“I pleased her!”

siblings2

 

The cacophony coming from the children’s room was deafening.

She walked in to two small teary faces. One red with indignation, one blotchy with enraged demand. A pile of blocks depicted fresh ruins. A toy car spun a morose wheel toward an apathetic ceiling.

The wails rose to crescendo, a duet for justice.

She knelt to wrap an arm around each sobbing set of shoulders. “Shhh….” she cooed, “What happened?”

“He …” the girl accused, an index finger poking emphasis at her brother. “He broke my castle.” Tears flowed.

“I didn’t!” he protested, matching tear to bawl. “She push me! It broked!”

“He put the car on my castle! Castles are for princesses!”

“But …” he cried, insisted, “but … I said please, Mommy! I pleased her first!”

 

 

For The Daily Post

Not This Way!

She doesn’t want the blue dress. She wants the red one, with the sparkles. Yes, from the laundry. Even dirty. Not wait for tomorrow. Today.

She doesn’t want socks. Her feet won’t be cold. Not even if its snowing. No socks. She doesn’t even like socks. Ever. Never. Not even the Minnie Mouse ones from Granny … well … she likes those “a little” … “sometimes” … but not today. She doesn’t like any socks today.

She doesn’t want a ponytail. Or pigtails. Pigtails are “stupid.” She wants braids. Four of them. No, not this way! She wants one big one “like Elsa” and three “baby ones.” Because.

She doesn’t want milk in her cereal. She wants chocolate milk. In a cup. With a straw. Not the green straw. The pink one. And three strawberries. Not four. Three. “Not that one. These ones.”

Her momma sighs.

“You are being difficult today.”

The girl gives a shrug, then a side glance. A giggle escapes.

The mom raises an eyebrow. She is not amused.

The child smiles enigmatically, twirls her four braids (one big like Elsa’s and three baby ones).

“So what’s this all about?” Mom asks, eyes narrowed but curious.

“It’s Ben’s fault.”

“Ben!?” The mother shakes her head. The older brother is ten-going-on-fifteen and goodness knows these two don’t always get along, but Ben had left for school before Miss Au Contraire here as much as opened an eye. “How can it be Ben’s fault?”

“Remember yesterday?” little eyebrow mirrors the parent’s, challenging. “Ben said I ‘such a terrible critic.’ So I’m practicing. To get better.”

 

stubborn

pinterest.com/pin/339810734368459869/

 

For The Daily Post

In reverse

“I don’t like cleaning up,” she complained. The floor was strewn with blocks, mini-figurines, doll’s clothing, crayons, plastic tea-set, make up kits, paper bits, and other detritus of a long afternoon.

Her brother frowned. He’s been occupied with his tablet instead of playing with her and while it was nice to have the chatterbox quiet for a change, he did not relish the prospect of doing the work or facing the dressing down he’d get if his parents returned to see the living room drowned under mountains of little-girl paraphernalia.

She glowered back, lower lip already quivering in preparation for what he knew all too well will be a battle he would lose.

“It’s not cleaning up,” he started.

“What?” she squinted, suspicious.

“You see,” he enticed, “it’s like magic …”

“Magic …? ” She still wasn’t buying it.

“Yes, magic! You’ll be making a mess in reverse!”

 

For The Daily Post

“Making my baby-sister smile!”

Photo Credit: S.E.

Photo Credit: S.E.

One of the children I work with recently became a big sister. A fortuitous event, for sure. A healthy baby, healthy mother, family growing as wished for and planned. At four-years-old, however, it is an adjustment for the girl who was everyone’s princess till this new arrival emerged to share the spotlight and potentially grab attention as “Most Doted On.”

My young client is a well-loved child. She has parents who are sensitive to the adjustment she is making, and though they may not always be perfect in their expectations, are nonetheless quite more than “Good Enough”–to loosely refer to the Winnicottian term. Her parents understand that their (still young) eldest’s reactions to the baby are complicated: adoration, annoyance, jealousy, wonder, confusion, irritation, worry, happiness, love, rage, loss, delight. They are trying to make her transition into Sister gentle, rewarding, and mild.

This does not mean that she is not also faced with adults (such as the older family member who brought her to sessions in the first few weeks after the birth), who insensitively may say things like: “So how is it to no longer be the little one in the family?” or “So are you going to give your baby sister all your toys?” or “Now that you are a big sister you can’t whine like a baby anymore” or “The baby needs your mommy more than you now, that’s why mommy stays home with the baby every day.” Such adults may be well meaning but clueless. Some I suspect are a bit less clueless and (sadly) possibly aiming to check the child’s reaction to their words. Wishing to assess by her recoil or wide-eyes or frowning whether she is “adjusting” or “reacting,” and to use the little girl’s responses as measure of their own assumptions to how she should feeling. A sort of “Yep, I saw that expression! I KNEW she was actually jealous of the baby!” or “Ah! She may say she’s happy now but wait until she realizes that she is never going to be the baby anymore!”

To them it is as if the child cannot be both happy and envious, loving and irritated, confused and understanding. As if there is not in all adjustments–through any growth and change in life–both loss of one thing and the acquiring of another. As if the presence of sorrow or jealousy invalidates the truth of joy or the honesty of empathetic care.

It makes me wonder, when I hear such sayings, what is being reawakened for these grownups when they see a toddler ‘dethroned’ from baby-status, and what perceptions they have accepted to be facts and so try to make into reality. Sure, siblings may experience many forms of competition and rivalry, but does that mean they have to be either at each other’s throats or ever loving? Does irritation make their care less genuine? Is a toddler’s query of “when is mama taking the baby back to the hospital?” confirmation that the child does not want the sibling, or an expression of momentary (and understandable) exasperation with the change that is difficult to let in fully without friction? Can’t it be both love and envy, both annoyance and deep care?

Thankfully, this little big-sister is proving bigger than the careless comments of some grownups. When I asked her–three months following the addition to her family–how things are at home, now that she is a big sister and all, the four-year-old narrated, tone a’somber: “My baby sister cries a lot and she gives me a headache …” (complete with hand to forehead gesture–this gal’s got some stage life coming up). “She makes a lot of poopy diapers. VERY yucky … and she making mommy tired all the time …” (pause, dramatic sigh …) “daddy reading to me but daddy skips pages!” (enter righteous indignation about here). Then she paused and beamed. “I love my baby sister,” she gushed, beaming at me, eyes all twinkling delight: “I am making her smile! Every time she seeing me she smiles! I am the bestest at it in my WHOLE family in how I make her smile!”

Yep, little one. Big-hearted, wide-souled big sister (and the many such big-brothers!) that you are, you sure know how to make a person smile!