Raising children

My little caregiver

I’m up at 4 in the morning again.  It’s crazy how often this happens to me, seriously.  I’m going to be dead tired tomorrow.  But to pass the time, I’ll share some of my reflections with you.

I want to talk about Thea.  I don’t talk enough about her aside from the difficulties of learning to sleep train.  And she is so much more than that.

Thea (pronouned like the Germans do: tay-ah).  She just turned 1 years old.  I have a 1-year old.  Isn’t that nuts?  And oh, she is the cutest thing.  I can’t kiss or squeeze her enough. Let me tell you three stories that capture just a little bit of this personality that is “meine Älteste” (German for my oldest; my mama pet name for her).


After a very long day with just Thea and I and sleep training, I was a little bit at my wits end.  Andrew had come home, but he had to get to sleep in case he got paged out in the middle of the night to go on an ambulance call.  That meant I got to put Thea to bed.  And of course, that night, it wasn’t going very well at all.  Finally, bursting into tears, I grabbed Thea and put her in Andrews arms as he came in the room to see what was wrong, and went to my bedside and just spiritually sagged on Heavenly Father’s shoulder.  When I finished my prayer, Andrew had come back into our bedroom with Thea.

“She’s been worried about you,” he said.

I looked at my baby girl, and I could see it too.  There was concern in her eyes.  He brought her over and she reached out to come to me.  Taking her in my arms, she looked up at me ,and  I’ll never forget the feeling I had in that moment.  Just as much as I cared about Thea’s welfare, she cared about mine.  This whole time I had been struggling with feelings of loneliness, but it was then that I realized that she was my sweet companion.  She wasn’t just this thing that swallowed all my attention.  She loved me.  She really, really loved me.  And it melted my whole soul.


Andrew is a cowboy.  I’m not, but horses are our life.  We talk all the time about whether or not our children will end up rodeoing and the like.  Sometimes they grow up to be just like their parents, but sometimes not.  We’re totally cool if they choose another route.  But having horses be a way of life around here and not just a hobby, I don’t know if they can much avoid it.

So far, Thea adores animals.  She laughed so hard and squealed so loud when she pet the horses for the first time.  She kicks and points so hard towards the horses the second I get her out of the carseat. She jumps out of my arms to get down to pet the puppies and loves it when they lick her face with their nasty dog tongues.  And she gets still and points when she sees the birds flying over head.

For her birthday, her and I went shopping.  I was looking for a plush cow for her since they seem to be her favorite animal.  (She has an animal book that whenever we read it lately, we don’t get passed the front page with the cow on it.  I try to turn the page, but she turns it right back and points to the cow.) Instead, we found a rocking horse.  It was more money than was in the budget for her present, but I was curious if she would like it or not.  I got it down off the shelf and swung her little body onto the little horse.  She looked at me and started to rock her body back and forth.  I laughed in amazement.  Just a couple weeks ago, Andrew put Thea on one of the horses that was tied up while her stall was being cleaned.  Thea looked at us, smiled, and started to rock back and forth.  She’s been on horse rides only a handful of times, but she knows how her body moves when horses move.  So to see her apply that even to a toy rocking horse made me smile.

Truly, I think we’ve got a cowgirl on our hands.  And lucky for her, her aunt and uncle got her a rocking horse for her birthday.

Unfortunately, she’s fallen off a couple times, trying to get off.  Her experience on that little horse now has more caution in it than at first.  She doesn’t even try to get on it by herself anymore.  Now, when she wants to play with her rocking horse, she’ll go over and bend down, arm draped over the back of the horse, and nuzzle her cheek against its fur.

Loves, she says.


When Thea was still in my womb, I knew I was going to have ten kids, but I also knew that I was going to need some help.  I prayed that my oldest children would be willing and able to take care of their siblings.  When I found out we were having a girl, my soul sighed at the thought that I would have another motherly soul to be my companion when Andrew wasn’t there.  I prayed often that she would be a good mother, not overbearing, but with a concern for the welfare of her siblings.

Whenever Thea wakes up, the first thing she wants is to go to her pile of stuffed animals on the window seal.  She points until I grab one and give it to her.  She hugs it close, and then points to the next one, until all the animals and dollies have been hugged and piled between her arms and my chest.  Then I can carry them all with us downstairs.

And it has been so amazing to watch her with other kids.  She’ll turn her body all the way around to look even if she hears just a laugh in the neighborhood.  I’ve seen her crawl across a room just to go see another baby at church.  I’ve seen her pet babies smaller than her because that’s how she shows affection to the horses.  I’ve seen her follow a baby around just to keep giving him kisses.  I’ve seen her refuse to be held by an older lady, but leap into the arms of her granddaughter who was maybe 10-years old.   She really does just crave the interaction of other children.

So I knew she had an innate sense to nurture from an early age.

But what really blew me away happened just about a month ago.  We had just finished getting the ultrasound for the new baby and were sitting as a family in the waiting room at the doctor’s office for my follow-up visit.  We had received a small pile of pictures of our new baby girl.  Thea had climbed up onto Andrew’s lap when he took one of the pictures and showed it to her.

“Is that your little sister?” he asked her in German.

She looked at the picture and started to coo and point at it, just like she does when she sees our puppies.  Then she grabbed the picture and kissed it.

Andrew and I just looked at each other, astonished.  Did that just happen??  Does she really know she was looking at her sister?

A couple days later, I showed her the picture again.  She took it and held it up to her cheek in a hug, just like she does to each of her stuffed animals and dollies every morning.

She really is meine Älteste.





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