with support of youth football, cheerleading and high school football, all while serving as a part-time CFO, maid, chef, chauffeur and ATM.