Whenever I spend time with my granddaughters I come up with the best ideas for blog posts. The mere observation of their collective antics is grist for the mill.
Let me share a vignette with you.
Scene – kitchen table.
Emma is creating a list of kids she will invite to her upcoming sixth birthday party. Three-year-old Brit, is sitting across from Emma, leaning as far over the list as her little body will allow. I am on the other side of Emma providing spelling assistance.
Grandma to Emma (mentally counting down the list that will soon be at capacity) What about Brit?
Emma (looks up at me and then over to Brit, frowns and looks down as she carefully counts the number of guests on the list so far. She looks back at Brit, head tilted to the side with a thoughtful expression on her face.)
Brit (face goes from a big grin and a nod when I mentioned her name to a dark frown as Emma studies her. She pounds her little fists on the table) Emma, come on. I your sister.
(I wish I had this snippet on tape. You’ll have to imagine the absolute derision a three-year-old can work into the words – come on – and the total outrage at the very suggestion that she would be denied her rightful place that came through in – I your sister.)
Emma (narrows her eyes for a moment, then shrugs and adds Brit’s name to the list.)
This vignette captures an essential aspect of my granddaughters’ lives. For Brit – I your sister – is an absolute given. No negotiation. She has lived with that reality from the moment of her birth. For Emma, the situation is more complicated. Though she really doesn’t remember the times before Brit, she did have almost three years when Brit wasn’t part of her life. Though the two girls occupy overlapping worlds, it seems Brit’s overlaps into Emma’s more.
This overlapping of worlds is, for me, a fascinating process to observe. I never had a sister and though my world definitely overlapped in spots with the worlds of my three brothers, I lived in my own space as the only girl. Responsibilities and privileges differed widely in those days. I didn’t see this phenomenon with my own children either – a boy and a girl, four years apart, my son and daughter occupied quite different worlds.
Not so for Brit and Emma. Brit can walk into Emma’s room and have a great time playing with toys designated for her sister and the opposite is also true. It might be nostalgia on Emma’s part but she can still have fun. Emma can open one of Brit’s drawers and squeeze into a favourite shirt or skirt that has been passed down. Brit would go crazy with sheer delight to be riffling through Emma’s dresser and wearing her clothes.
Brit goes to the same preschool Emma went to, she takes gymnastics at the same gym, she has the same swim instructors at the same pool. In every way, Emma has broken the ground for her.
Emma works her way through her home reading and then Brit gets the book and copies exactly what Emma did. She runs her little finger from words to word and repeats the story. She is a sponge for every move her sister makes. Her advantage is huge and though she must share everything with this older sister, she takes it as a given because she’s never known anything else.
I look forward to so many more chances to observe and track how this sisterly dynamic works itself out over the years. Right now my money’s on Brit for sheer bull doggedness when it comes to expanding the boundaries of her reach into Emma’s world. The child was born to be a protester. Perhaps it has to do with a low center of gravity but when she doesn’t want to move, it takes a fair amount of finesse or sheer, overpowering strength to get her moving. And she has a tendency to chant. Take my word for it – Pumpkin Patch, here we coming – heard over and over in the car ride to said pumpkin patch is something that had us at first laughing hysterically before we all got a weird shiver up our collective spines when she didn’t stop.
On the other hand, consider this. I was standing in the kitchen with Emma when Brit walked by. Emma reached out and pulled Brit’s hair. I stared at Emma and said, “Why did you do that?”
As I comforted Brit who was holding her head and getting ready to cry, Emma looked at me with a frown and a shrug. “I don’t know. My head said don’t but my hand said do it.”
I made some kind of comment along the line of, “Well, smarten up and start listening to your head instead of your hand.” But it makes me think – what brews inside Emma’s little body when it comes to giving up part of her world to the miniature, professional, protestor who just happens to be her sister?
I predict some interesting times ahead for one and all. Do you have overlapping world examples with your siblings or have your observed this phenomenon in your own children or grandchildren? I’d love to hear your stories.