Spots of Envy

Last in line is a hard place to be in life; when you're the youngest child, you spend your formative years in hand-me-downs, using your brother's old bike, and wishing just once you could be the very first in your family to do something extraordinary like tie your shoes or write your name.

Both Knute and I are the youngest in our families so we have a shared empathy for little Tom's position in our family pecking order. Third, last, the baby, the youngest - whatever the name he's given in the sibling lineup, we've worn it ourselves and know personally his frustrations, his desire to just be one of the "big" kids.

Usually his shouts demands for independence center around mundane things.

I can put my shoes on MYSELF!

NO Mommy, I'll get the peanut butter down MYSELF!

Lately, though, his desires to be identified as one of the "big" kids has taken a new turn, one based less on doing things all by himself and more upon appearances.

Little Tom has become obsessed with freckles.

Both his siblings have them, Huck being the most speckled amongst us just as Knute was as a boy. Becky's freckles are more the nose and cheekbones variety like mine.

But Tom has no freckles at all and this troubles him deeply.

When I told him he has three small ones on the back of his neck (they're moles, really, but without a three-way mirror he can't get a visual confirmation on that), he squealed, "YES!" with utter glee.

Then last week, he ran up to Knute hollering, "Daddy! DADDY! I have a freckle on my thumb!" He did have a small brown dot on his hand but I wasn't sure if it was a true freckle or merely a small smear of chocolate.

Either way, he was smiling and happy with his proof that he was just another member of the spotted tribe - who cares if it was melted Hershey's Dark?

His desire to be one of the gang is more than just endearing to me.

No matter what I've done - or not done - as a mother, no matter how many moments I've had where I've felt as if for all my attempts at balancing my many roles I'm merely failing on all fronts, no matter how every week seems to bring a new challenge that I'd not anticipated, this littlest boy of mine wants nothing more than to be a marked member of our tightly knit little clan.

And that feels like a big win in my column.

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