Thursday, October 16, 2008

A measure of devotion

L was crawling around our bedroom floor this morning as she does so many mornings while I get dressed. She'd been awake for almost an hour and for a good part of that time I'd been encouraging her to be quiet so she wouldn't wake her sister but the time was approaching that I really needed her sister to wake up so I played silly face games with her to pull some more squeals into the morning air.

It works every time. E is an obstreperous little creature if one of us dares to go in her room and wake her up but if she believes she's waking up of her own volition she's a ray of sunshine befitting the hour of daybreak. L and I hear her commentary (to whom? to nobody? to Hudson? to the anteater at the foot of her bed? to herself and the characters in her head who live her daily life in her company?): I think I hear somebody!!! And I'm waking up, guys!!! L, I'm awake!!!

L and I watch from the doorway of my room as E comes running out of her bedroom away from us, directly into L's room. She heard her sister, and she wants to find her sister. "Over here, love!" I call to her. She runs back into the hall, and a reunion commences at the halfway point: L starts crawling westward and E jumps eastward. One falls to her knees and the other balances up carefully on just knees and they both giggle. L looks up, expectantly. E wraps her arms around her for their unskippable morning embrace. And in case I've somehow missed it, she yells to me: Mama! I'm awake! And I gived L a hug!!

They love each other fiercely. It's easy right now, because the competition between them is still very limited. It's of the benign sort, and it's one-sided: I want to sit on your lap! She's touching my things! Take me out of the car first and then get L! I know their relationship will become more complex when L finds her own voice. Right now E stage directs every detail of both their lives: I will have purple and L gets pink!! There might be a day when L declares she hates the pink, she's tired of the pink, she never wants to see pink again and will E stop trying to be the boss of her. She wants the yellow, jeez, oKAY? And on that day, E will have to redevelop her entire perspective on world order. For a girl who loves control, ceding some to the sister she loves, but also loves to dominate, will be a profound change.

Recently I dropped the girls off at daycare and customarily we go together to L's room to get her settled first but we were later than usual. E's classmates generally begin their day in the 3-5 year olds' room, where all the 2 through 5s eat breakfast together. However we had arrived at the end of breakfast and many of E's friends were already in their own class so E wanted to join them. We went to unpack E first, and so I put L on the floor in E's room to crawl amongst the bigger kids' toys while I unpacked my own bigger girl. Suddenly a swarm of children were surrounding L, cooing "hi, baby!" and touching her face. Audrey, Liam, Sonya and Ciara were all reaching for the attention of L, who was smiling wildly and trying to use each of their little frames as a tool for standing up. Five children were made happy by L's temporary presence in that classroom but I looked over to find E visibly upset. NO! she screamed a second later, thrashing her arms against her friends. THAT'S MY STISTER! THAT'S NOT YOUR STISTER! In her school crowd E is the only older sibling. Her friends are enthralled by a baby; but E felt very protective. And possessive.

The possessive: its intentions are noble, even if its manifestations can be a little obnoxious. The protective, though: that's pure love.

Which: brings us full circle to the anteater at the end of E's bed. The anteater is a holdover from a little summer project of E's in which she tried to collect as many different purple animals as she could beg extended relatives to buy for her. As it happens, also this summer we had a bit of an ant problem in the kitchen. This is not too shocking, with two small children and no dog, but it's been a minor nuisance. One night it almost became a major nuisance. E woke up to nightmares. She had a bad dream that ants were trying to get her; that they were crawling in her bed. Do you know that feeling of self-satisfaction mixed with relief mixed with gratitude when all powers of logic and reasoning don't fail you at 3am and you can identify the problem before you, conceive of a solution, and locate the tools for that solution fast enough that the night's sleep is not altogether lost? With the greatest of casualness I reached into E's toy bin, felt around for the anteater and said, "well, it's a good thing you have an anteater, then, isn't it?" We stationed him at the foot of the bed by the germ-catchers and one interesting little overactive imagination was convinced of the security of an insect-free slumber.

Over time all guard duties have transferred to the anteater. He is now Bouncer Extraordinaire, denying entrance to all ants, germs and nightmares.

WARNING: TRESPASSERS WILL BE EATEN ON SIGHT THROUGH A FUNNY VACUUM SNOUT.

Under the protection of her purple corduroy bodyguard E has been sleeping well again. Her sister has not, however. This has nothing to do with ants, germs and nightmares, and everything to do with teething, separation anxiety, and general stubbornness. However, L's sleeping problems had been troubling E enough to think up a solution.

Mama, I think you should buy L a anteater.

She's looking out for her sister. She's a clever one, no? And relentless. After being pestered after the morning hug for a report on L's night, and pestered again at bedtime, did I buy "a anteater" yet, and pestered and pestered and pestered, meet the newest member of our family, who also can't help with the kitchen infestation.

You'll notice he's pink.
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Five, six, pick up sticks

Tooth update: last night was a big night. L now has four up top and two down low. Maybe tonight she'll sleep. Pin It