When Your Child Is Last

A tiny bit of background–


Back in my school days, I was neither popular nor unpopular.  I was a very good student– some would have referred to me as a nerd or a geek.  I’m good with that.  I wasn’t athletically talented, nor was I a flop on the field.  Mainly, I didn’t enjoy doing sports, but I could do rather well at them if pressed.


All this to say– I was never chosen last for anything.  I also never came in last place.  I most certainly did NOT always take first, but what matters right now is just that I never, ever remember being “last” even once in my life.


My six-year-old?  Is often last.


And I’m struggling with that.


When she was barely four-years-old and trying out ballet, it was hard to watch.  She had such a hard time keeping up and couldn’t follow along.  My stomach would wrap itself in knots at the “parent observation” classes and, to be honest, when the session ended, I was relieved.


When I take her to karate now, I see how hard it is for her, even though she swears she enjoys it.  Not only does she have low muscle-tone, but she just doesn’t have that innate ability to coordinate her limbs super smoothly.  It takes her a moment, through observation of her peers, to figure out what she’s supposed to be doing.  As a result, her kicks, blocks, and yells always take place a noticeable breath or two after the others.


When I watch her on a playground, happily cavorting with her friends, I smile.  And then they all take off running, sprinting to the next activity or piece of equipment.  Little legs fly and strong young bodies seem to soar… and there’s my precious C., bringing up the rear.  Always at the back of the pack.


Now, I could write on and on about what an absolute miracle it is that my amazing child, born at barely 24 weeks gestation, can even do any of these things.  Who would have gazed at that one pound little girl and envisioned ballet lessons, belt promotions, and giddy playground dates?  I could write about that all day.  It’s more my style and it’d be far more fun to read, I’m sure…


But that’s not what I’m struggling with.  I’m struggling with how to handle and process the fact that, well, my child is last.


For now, she either doesn’t notice or it doesn’t seem to bother her and I guess I need to just appreciate that.  C. is well-liked and those who know her story are all amazed by all she can do.  Honestly, even those who don’t know her story are often amused by this whip-slim, determined little firecracker with a high little voice and a wheezy infectious laugh.


But I just keep wondering… will it always be this way?  Is she going to notice one day?  Will I have to gather those slim shoulders in my arms and wipe away her tears when she realizes?


I just don’t know yet.  Do you?


What do you do when your child is last???



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21 comments to When Your Child Is Last

  • This post has my eyes filled with tears and when I look at that gorgeous precious photo of your little girl I can see how a mother’s heart can break. When we were told our baby would be disabled (she’s not…long story) those very same thoughts hung over me even though I accepted whatever Gid had planned for us, I was still her mother and a mother’s heart breaks many many times. My heart used to break for our poor-sighted daughter for whom compliments stopped the day & minute she got her magnifying jam-jar glasses-at 12 years old now she wears contact lenses and was basking in compliments for the first time in 9 years for all of about 3 weeks until she fell and smashed her teeth and is left with a bulging scar on her lip and teeth which are precariously hanging in there. My heart still breaks every day for my highly melancholic tempermented almost 16 year old who still has to make a good friend and cries many’s the morning going to school -she has a soul mate in her 14 year old sister, for whom my heart breaks because she worries so much about everything that I think she is going to have a tough life as nothing seems to reassure her, all we can do is guide her to hand it over to Our Lord who took our cross and conquered it. My heart most of all breaks for my toddler with her half a heart of which she is blissfully unaware and a birthmark which is causing a bald patch and I worry will that open her to ridicule and then I’ll end up in jail when I put my fist through someone’s face and then my children will have no mother!! (that’s a joke lol) And y’know what!! They’ll all fumble through with all their difficulties and when some day we observe the beautiful secure adult they have become from behind we can say…’I did a Damn good job!! Well done me!!’

    • Oh, Jennifer, I just want to hold your hand and walk alongside you on this journey as we celebrate our beautiful and wonderful children… thank you for sharing these little pieces of your amazing family. You are, indeed, doing a fabulous job. :)

  • FishMama

    I getcha. I was often last in a lot of things, athletically and socially. Academics set me apart, for good and bad. I think the tears will come, but I wonder if they do for everyone. We never know how much the cool kids cry, too.

