Monday, June 10, 2013

Solidarity

GirlsAndBikesCollage

“Me too! Me too! Me too!” Thumper utters in one breath as she trails behind her sister, trying to copy her next move, whatever that may be. Sitting at the back of the couch? Sure. Jumping off a mini ledge? Yes. Eating jellyfish and sushi? Of course!

Yes, we’re at this me too me too stage now, and that’s pretty much all we hear all day. The two-year-old may not end up enjoying everything, but she at least tries them because she wants to emulate her big sister, who, at 4.5 years, already has a rather profound influence on her development at this stage.

Big sisters do that apparently.

We get a lot of “I don’t yike this either!” as Thumper joins in on her sister’s protest du jour. And we certainly hear more “Missy hit me pirst (first)!“ than we care to. Naturally, where there are two, there’s bound to be blame and competition: “Me won!” “No, Thumper, I won!” “No, me won pirst!” “There’s no such thing. I won! You lost!” “Yes, me yost!”

There’s also plenty of pretend playing, with the girls alternating mommy and baby roles every day. Today, Thumper declared to me first thing in the morning, “Me the mommy; Missy is the baby” and she called out to Little Miss, “I’ll be wight back, teetaht (sweetheart)” in her most sophisticated mommy voice. It can be pretty hilarious, especially when we’re in public and Thumper runs after her sister, calling, “Mama, mama!” confusing or amusing the strangers around her.

I may not have a sibling, but I expected all of this. I knew this was a natural progression for a two-year-old making her own place within our family, vying for attention, establishing her identity relative to her bigger, more capable older sister.

Yet, sometimes, even when I am fully aware of to expect, I am taken aback when I am suddenly faced with what I knew would happen. Like this moment last Thursday:

After Little Miss huffily stormed into the bedroom and begrudgingly sat on the little green chair in the corner for a timeout, Thumper followed her and planted herself on the floor right beside her, facing her sister.

“Don’t go in there, Thumper. Your sister is in timeout.” I said, but it fell on deaf ears. Instead, I saw Thumper whispering to her sister, and she held out her hand to stop me from entering the bedroom.

Thumper knew I wasn’t pleased with her sister’s irreverence. I think she also suspected that Little Miss had a little bit of defiance left in her as she sat squirming and itching to retaliate further from her timeout chair.

That’s when Thumper gently patted her big sister’s knee and quietly said, “You stay here,” as if to say listen to mommy, stop fighting, and you can get out of here.

And in that same motion, when their eyes met, it felt like she had also assured her big sister that she was there, at her side, and more importantly, on her side.

Little Miss stopped twitching. Both girls turned to look at me with the same dark eyes, in solidarity, daring me to penetrate an invisible shield they had both created from an implicit understanding.

I took a moment to drink that moment in, and then chose to walk away, in awe of what I’d just witnessed. They were on the same side. Two against one.

Suddenly, that part of our future unfolded before me and sent an uncomfortable twist to my sides. I knew they would unite against me someday, but it did nothing to prepare me for it.

I have to admit, as much as I hated being the one to their two, I was proud to see them taking a stand together. Oh how I wish it was the beginning of an amazing and unbreakable bond between these girls.

A sisterhood of shared secrets, spoken and unspoken, of hands and hearts bound together, by blood and by choice.

As with any parent of two or more children, I can only hope that when I’m no longer here for them, they will be there for each other, which is why being one against their two doesn’t bother me as much.

How ironic that my greatest wish for them as a parent may someday also be my biggest challenge. 

 TenderMoment

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Have Issues: The Party Girl Edition

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I have not yet composed the birthday letter to my newly minted two-year-old as per my usual Extreme Birthday Celebrant self. In fact, I didn’t do much of anything that’s usual for Thumper’s birthday this year.

When a birthday approaches, I get into this mode: I craft, I bake, I create, I get fancy. In short, my brain short-circuits a little, and I live outside my comfort zone for the days, even weeks, leading up to a birthday.


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For Little Miss’ first year, I decided to go with a tea party (yes, for the one-year-old who could barely drink out of a cup herself, let alone enjoy the tea). It was inspired by a cameo pendant, so I special-ordered a cake to match it, I scoured the local vintage shops for dainty porcelain tea sets, shopped for attire (for both Little Miss and myself) that fit the theme, made scones, tea sandwiches, and teapot shaped cut-out cookies with her initials that I spent too many nights trying to perfect (and possibly cried over a little at 2 AM when they were nearly done, but not quite, and it seemed like it would never end).

Intricate, fussy work is just not my thing. It’s hardly ever my thing, but I thought, once a year, for my daughter’s birthday, I should do something special. Now, it’s twice a year, and so I toil with each birthday. Sometimes, like an idiot.

For Little Miss’ third birthday, my mom, My Guy, and I became a factory, churning out a gazillion and two cake pops for a balloon-themed party to go with the balloon pit, balloon decorations, and balloon favors. Naturally, I handcrafted balloon-inspired thank you cards after the event.

This year, I got Thumper 20 purple balloons and lost 10 of them to crazy winds before I could even reach home. It was painful to watch it fly away from my inches-away grasp, but not the end of the world, because that was just bonus. After our trip to the water park to celebrate her birthday, I’d resigned myself to a simpler celebration, so the balloons were actually a last-minute addition.

In fact, I refused to even call it a party – just a play date with friends – as a way to trick my brain to chill out. That also meant doubling my effort to quiet the chorus of guilt because this year, for this special two-year-old of mine, I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.

With only three days from the time we returned from our trip to the weekend, which was when we invited our neighbors and Thumper’s closest playmates over for a belated celebration of her big 0-2, and with work taking up most of my “free” time, I had no choice but to surrender my Party OCD to the stars.

And boy, did I ever.

People were scheduled to arrive at 3:30, and I didn’t get home from the store (after losing half the balloons) until 2:30. Everything was purchased, from cupcakes to snacks, and I barely squeezed in a much needed shower. I only decided on Thumper’s birthday outfit when something new arrived in the mail that afternoon. The other option was something in the closet that she had never found the occasion to wear.


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In the end, she had a great time. She didn’t know that the guests were casually invited, mentioned in passing during a play date, rather than an elaborate daddy-designed digital invitation card (he’d created an animated GIF invite for Little Miss’ party one year), she didn’t know 10 balloons were missing (and probably making some other kids smile when they spy them floating in the sky), she didn’t know that the hodgepodge of paper plates were leftovers from previous parties, and she didn’t know her cupcakes weren’t homemade.

Nor would she have cared.

I know.  I have always known, but perhaps having been a full-time working mom before this led me to overcompensate. I felt compelled to make the weekends more lively for the kids (frenetic for the grownups) and the special days more special (but stressful for me) to make up for the time I didn’t get to spend with them.

Yet, despite the grocery-store-sponsored party, she smiled, she grinned, she snorted, she laughed, she said “butt-butt” and “toot” a lot, she announced “cake time!”, she kicked off her own Happy Birthday song, she said plenty of thank you’s, she kissed, she hugged, she twirled and fell, and she twirled some more.

The Teddy Grahams, raisins, juice, cheese sticks, grapes, and Goldfish crackers made the kids happy, and Thumper even got to devour one cupcake and three frostings. After the last of the guests left, she went to bed saying “Night night, mommy…I wub you…see you in the morning,” just like she does every night.

I didn’t have to do more. The thing is, I never had to. But now that I see that pre-party stress prep yields the same happy, contented birthday girl as pre-party no prep, I can’t believe I once cried into a cookie.


TeapotCookies

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