Friday, May 11, 2012

Dear Sis of Mine,

*I have a ton of posts in the works to catch up on, but I couldn't get this one off my mind so I'll back fill the rest soon.

I've been going through closets and drawers making room for Baby Girl.  I've sorted through TONS of pictures.  These were obviously from years past since I rarely print pictures anymore; I just keep the digital images.  As I went through them, I found a TON of my oldest niece, Brileigh Kenzi.  I mean...A TON.  Some I had taken, some my sis mailed me.  There were so many.  She was the chubbiest little thing.  She was the first grandbaby on my side (now the oldest of a dozen), and she was (and is) adored in every way.

I feel comfortable saying that no one adored her more than me.  I have always been silly over babies, and I was thrilled when she arrived.  She arrived 6 weeks before my wedding (sorry about that, Sis!).  I lived in Lafayette, LA then Houston during my sis's pregnancy and Brileigh's infancy.  She was born late at night, and I was asleep, but I remember telling my mom she had to call me.  She woke me up with a phone call to let me know she was here safe and sound.  Sis didn't share the name before the birth, so it was exciting to learn her name.  My middle name is Leigh so it was fun to hear that was part of her name spelling, too.

I didn't see Brileigh until I traveled home a week before my wedding; she was 5 weeks old.  I bought her outfit upon darling outfit, purses, toys, books.  I loved buying for her.  When I would go on trips, I always brought her something back.  When I traveled home for visits, I never showed up empty handed. 

After Brileigh, there were 3 more born on my side then a lull before 4 more were born in a row.   I felt the same excitement when each of them were born.  I bought gift cards for their mommas to get new maternity clothes with each pregnancy, sent congratulations cards, planned family pamper parties, and had the best time buying for those sweet babies.  Every single time a new baby was added, I bought them the book "Guess How Much I Love You" and inscribed it.  I made it my project to make sure they had holiday shirts with each passing holiday...Christmas, Valentine's, name it!  And it was important to me to not show up empty handed when I saw them (I lived away from home so I didn't get to see them too often).  The next 4 were born, and it was tough to keep up with purchases, but never tough to keep my adoration level up. 

As they grew out of the baby stages, into fun little girls and boys, I tried my hand at "experience" gifts.  I took them to see High School Musical, Peter Pan, and Annie.  I painted nails, read books, told stories at bedtime, and was generally, the "fun aunt" who swooped in every couple of months to treat the kiddos.  I feel sure I had more fun than them most of the time; they are some of my favorite, favorite memories (and thankfully, we're still making them).

{High School Musical 2008}
 {Annie Weekend 2008}
Not very often...

But on rare occasion...

I would allow myself to wonder...

"Who will do this for me and my kids?  Can my siblings possibly love my children as much as I love theirs?  Who will send me a congratulations card when I'm pregnant, or get me a gift card, or spoil my babies?  How could they have time to do all that when they're raising their own kids?  Won't they all be so over it by the time I join the ranks of a new parent?"

I was the last of my siblings to have kids.  While they were starting and raising their families, I was working, going to law school, taking a ton of trips, and generally just doing whatever I wanted.  Sure, I was mixing in fun purchases for their kiddos and planning fun things for them to do, but mostly I was doing a lot of stuff for me.  Admitting that I asked myself those questions during those pre-child years makes me cringe now.  I admitted the same to a friend, and she said that I shouldn't be so hard on myself because "you can only know what you know."

And now I know...

That loving their kids was important.  That showing that love through treats and trips was fun and appreciated, but what I could have done and should have done, was loved those kids' parents better.

I was right about the answers to some of my questions, but it turns out that being right meant being wrong.  It turns out I inflated what all of those things meant...I did the best I could with what I knew at the time, but now I know better.   And I certainly wish I would have known then what I know now so I could have done better.