    • And I wonder how many “cool kids” don’t feel so cool? Or if they struggle with other issues, like not having been as kind and compassionate as they could have been? Who knows? Life ain’t easy– I know that much. ;)

  • Perhaps the most important lesson to instill is not about being first or last or anything in between, but rather to try to instill pride in actually DOING/FINISHINGit at all! Perseverance! Never, never, never give up! Not easy, I know, but really worth it. :)

    • Oh, this is true… and something I need to remind myself. Right now, she’s the one with the drive and desire to persevere when, truly, if she said the word, I’d probably let her quit. I need to learn a lesson from her. ;)

  • Lori

    I was almost always picked last in gym class and I hated gym class, I know I shed some tears and I still hate dodgeball. But I was top of the class academically. There will be things she can do well and things she doesn’t do as well. I say encourage her in what she enjoys and wipe away the tears when she needs it. I couldn’t get out of gym class, but I sure tried. And I did find things I actually enjoyed during gym, like volleyball and tennis and I wasn’t picked on just picked last. My daughter is only 2 but I want to protect her from these things too, even though I know I can’t.

    • I think that’s the real struggle, Lori– the desire to protect our children from the inevitable hurt of life. :( I *know* I was hurt in many, many ways during my growing-up years, whether I came in last or not. I just wish I could spare them all that pain…

  • This makes me teary eyed. I was never last either, but I still can’t move my limbs in seamless coordination. I suspect that shrugging that sort of thing off is innately built in to the firecracker personality. I’m hoping so anyway…we haven’t started any of those kind of activities yet to test my theory.

    • At this point, it is definitele ME who struggles, and not C. And I take comfort in the fact that I know I’m the kind of parent who’s comfortable saying, “You know what? You don’t HAVE to do sports. It’s not a prerequesite for a full life.” So… we’ll get through it. (But it’s hard!)

  • Awww, sweet girl. So far, my children are far from last in anything, but even when our oldest sits on the bench for a couple minutes too long (mind you, this is a “travel team” that she was PICKED for, so I really do try to “chill”) I have to calm my mama heart. No one wants to see their child suffer in any way.

    • Absolutely– the mama heart suffers even more than the child, I think. I also need to remind myself that there other traits/qualities not as easy to measure as athletics and academics. Kindness, grace, humor, and humility are all areas in which my darling middle child excels. And, at the end of the day, those count for just as much as finishing first in a race, right? :)

  • Courtney

    Our story is very similar to yours, with my twins born just shy of 24 weeks and turning 6 next month. My son is similarly oblivious to how he is different from other children. It breaks my heart when another kid asks, “Why do you run like that?” or “Why do you talk funny?” It doesn’t bother him a bit, though, and he responds with “That’s how God made me” before moving on to other topics. He doesn’t know that getting asked that question is a sign that he’s different, nor would he likely care if he knew.

    He does know that he’s special for having been born when he was really little, and he is aware that one sign of his being special is his “closed” belly button (a common thing among micros, I hear). I hope having that one visible example of how he is different in a cool way may help shape his attitude in the future.

    It hurts me. As I was feeling sorry for myself one day, a friend of “normal” kids pointed out to me that all moms go through this pain for their children. Maybe we’re at an advantage because if our kids ever notice and wonder and worry about being different, we have a story to tell them about the battles they fought.

    • I love that perspective, Courtney– that we have an amazing story to share about all the hurdles our little ones overcame to be where they are. I do think that’s a very important thing to remember. Thank you for that reminder! And I adore your son’s reply– it is absolutely accurate, brief, and to the point. More of us need to remember that we are as God made us– fearfully and wonderfully. :)

  • Jennifer

    I was always last. I’m glad I was…now.

    I have a skin thicker than all my adult friends. I can handle literally anything handed to me. I twist and bend at the unexpected of life better than any of the “winners” do. I’m a better adult for my own childhood weaknesses or perceived weaknesses.

  • My eldest is a competitive figure skater. She showed some talent early on, but early on, the most important thing was that she enjoyed that she was skating. It didn’t matter when younger kids were skating faster, it didn’t matter that older kids were jumping higher. What mattered was 1) she was having fun and 2) creating and working toward her *own* goals.

