Sisters Forever – Inhabiting Overlapping Worlds

  Emma & Brit at the pool - Guenette photo

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.

Emma & Brit eat popcorn - Guenette photo

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.

Emma & Brit go to school - Guenette photo

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.

Brit at the Gym - Guenette photo

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.

Emma & Brit make tacos - Guenette photo

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.

Emma & Brit pumpkin patch - Guenette photo

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?

Emma & Brit ride bikes - Guenette photo

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.

23 comments on “Sisters Forever – Inhabiting Overlapping Worlds

  1. smilecalm says:

    having shared your grandchildren experience
    i’m fulfilled with fresh & deep wonder 🙂

    • I do get a kick out of them and often present them in a humorous way, but wonder is the word to describe what I am often feeling. Children do put a fresh spin on things if we only take the time to see and hear.

  2. Cathy says:

    Lovely post and the “I don’t know. My head said don’t but my hand said do it.” is a classic!

  3. diannegray says:

    What gorgeous girls they are, Francis – you must be so proud. I have three sisters so I understand the dynamics very well! 😀

  4. They are so cute, Francis! I love seeing their smiling faces and hearing tales of their antics. I had an older sister, so I can relate to Brit’s frustration about being left off the list. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jill. Brit has many advocates, for sure. Her mom was a younger sibling and often tells me she knows exactly how Brit feels. Hmmmm . . . . believe me, Brit can make her own case for inclusion. But oh my gosh, the pair of them. Priceless.

  5. Gallivanta says:

    I know I had an Emma moment with my little sister; gave her a good push and I have no idea why. I was mortified that my hand had done what my head said I shouldn’t.

  6. evelynralph says:

    Never had a sister. My brother was 11 years older, it was war time. I should have had a sister, 7 years older, but she was still born. Who knows what might have happened if my sister had lived?
    Evelyn

  7. mooremorrans says:

    How charming this was and, oh, did it bring back memories for me. I am the oldest of three girls, the youngest being barely 2 years and 5 months younger than me. In other words, when Barbara was born, Doreen was exactly one year and four days old and I was not quite 2 and a half! I have no memory of life without younger sisters but was always the one to forge forward with something new – like starting school, having boyfriends, getting a bra a week before my next younger sister who was the one who really needed one (I didn’t). The other two rarely got along so I was the one who became the peacemaker or the one tattled to. Our middle sister was considered the “goody two-shoes” by the youngest and me as she never had to be coerced into getting up in the morning, to practice her piano lessons, complete her homework, etc., etc. As teenagers we all wore approximately the same size so had endless negotiations every morning as to who would wear what that belonged to another sister, IF we would let that sister borrow something of ours. Dad had early on converted our three small bedrooms into one large L-shaped bedroom with twin beds, a double bed and three dormer windows with window boxes under them and a huge walk-in closet. During the 50s when we all wore several can-cans under our full skirts, there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver around in the closet. We would also negotiate who slept in what bed whenever one of us had an overnight girlfriend guest and had to occupy the double bed. When I went away to college I suddenly had one-third of my former wardrobe selections but was the only one of my peers who was not new to living in a “dorm room.” I could go on and on, but am very grateful for growing up with close siblings. I also remember a particular clerk at a local store who always greeted one, two or all three of us with, “How many more Moore girls are there at home?”

    • I’m so glad this post took you down memory lane, Gayle. You must identify with Emma’s plight being the older sister who must forget the way. I love the idea of how you negotiated who slept in which bed depending on the social calendar. Sounds like having sisters is something that can grate at the time but in the end is a real blessing.

  8. I think my younger sister had an easier time than I did, especially when she became a teenager. Our dad was far more lenient with her, whereas, I was kept on a tight rein.

    • This is a comment often heard in relation to the youngest, isn’t it? My husband is the youngest of seven and his older siblings all feel he had an easier time. I feel sorry for all the oldest kids out there. It seems parents learn how to do the job with the first one and every kid after that has an easier time of it.

  9. jackiemallon says:

    I never had any sisters but It must be a unique bond. I can see little golden indestructible threads connecting them as they walk down the path together. Too cute.

  10. Behind the Story says:

    I have three daughters, all very close in age. They went to the same nursery school and elementary and high schools. Two of them even went to the same university. Now that they’re adults with children of their own, they’re still very close.

  11. carolahand says:

    Such a delightful story, Francis! Grandchildren are such a gift – they always help me see the world in new ways.

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