Third Child




 I can’t claim that my parents didn’t love me. I’m not one of those lucky kids who get to use that as an excuse to justify their shoplifting and array of tattoos. My parents loved me they just didn’t watch me very carefully. If some parents hover mine hot air ballooned, miles above my head just close enough to detect large movements but far enough away to miss the strange things I did as a child. For example, as a wee one I found joy in digging up earth worms, tying them up in plastic baggies with little pink ribbons, hanging them on my bedside lamp and staring up at them with wonder. Was I trying to fry them? No, though this inevitably occurred every time. I was merely fascinated by the creatures. This odd habit did not come to light until one evening my mother summoned me to the car for our annual trip to the circus. “I’m busy,” I casually remarked, which caused her to pause as four year olds typically don’t have anything to be busy with. I was given a talk about respecting nature and, a few short weeks later, I was given a pet collie in the hopes that it would satisfy my need for animal companionship. Another example of this mild parental neglect was reflected in the clothing I chose to wear in grades five through eight. My parents allowed me to leave the house wearing things like pirate shirts paired with floor length skirts and necklaces made from drain stoppers. I wasn’t one to snub any fashion so I followed the ranks of my fictional friends in Harry Potter and took to wearing cloaks. As a kid who biked to school I’m sure I looked something like the love child of the Wicked Witch of the West and Lance Armstrong. I didn’t just bring my ridiculously dressed self to class, though. I also proudly presented some of the worst book projects the school had ever seen. There was no need to worry that my parents had completed the project for me like some of my class mates’ parents did. I’m sure my parents, had they been the ones toiling at the kitchen table with Elmer’s and construction paper at three in the morning, would have completed far superior projects than did their spawn. I turned in such wonders as a stuffed dog duct taped to a discarded orange crate, which served as a book report on a story I had read about dogs. Another winning attempt was my poster on garnets, which I had accidentally spelled ganrets in bold red letters. Needless to say, my teachers were unimpressed and most likely concerned. Never a quitter, I searched for inspiration for my next report. A girl in the grade above me had once brought in a live kangaroo for a book report. She had the good fortune of being born into a family of zoo keepers rather than sales people and was lauded by all the teachers for her endless creativity. In fourth grade I hatched a plan to wow the teachers just as she had. However, with one cat and one dog I had a limited menagerie to choose from. I took the feline route, figuring Snowflake’s delicate frame would be easier to haul than my fat terrier. Boy did I feel clever smuggling Snowflake to school in an old Easter basket and blanket. I asked my teacher if I could present my project first that day. The project, or rather performance, consisted of a friend asking Snowflake questions while I, hidden under a desk, answered them. I achieved the talking animal effect by putting a dab of peanut butter in Snowflake’s mouth just before the show. My audience was effectively wowed and all was well until I realized I had not planned on what to do with the cat post performance. I attempted to open a classroom window to set her free, but Mrs. Gift intercepted this action pretty quickly. “She seemed like she needed some air,” I explained. Eight short minutes later my mother was there to pick up the cat. She neither yelled at me nor congratulated me on my stellar performance. No, as she drove away with an angry cat in the trunk I’m sure she was wondering, not for the first time, why she had decided to have a third child.

 

What you take as mild neglect may have been your parents' course-correction after the older children. Maybe they wanted to raise a more self-reliant, creative, resourceful child who didn't need the constant approval of others. In that case, I give them a hearty THUMBS UP!

Or maybe they were just tired.