Camille was born three weeks after we moved from Ohio to Chicago in 2004. Her older sister had just turned three; her brother was not yet two. She came home from the hospital on Memorial Day, arriving at her grandmother and grandfather’s house where we lived for two months. And when we finally moved into a rental house (waiting as we were for construction to begin and end on the house we were remodelling), she’d slept that day in her carseat next to the stairs, unconscious of the small crew of family we had assembled to move in our barest essentials for living. Mattresses, a borrowed couch, two Ikea slingback chairs, a kitchen table and four chairs. Her pack-n-play would eventually find its ways to the asbestos-tiled basement of that split-level house and keep hidden among towers of boxes. (The boxes were essential when Ryan needed to work late nights at his desk, which shared that same basement space. With their shadow of protection cast over Camille’s sleeping body, he could keep a dim light burning.)
One might say that third children have the misfortune of their parents’ inattention – either that, or they have the advantage of learning what it will take to make their way in this world. I’m aiming for the latter. Camille has all the stubborn resolve that third-children are supposed to have inherently imbibed in utero. It’s this inner strength of stubbornness that makes more difficult tasks (like learning to ride a bike or stay up on ice skates) easy for them.Or put a knife or potato peeler in the hand of your third child, and marvel at the adeptness of their hands. Thirds spent a lot of time watching, learning, and making ready for the occasion when it will finally be their turn!
Camille has these classic third traits. And she was the “baby of the family,” until at three and a half, we’d brought home her twin brothers from the hospital. I’ve ever I’ve wondered about what God had up His sleeve when He delivered this surprise into our family (and oh, I have wondered!), I’ve often thought that it was, at least in some small way, for Camille. Had she been the period of this family (we are done. PERIOD), I don’t know how her gifts for compassion and care-giving would have had their stage. But THANKS BE TO GOD that when we sometimes intend for periods, He writes commas instead.
Camille is the child you’ll find at my side in the kitchen. She’ll offer to peel the carrots and keep me company with her chatter about the day. Camille is the child assigned to the more difficult of her twin brothers on the mornings when I need help getting everyone out of the door with, at the very least, their feet in shoes. “C’mon! Remember how you’re a fire-fighter? And fire-fighters need their coat and shoes before they leave to put out the fire.” His obstinacy dissolves with her gentle game-playing. And if, at the end of the day, you look to find Camille, she’s probably tangled up in either her father’s or mother’s arms. It’s the third who, hands down, does the best snuggling of anyone.
Happy birthday to my compassionate, courageous daughter who wins the world with a stubborn smile. I love you!