Today I bought my youngest child (16 months), a brand new pair of shoes. This is very special for two reasons. Firstly – they are the first pair of shoes that I have bought for her, she’s been waddling around in her older sister’s scuffed cast offs since she started walking. Secondly – because they are too small for her older sister (nearly 3), so there is absolutely no way that she can claim them as hers.
When I discovered I was having another girl I was delighted. I hoped that one day these sisters would be best friends as I am with mine. However I can’t deny that some of that delight was due to the practicalities of having 2 girls. I had cupboards bursting with girl’s clothes. Having a second child required a lot less preparation too. We already had all the equipment and toys we needed, even if they were a little stained, worn or broken – they’d do!
I have moments of guilt when I realise the extent to which I sterilised and cleaned everything for my first born. With my second child it’s more a case of lick and spit and off she goes. I actually went and bought a heap of batteries a few months ago when I realised most of the developmental flashing and talking toys she was playing with were no longer functioning as intended.
At Christmas the presents ‘Father Christmas’ bought my eldest were fun and, on the whole, things she’d requested. Whilst my youngest received more practical gifts such as beach towels, lunch boxes and a ladybird icepack to put in the freezer in case of an emergency. Despite the practicality (and rather boring nature) of these gifts, the octopus hooded beach towel with the red fish on it, only stayed in her possession long enough for her to rip off the wrapping paper. It was immediately claimed by her sister in exchange for her older, tattier and very well used purple princess one – all this performed under the guise of kindness when it was nothing more than blatant stealing.
Meanwhile, the giant rabbit teddy with pink hands and feet that my eldest so specifically requested from Father Christmas, has not received anywhere near the same level of love and attention as the towel. In fact, said bunny teddy sits rather depressingly hunched over in the corner of her bedroom, neglected and unloved.
Almost every other gift my youngest received for Christmas or her birthday from friends and relatives has been stolen or swapped with the older, worn or used versions of her sister’s.
When giving them food, I am careful to distribute everything evenly. However, the minute my back is turned my eldest is on the prowl. Grabbing her sister’s food out of her hands or directly from her mouth, if it looks appealing enough. If they are sitting down to eat at the table, she is usually to be found leaning across the table with her fingers wriggling around in her sisters bowl; busily picking out the items that take her fancy and, (if she’s feeling generous) exchanging them for her rejects. Occasionally my youngest squawks at her, grabbing hold of her bowl or toy and wrapping her arms around it as though her life depended on it. On these occasions my eldest will use all of her might to extract the item from her sister’s tight clutches. If this proves unsuccessful she starts chanting ”sharing’s caring” – a rather one dimensional view on sharing. However, more often than not my youngest gives in, resigned to the fact that her sister will usually win.
I have learnt that literally whatever the youngest has, her sister will always want – at that precise second. There is no negotiation. Even when I try to step in, in an effort to teach her about sharing or inform her that it’s not actually hers, she has no interest in what I’m saying. Somehow she always manages to walk away the winner with a rather smug satisfied smile on her little face.
On the couple of days a week when the eldest goes to kindy, I love watching my youngest enjoying the freedom of playing with each and every toy (especially the ones that are 100% her sister’s that she never usually gets to lay a finger on). You’d think she would be so happy to not be bossed and pushed around by her elder sibling, however I sense that she misses her. As soon as they are reunited, her face lights up like a ray of sunshine and she squeals in delight.
Since returning from the shops this morning and waking from her day sleep my youngest pulled her new shoes from the cupboard and brought them to me. Insisting that I put them on her feet immediately, she sat down and held one chubby little foot up in the air, eagerly waiting for her new shoes to be placed on her feet. I wonder if she somehow knows that these are HERS?