He was seven when she was born, and already the brother of two other younger siblings.
I have pictures of him cradling her as a newborn, and later, toting her little diapered self around on his hip.
Do they have a special oldest/youngest bond? Not sure, but there are little moments…
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These two have always had a great relationship. I’m not sure why. I do remember hearing harrowing tales of sibling fighting issues from other mothers when these ones were toddlers, and having to admit that no, they actually didn’t really fight much. I probably attributed the lack of quarreling to my stellar mothering, but by the time three and four came along, I was set straight.
It might be R’s personality. He’s a born peace-maker, and avoids conflict at all cost. When he was turning two, one of the toddler guests at his birthday party snatched a cookie out of his hand, and R just led the other boy to the cookie plate and showed him where he could get them. Not a fighter, that kid.
It’s more than lack of negativity though. There’s a real closeness between R and L. They often gravitate towards each other, and it’s clear that they enjoy each other’s company. They have very different personalities, and what I love is that they genuinely appreciate the strengths the other has. R admires L’s physical daringness, which is great, because it could easily have been something he resented her for, given his own cautious nature. She mastered the monkey bars before he did, and it was only the sight of his three-year old sister doing them that pushed him to give them a try. Same with learning how to ride a bike. She led the way. He laughs at her outrageousness, and she appreciates his sense of humour. The two of them are always cackling over something.
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Look at how L’s fingers are subtly keeping Jay at a distance. A bit of closeness is okay, just not too much. It’s an accurate portrayal of their relationship right now. L tolerating, and sometimes even enjoying the company of her little sister, but there’s always that little edge. They have fun times, but L always ends them before J is ready.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged siblings, sisters on March 7, 2008|
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L showed me the gift she’s made for Jay, who’s turning seven this weekend. It was a handmade gift certificate from L to Jay, giving her the gift of a “Sisters’ Outing”. In it she stated that she’d pull Jay on the sled down to the neighborhood shops where they could spend the afternoon browsing, getting cinnamon buns, and having hot chocolates at the coffee shop, just the two of them.
I can’t think of any gift that Jay would like more. A whole afternoon with her big sister.
I was surprised, and touched, that L would have thought of it.
I remember when L was kindergarten age, around when she was beginning to find her baby sister a little tiresome, when baby Jay was making the transformation from darling little toy sister to walking, screeching, yanking, demanding sibling sister, and how when L had friends over to play, the friends always wanted to “play with the baby”, which annoyed her to no end. I remember how baby Jay used to shout “dumpdump!” when she saw L walk in the door, and the two of them used to hold hands and jump on mattress-on-the-floor that served as Jay’s bed. Jay now alternates between adoring L and running to her room wailing in anguish because L is the meanest sister in the world. L, in the right mood, leads Jay in fabulous day-long imaginary games, but at other times condescends with the haughtiness big sisters reserve for slightly younger sisters.
I watch them, these two, almost seven and eleven-and-a-half, so full of fire and nerve and verve and heart, such similar personalities, and my heart squeezes in the hope that they’ll grow up to be friends.
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What a lovely picture. A little girl pulling a sled in the Canadian wilderness. Sheesh. Those homeschooled kids. So brave and hearty and adventurous, always outdoors in the healthful fresh air….(What you don’t see is the howling wind, and my serious misgivings about having suggested our grand outing).
Squatting down to eat some snow. (Me in the background saying for the umpteenth time, “Eating snow is just like drinking out of a puddle. Would you drink out of a puddle? A dog might have gone pee in that very spot.“)
Ready for the Grand Adventure. Skating to the library. (Preceded by 20 minutes of negotiating in the kitchen. Jay adamantly refusing to go skating, me empathizing, but staying firm because we really needed to pick up the books on hold, and then Jay finally agreeing to go, but still refusing to skate, so me agreeing to pull her on a sled. Tee rather warily agreeing to pull the other sled with books and boots. Sibling tensions simmering. False jollility emanating from their mother.)
