After Ingrid turned double-digits, she informed Dagne that she was too old to take baths with her anymore.

Dagne cried.

It isn’t the first time she’s cried about her birth order.

How come the older girls get to …?

Why can’t I go?

I hate being the youngest. Everyone gets to boss me around! I don’t get to boss anyone!

Of course, she doesn’t recognize the amount of petting and caresses allowed her because she’s the youngest. She believes her good looks and endearing personality entitles her to these benefits.

I walked in on an argument between Ingrid and Dagne and refereed. The point went to Dagne.

Ingrid cried bitter tears.

It’s so hard being in the middle! Mom always sides with Dagne because she’s the youngest. The middle never gets to be first. It’s always youngest to oldest or oldest to youngest.

(I’ve tried to exterminate the words always and never from the children‘s vocabulary. I am a failure.)

Greta sidled up to Ingrid and commiserated. Middle children are second-rate. Middle children are slighted.

Elsa intervened.

It’s not all that great to be the oldest. I had to sit in a car seat ’til I was like… twelve! I got spanked way more often. You guys get away with way more than I ever did!

I agree with Elsa. Being the oldest carves the wake for the younger children’s smooth ride. On the other hand, I’ve never been left behind.

Dagne is the only one left in fairyland. Of course, just because Ingrid turned ten doesn’t mean she is forever excluded from childhood where the imagination governs benevolently. A girl alternates for several years– dipping back into childhood and trying on womanhood. It is anything but fluid. She wakes up a lady. By the end of the day, she dissolves into tears, melting into a little girl in a tumultuous puddle. Hug her and hold her. Little girl again. Ten minutes later, I argue with an adult. She oscillates, oscillates ’til  I’m dizzy.

Who are you in this moment? Girl or fiercely independent wannabe adult?

I wonder.

But as Ingrid enters this new world, I sympathize with the littlest. She who is so little used to being alone must now bear it once in a while. And she is so little used to bearing anything at all.

We often quote an argument she had with her younger but bigger cousin, Weston:

You need to share because I’m the baby!