Now I know...
  • How important it is to show up
  • How important it is to listen
  • How important it is to not judge or persuade, but to just love them right where they're at
  • How important it is to check in often
  • How important it is to cheer them on

Bo was born on a holiday, and I knew it would be difficult for family to come see him for awhile.  Not only did they have their own little flocks to tend to, but it was a holiday weekend, and bad weather on top of that.  Imagine my surprise, when my sis and her little family surprised us at the hospital.  She showed up.  I didn't see Brileigh for 5 weeks.  I don't recall how long it was before I saw her second born, Kamryn.  I wised up and showed up at the hospital when her third, Brody, was born.  But it bothers me now that I didn't show up for the first two. 

Nursing was a huge obstacle with Bo.  Oh, my stars.  Those early weeks were so difficult.  My sis successfully nursed all 3 of her kiddos.  She became my personal therapist/cheerleader/question hotline.  Some days, she would have me call her after every nursing session just to talk about how it went.  A lot of times, she'd just be on the other end listening to my sniffles.  She listened.

When we went home for Christmas when Bo was just a month old, she took care of Bo at night so I could sleep.  Oh, blessed sleep.  And when we went to visit her when he was just a couple of months old, she did it again.

During the MSPI debacle and sleeplessless of the first 7 months, she checked in on me all the time. Sometimes I'd sniffle.  Sometimes I'd be happy as a lark.  But all the time, I was happy to have someone to share my thoughts with.

When we were at our wit's end, she invited us on vacation with her family and let us escape for a weekend, helping us to break out of the cycle of feeling like "it will always be this way."

When I peppered her with questions about sleep training, and feeding schedules, and now potty training, she laughed at my neuroses, but always answered.  Understanding my personality is hugely different than her own, she never tried to change my mind or my method, she just let me go off on some neurotic tangent (still does) and answered all of my questions.  She just met me where I was at and didn't judge or try to persuade.

There has been no bigger cheerleader for Bo in our recent potty training efforts than my sis.  I text his success and get "Whoo-hoo!" texts back.  I get texts checking on his progress.  I continue to pepper her with questions, and continue to get those questions answered.  When I wonder if I'm doing it right, she seems to read my mind and sends a "Great job, Momma!" text.  She's not only his cheerleader; she's mine.

Along the way, by not making me feel like I was doing things the "wrong way", and by not trying to change my mind when I was being hyper sensitive and hyper scheduled about things, she helped me find my way and develop confidence as a mother.  I'm a lot less stressed about Baby Girl's arrival for a couple of reasons, but many have to do with the confidence she's helped me develop. 

What makes me sad is realizing that I wasn't there when her first two entered this world, that I never offered to stay up at night so she could get some sleep, that I don't remember celebrating with her over many of their milestones.  That while I thought buying cute outfits and taking the kids fun places was being a great aunt, what she really needed was a great sis:
  •  to just show up, 
  • let her get some sleep,
  • to check in,
  • to listen, 
  • to be her cheerleader,
  • to say "good job, momma" over and over again until she believed it.
So while I was right about some of the answers to my questions, I was wrong about all of the important ones.  I have no doubt my siblings love my kids just as much as I love theirs.  And instead of it being a disadvantage to start my family last, I've learned that it's really an advantage.  Drawing from years of experience, they are able to love and support me in a way I didn't know how to love and support them when they were starting their families.

No one does a better job of loving and supporting me that than my sis.  So Sis, twelve years overdue..."Good job, Momma!"  I'm your number one fan.  I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day.



  1. Sis I love u more than words can say! U are too hard on yourself! You are wonderful in every way!

  2. This is a beautiful letter. You guys are so blessed to have one another. I completely relate to your relationship with your nieces and nephews, and I will take your advice and be "there" for my sis more often! Happy Mother's Day!

  3. OMG!!! That was so beautifully said. I love you both!

  4. Oh Mindi! This made me cry!

    What a beautiful beautiful beautiful post to your sister! How blessed are you two to have each other!

  5. Aww.. Mindi u made me cry,too!! How lucky am I to have both of sister-in-laws-- n my boys even luckier to have two awesome aunts!!!!