    Yes, it does get hard. Yes, kids do notice and measure themselves against other kids. So I say start the habit early of talking to her in terms of what she likes about what she’s doing, what she accomplished today on her own terms, and what she wants to try to learn next.

    My kiddo practices 15-20 hours a week now. Sometimes she wins. Last year, mostly, after moving up a level, she didn’t win. There was a lot of losing. I won’t lie. It’s been a struggle for both of us to balance keeping the pure love of the activity and being supportive in keeping her on track with creating her own goals even in competition against others.

    I will tell you this: when your child finds that thing they love, go with it. Use it to teach her about when to pull back from comparisons and when to work harder when she wants to compete. Use it to teach her about reveling in her own joy in an activity apart from what others are doing.

    Because the fact is that no one wins all the time. Everyone, sooner or later, bumps up against their own walls. But also, don’t ever doubt your daughter’s passion or play the spoil sport to protect her (and believe me, I know how hard it is.) Kristi Yamaguchi started skating as physical therapy for a club foot. Elaine Zayak, National and World skating champion skated with a wooden block in one skate to fill in the part of the foot she was missing. Elena Berezhnaya was paralyzed in an accident, relearned how to walk and skate, and went on to win an Olympic gold. Scott Hamilton’s parents were told several times that he was small, undernourished, and would not survive. If your daughter loves to dance and run and do karate, just go with it and continue being supportive, no matter your fears. If we don’t flinch as parents, our kids won’t either. :-)

  • btw, your ballerina girl is a cutie pie!

  • I was a physically-uncoordinated klutz as a child, as well. Unlike the little girl in this blog, I didn’t seem to have the observational abilities to gauge what others were doing and then imitate them; so she’s one up on me in that department! (My father had to literally show me that running by swinging my legs out sideways just wasn’t working for me! And learning to ride a two-wheeler was JUST PITIFUL! A kind neighbor got me going when my dad had given up in disgust.) Ballet lessons helped, giving me better awareness of how I was “holding myself,”posture-wise. I rode a bicycle up until I was about 18 or so, and it kept me relatively fit for all those years. I used to be halfway-decent at distance running, but I didn’t keep it up. I’d tell this little girl to keep it up, to never stop being active (as I did), and to enjoy things as best she can. We can’t all be talented at EVERYTHING!

  • Allison C.

    I read your post and it really hit home for me. Like you, I was never last but my son is. And like your daughter, he was a preemie, is a little wisp of a thing and has some coordination issues. He’s nine and it breaks my heart when he tells me things like “he’s an easy target” or that he’s not one of the cool kids. It’s hard to digest because he is just such a funny, sweet child who is so much more than his ability to run fast or catch a ball. I think what’s helped me the most is helping to instill a sense of confidence in him by trying different things and helping him find out what he is good at — what he can point to and feel confident about. For him, it’s drumming and amazingly, swimming. I try not to let the way that he falls in the athletic pecking order color the way I see him. And he really has no idea how my heart cries for him. I guess it’s a mother’s love, but it isn’t easy. We’re in it together.

  • I was recently faced with this. My dd has been a gymnast for 8 years and has done very well the past few. At her state meet in March she came in last. 14 hours a week in the gym and her trying her hardest equals last place? It just made me sad. It still does. It makes me question why we do this, but I have to look at the bigger picture of why gymnastics is good for her and accept whatever happens. It is just hard sometimes.

  • Sandy

    I just stumbled upon your blog this morning and have spent the last 1/2 hour reading about your remarkable Little C. There’s an instant connection for us ICU mamas. My 8yo daughter suffered a cardio-pulmonary arrest at 16 days old. Lack of oxygen caused a global brain damage. As you can imagine, that started a long and unexpected journey for our family. Like you, I am amazed at what my spunky, stubborn ball of feist can do. Like you my heart breaks as I watch her struggle at ballet and every thing else she does. My heart soars when she finally gains a skill that other children don’t even have to think about. Her struggles and her big-for-her triumphs keep my heart beating raw and tender. Blessing upon blessing to you.

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