Big brother pulling little sister on sled. (“My back hurts! How much longer? How come you can’t just pull both sleds Mom? Quit BUGGING me Jay.”)
We reached our destination! Success! (Tee’s mood has really shifted, from rather grumpy stoicism to bitterness, because the skating was tiring, Jay got pulled the whole way, and he’s just now realized that he’s going to have to skate all the way home, and she won’t because she didn’t bring skates. Only very reluctantly posing for picture. Note eyes closed in mute defiance.)
Brother and sister. (Tee’s eyes are in slits because I asked him to open them for the picture, and that’s as far as he was willing to open them, as he is now angry at me for coming up with this unfair afternoon plan. Jay has become chirpy and bubbly, in a way that is provoking Tee’s anger. The angrier, poutier, and moodier he becomes, the happier she seems to get. I see this developing, but feel powerless. What do I do? Tell Jay to quit being so darn happy because it’s insensitive? Feel my teeth starting to grit. Especially once we actually take off skates, put on boots, drag sleds up hill to library doors, and I realize that we put THREE bags of books on the sled, and we now only have TWO. Must have lost one on the way. Arg. What a great plan.)
Cute kid. (Okay, she’s cute. What you don’t see is Tee sitting with arms folded, refusing to take off his skates, as his pouting has now ramped up into full-blown anger, which he’s displaying by being stubborn.) We did make it home, but the wind was absolutely brutal on the way back. Tee skated on ahead, I pulled Jay, and she pulled the sled filled with books. We found the lost bag of books, I kept my temper, and we had hot chocolate with marshmallows, so it all worked out in the end, give or take a few not-so-pleasant sibling moments.
I didn’t plan on writing the post this way, but when I looked at the photos from the afternoon, it occured to me that they didn’t tell the full story. I often look at pictures and get romantic, idealized notions of other people’s lives being somehow blissful and stress-free, so I thought I’d burst the bubble on these ones.
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L was interviewed by a reporter at the dive meet, and got herself quoted in the paper, which prompted young Jay to wonder which sport she could do.
She came to me and asked for a list of all the sports I could think of, then decided on swimming. Gymnastics was okay, she said, and yes, she really liked it, but she didn’t like the idea of being a competitive gymnast. Swimming sounded more her cup of tea. Could she join a swim team? I told her that I thought it might be best if she get a little more comfortable with the proper swimming strokes. Well, could I start taking her to the pool twice a week so that she could practice front crawl a bit more? As luck would have it, my friend S phoned to say that her 14-year old son was giving swimming lessons to her 6-year old daughter, so now Jay’s getting lessons too. She had her first one on Tuesday.
Today we went to the library, and she happened across a book on figure skating. She read it from front to back on the ride home, pausing now and then to give us interesting little nuggets of information about Olympic figure skaters, and then asked whether she could take the book with her next time we went skating. She said that she was planning on practicing extra hard, and working on skating backwards, so that she could start figure skating next year. I hope it’s a passing fancy….
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Family life definitely goes through cycles. The times in which I feel absolutely mired in the swamps of bickering, when all I seem to hear are shrieks of outrage over imagined slights, I find myself having to struggle not to get sucked right into the negative mood. It’s hard not to begin questioning all of my choices, all of my parenting, not to mention my choice to homeschool. Sometimes the togetherness that seemed so valuable begins to feel like an experiment in compromises, a neverending battle of the personalities, with me as overburdened peace negotiator. Add a few shnooty noses ( I just can’t stand the sound of that sniveling, get a kleenex already!), weather too cold for much outdoor fun, and the natural obstinance that goes along with several developmental stages, and I have to admit that the outlook was starting to seem quite bleak.
So it was with a certain grim fortitude that I began my day today, only to happen upon two sisters playing piano together, two brothers of vastly different ages, personalities, and interests just hanging out, and the sounds of plans being made.
True, I’ve also heard doors slamming, escalating complaints, and a few It’s not fair! s, but I have to remind myself to notice the positive moments as well.
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