Reveling in the Magic of the Youngest Child

Can we all agree that one’s last-born child is a magical creature?

They’re all magical in their own ways, of course, each imbued with unique traits that make them singularly beloved. But I found myself reflecting on the powerful enchantment wielded by the “baby” of the family, having spent several days with my own baby last week.

My big kids went to South Carolina for a school field trip, which gave my thirdborn the chance to be an only child for four whole days. She was ready. So very ready. Several days before their departure, she wrote out a to-do list for our time together, written in the utterly charming phonetic scrawl of a six-year-old.

It’s definitely a keeper.

On the list were such items as “we woch a muve” (we watch a movie) and “tack buddy for woks to the prck” (take Buddy for walks to the park). She also wanted to practice riding her bike, go grocery shopping, and sort Halloween candy together. Have I mentioned that I love this child?

I’m proud to say we hit every item on the list, although our interactions with the Halloween candy tended more towards consumption than organization. But we wandered through the neighborhood, the dog prancing to keep pace with the six-year-old zooming along on her pink unicorn scooter. And we binge-watched episodes of Fuller House while snuggled on the recliner under a quilt.

I think much of the magic of the youngest child is that they somehow manage to fully embody an endless paradox of growing like a weed, while forever being your baby. Or, as I often remark to my daughter – “How can you be so tiny and yet so big at the same time?”

How does she do it??

She’s huge when she’s fearlessly climbing trees or bounding up the steps to school without so much as a backward glance or reading chapter books aloud, confidently sounding out works like “scooched” and “fantastic.” Practically an adult, I swear. But somehow she still fits perfectly into the crook of my arm when she climbs into my bed, just like she did when she was an infant. What kind of witchcraft is this?

As the third child, she’s a paradox of independence and studied helplessness. She will charge out into the neighborhood by herself in search of friends. And she demands full inclusion into the activities and adventures of the big kids, refusing to allow a little thing like a four year age difference keep her from the fun that is rightfully hers. Then she’ll turn around and insist that she can’t possibly get dressed by herself or pour her own cereal. She dials up the giant puppy eyes and because you know – deep in your soul, you just know – that any second she won’t want your help, you give in.

She knows this truth. She owns this truth.

My baby loved her time as an only child, but by the third day, she missed her siblings fiercely. She’s not hard-wired for extensive alone time. She’s a pack animal at heart. When they returned, she greeted them joyfully and resumed her role of annoying-yet-indulged little sister, driving them to distraction while also reaping the benefits of their boundless love.

Meanwhile I’ll tuck the memories of our weekend together away into my mental treasure chest and hold them close.

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