A few weeks ago I sat down to write a blog post. It began like this: Today they woke up sweet.
Then something happened, I can’t be sure what. Ceci wasn’t cooperating with her big sister’s grand Lego-building plans, or Maggie kicked Ceci in the head while attempting to do some sort of indoor acrobatics. Ultimately someone hit someone, which was followed by much crying, at least one time-out, and sour moods all around. The unfinished post was forgotten in the drafts folder. At any rate, I no longer felt like writing about how cute my girls could be with one other.
At two and five, they argue more than I thought they would. (The baby is a non-issue, for now, unless she’s pulling their hair or barreling through a board game or eating their toys.) As the oldest, Maggie is usually the instigator. She’s used to taking the lead, being the winner, making the rules as they play, and she doesn’t deal well with non-compliance on the part of her little sister.
For instance: On one occasion not too long ago, the two of them invented a tiny imaginary friend named Lainey. She was supposed to be Ceci’s age, and Ceci dragged her all over the play set in our backyard. “I’ve got Lainey right here,” she told me, holding out her two cupped hands as I lifted her into the baby swing. But apparently sharing even an invisible friend can be hard for a five-year-old. Swiping the air, Maggie closed her fist around Lainey. A chase ensued. Lainey was thrown into trees, imprisoned on top of the monkey bars. I used magic to free her and return her to Ceci. The whole thing was completely crazy and ridiculous. The lengths to which Maggie would go to keep this imaginary girl away from her sister were impressive, to say the least. Lord help us all if they ever have a crush on the same boy.
The thing – which I don’t acknowledge nearly enough – is that really, most of the time, they are sweet with each other. When they aren’t getting along, they take turns running into the kitchen every five minutes to tattle on the other one: “Maggie called me a noo-nah!” (It’s always some absurd made-up word, and I can’t bring myself to engage. “That doesn’t even mean anything. Just go play.”) But when they are, I can complete whatever chore I’m doing without interruption, so my attention is elsewhere. When they are getting along, it’s just background noise.
I’m trying, though, to notice the sweetness. Like how, when she wakes up before everyone else in the morning, Ceci turns on the light in the room she shares with Alex, sits next to the crib with a pile of books and “reads” stories to her baby sister. Or the time I came downstairs and Maggie and Ceci were kneeling together in the rainbow glow of the newly decorated Christmas tree, quiet. Just looking at it. Possibly my favorite moments are when Maggie gets proud of the other two. They’ll be coloring at the kitchen table and she’ll exclaim, “You’re coloring in the lines, Ceec!” with real excitement in her voice. Or, “Alex just said her first word!” (Which was “mum-mum”. As in the teething wafers called “Baby Mum-Mums”.)
I come from a family of three girls, as well, all born in about a four-year span. It’s a special gift to watch my daughters interact and be reminded of my own experience growing up. We weren’t always kind to each other either: my oldest sister and I would gang up on my middle sister – who has somehow forgiven us for telling her she was adopted – or they would gang up on me, singing a song they had made up about me over and over until I cried. I was the youngest; for me, being a kid and being a sister were one and the same. My siblings created lush imaginary worlds and I was lucky enough to be invited along to inhabit them, whether it was in the basement with our Barbie dolls, in our backyard fort underneath low-hanging trees, or riding Big Wheels in the street outside our house, pretending to be runaway child rock stars.
They don’t always wake up sweet, it’s true. But it’s good to know that even when my girls fight, they are still doing what my sisters and I did, writing the story of their childhood, together. That despite calling each other “noo-nahs” and stealing imaginary friends and engaging in the occasional little girl brawl, there’s actually a lot of love there. My husband and I made a choice to give them that, knowing that we would be outnumbered, knowing that the wrath of three girls when they band together is something to be feared. We fear it. But we wouldn’t change a thing.