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Memoirs of a Mum: ‘Discovering My Middle Child’ – Chinwe Kalu

Memoirs of a Mum: ‘Discovering My Middle Child’ – Chinwe Kalu

Chinwe Kalu

My third and middle child and second daughter was born with a full mane of hair, the right complexion and I was so excited. She looked right. She was pretty. I loved her as soon as I set eyes on her. However, she was born behind two older siblings, a boy and a girl. We got along well. She ate very well. She was quiet, the kind of baby who only cried when she had a problem. She sucked her two middle fingers. That made her even quieter. What more could a mother ask, especially with two older and far more boisterous children. She was supposed to be the last.

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We got into the habit of just letting her be. We fed her, tidied her up and put her in her chair. We just thought she was fine. And she was. Soon after, to my absolute amazement, I was pregnant with my fourth child, a girl, who was nothing like her immediate older sibling, my quiet girl. This last one came with a lot of energy and wanted to be everywhere. She talked early and began to walk before she was nine months; a really loud and active bundle of joy I must say.

Where did that leave my quiet baby? Left to herself most of the time. We did not realize what we were doing but she did, and she began to resent it. We had the habit of taking our kids to pre-school before they began school. When we took her there she read it differently. We would drop her off and take her older siblings to school and she resented it. How did she handle it? Every day, she would not say a word for the entire time she was there. On one of such days, her teachers raised the issue with me. They were obviously concerned she was not talking. It got worse, because at some point, she wouldn’t even talk at home.

I got worried and took her to the doctors to complain. They asked us to watch her for a while. I held my peace. At this time, I recognized I had a problem but did not know what it was. I knew I needed to do something but had no idea what. As God would have it, she fell ill and missed school for a day. I was home but she was with our housekeeper. I heard noise from a distance. Then I recognized the nursery rhymes they were singing. Her voice was loud.  I was curious and went to the room the noise was coming from, and there she was singing, laughing, giggling and totally happy. I had never seen her like that.

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Then it dawned on me that she felt dumped every time we dropped her off at pre-school.  That was why she resented it. She never went back. We moved her to the same school as my older kids even though it cost us more.  It took her being at school with her siblings for my baby girl to begin to loosen up to me. She would play with everyone else but was cold towards me, she began loosening up. She had one friend in school and it was enough for her.

I thought I had finally got her on my side, not knowing that she had built a wall around herself. As she grew older, she did not get along well with her little sister who seemed to always be in her face. She did not get a chance to be with me because her little sister always got to me before she could. It was either her older siblings or her little sister. She built her world around herself and shut everyone out.

Then we relocated to East Africa. She hated it and withdrew even more. Her older siblings were now in boarding house and I thought she could have more time with me, but she was not keen. She did her own thing. I was worried but she did not do anything harmful or wicked or wrong as such but I could feel her rejection. She was impatient with her little Sis. Then thankfully, her older siblings had to join us and somehow, her relationship with her older sister began to blossom. I can’t explain it.

At this point, we began to talk to her about her feelings, her reservations, her assumptions, which were obviously wrong and her inbuilt walls. Sometimes, I was hard on her. I refused to walk around her as though walking on eggshells. We needed to confront the issue. She was old enough. With her sister around to talk all the silly girl talk, she had what she needed.

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So we encouraged her to begin to let go of her resentments and she did. Our faith also helped. I prayed a lot. It held her. So, she did not get into any of those life threatening habits we read about. I began to teach her about grace.

One day, she did something, can’t remember what, but her punishment was a two minute hug everyday and a kiss on the cheek for as long as I thought she needed it.  The first few hugs were impossible. She would wiggle and complain but smile at the same time. To plant a kiss on her cheek was a battle. I kept at it. I would hug her and tell her how much she means to me. How God loves her. How she is a true princess. And she would keep nodding. She eventually began to look forward to the hugs.  Her words did not suggest so, but the hugs spoke for themselves. It was an amazing process. We got to the place where the hugs and kisses were received with as much love as they were given.

I finally got my girl to receive fully the love I have always had for her. It took a while but I am grateful. Middle kids are very delicate. We need to manage them well. I almost lost mine. I cannot imagine what lay on the other side if I had. I am grateful to God for the wisdom to manage it all. My daughter came back to me.

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