When the life and soul of the house isn’t there

I miss my (not so) little girl.

Kara is staying with her grandparents for the first few days of the Easter holiday. It’s a big step for her, the first time she has spent away from her parents and brothers.

Of course, she’s taking it all in her stride. Better than I am, truth be told.

She has been looking forward to this week with great excitement. It’s something the boys have done before and she has been eagerly awaiting her turn – just another milestone for her in her quest to catch up with them.

And what’s not to like from her perspective? Three days of being spoiled rotten by her grandparents and uncle. When we left my parents’ on Sunday evening she stood at the door clutching Grandma and Grandpa’s hands, grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

We Skyped her last night after she had been treated to a dim sum lunch and spent the day at her favourite playground. She was all smiles, giggles and all-round happiness – her joy radiating through a screen from 50 miles away. If she was missing us in any way, she did a pretty good job of concealing it. Good for her.

That morning had been a bit odd for us, though. Most days we wake up to find Kara snuggled between us.

But not this time.

And most mornings our house sounds like a cross between a rock concert (albeit one with most of the singing out of tune) and feeding time at the zoo.

But not this time.

As I was leaving the house to head to work, Isaac and Toby were having a quiet, thoughtful discussion at the breakfast table with their mother. It was almost as if I had woken up in the wrong house. Breakfasts are normally a frenzy of energy as three kids with energy to burn all clamour to make themselves heard. Okay, maybe the boys were a bit subdued after a tiring weekend. However, I think it was more due to the absence of their loud, manic, super-charged little sister.

Heather observed that it gave us some insight into what our family life would have been like had we stopped after two children and she was absolutely right. I had always pictured myself with two kids – a slight preference but not a strong one – but Heather wanted three and the decision to try again is one I’ve never regretted. (Except when they’re arguing or fighting or refusing to listen to anything we ask them to do, which is only 95.8% of the time.)

Kara brings so much to our house, not just in terms of what she adds personally but also in terms of the overall family dynamic. As much as the boys are strong characters themselves, she really is the life and soul of our household. She does more than just occupy the fifth seat at the table – she fills our lives with her infectious laughter, her playfulness and, yes, her diva strops.

Whenever one or both the boys are away, they also leave their own holes, of course, and I miss them hugely. But this is different. Yes, there’s less noise, less arguing and less general madness. But a house without our third child, even if only for a few days, is a window into an alternate universe where we stopped at two. It’s a life with more freedom and less stress, yes, but it’s an emptier one too.

I’m glad Kara’s having a great time at her grandparents’ but equally I can’t wait until I go to pick her up tomorrow night. She may be the last member of our family – but she is in no way the least. She’s the final piece of our jigsaw.

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