Tag Archives: sisters

Carol Week: Freaky Friday

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Kids singing in unison can be sweet. It can also be creepy. It depends on the time of day they’re singing. And the listeners’ frame of mind. And how in-key they are.

It’s not just singing, either. My girls can be very sweet in their general interactions, but they can also freak me out.

Two or three nights ago, my 6-year-old was being mildly rude to my 4-year-old as they got ready for bed, so I dropped some fatherly (though admittedly made up, as I’m an only child) wisdom:

Me: Treat her well. You’ll be sisters your whole lives.

Firstborn: I hope we die together. Like if someone shoots me with an arrow, it goes through me and hits her, too.

Second: Maybe she can be standing in line, and I’m right behind her, and the arrow would go through us and make a big hole.

Me: Uh … that’s … a nice … thought?

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Toy Week: Freaky Friday: Not a Toy

Toy Week: Freaky Friday: Not a Toy

We’ve had a lot of fruit flies in our house this autumn, and a few weeks back, I wrote about my wife discovering the apparent source: a peach that had been overlooked for a week in my 6-year-old’s thought-to-have-been-empty snack bag.

We’ve nonetheless continued to battle the pests, and we’ve been swatting at regular houseflies, too, in numbers we’ve never previously seen. It’s not biblical plague proportions, but the bugs are certainly annoying. My 1-year-old son has started suddenly flinging one arm out like he’s snatching something out of the air—a move I thought was a random baby exercise until my wife pointed out: “Honey, he’s imitating you.” I do tend to grab angrily at passing insects.

A few days ago, my daughters were playing under our dining room table—a large, solid, wooden circle that’s at least 100, maybe 150 years old.

It’s got wooden wheels and a system for expanding, leaf by leaf by leaf by leaf, into a massive dining platform. There are nooks and crevices underneath to hide pegs and latches and all sorts of hand-carved and -forged details.

The girls were chatting and laughing and then went silent. Mostly silent. They started whispering and giggling in about an 80 percent attempt at being secretive / 20 percent attempt at catching my attention that they had a private joke.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

They erupted in guffaws.

“Girls? Girls … .”

I was sure they were up to no good, so I approached the table. One of them said, faux-guiltily, “We hid this.” A hand popped out from under the tablecloth, between two chairs, holding something oblong and black and—oh no.

“Is that a banana?”

More laughter. Harder laughter.

“How long has it been there?”

The reply was vague, which isn’t unexpected from kids who still occasionally mix up yesterday and tomorrow. I got the impression that the fruit had been there for more than several weeks. Months, maybe. My oldest daughter theorized that she had stuffed it there around when we first moved in—about three years ago. I know that’s impossible.

I took the thing—shriveled, hard, grotesque, like the body of some lost wanderer dredged up from a bog. A mummy.

“We don’t hide food,” I said, which was a false statement. We, as a family, hide food all the time. My son stores bread crusts, tortilla pieces, and cereal—pretty much anything on the grain tier of the food pyramid—between our futon and a recliner. Which puzzles me. We feed our kids well. We feed them often. But still I shove the vacuum attachment into the gap between the seats and listen as the diverse array of baked goods rattles up the hose and into the canister.

They can’t be storing away food for the leaner months. We don’t have leaner months.

My best guess is that it’s a game, with the food serving as just another toy. A perishable, fly-incubating toy. There were obvious signs that the hidden banana had been a popular spot, like a Make-Out Point for insects.

Some days, the dolls and blocks and games don’t cut it. That’s when the pots and pans come out. Or one girl slips her feet into my sandals and starts talking with as deep a voice as she can: “Hey, I’m Daddy.” Or, apparently, a lunch item is secreted away, like some disgusting parody of an Easter egg hunt.

I’m thankful for their ingenuity and imagination. But I prefer it when they choose to apply that creativity to stuff that doesn’t rot.

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Fight Week: Siblings

Fight Week: Siblings

I’m an only child.

Ah, some of you are saying. That explains it.

Oh, come on. The only thing it explains is my complete surprise at how siblings interact day to day.

When I was little, my parents periodically checked on me to see if I was doing OK with being what the French call un fils unique. But they didn’t want to be direct for some reason—maybe they were worried they’d bias me toward wanting a little brother or sister based on their word choice—so they came in at an angle, asking me how many kids I wanted to have when I grew up. My unfailing answer: 13.

Them: Why?
Me: So they don’t get lonely.
Them: Are you lonely?
Me: No.

Repeat every half a year or so. Even as a little kid, I was messing with their heads.

But I did enjoy being an only child. I could do what I wanted when I wanted—within reason, of course—and I never had to share my toys or take turns or anything. Two of my lifetime best friends—brothers who lived on my street—were literally seconds away from my house, and I could play with them at a moment’s notice, then leave or watch them go home when I felt like it. They were like brothers I could shut off when I was ready to be an only child again.

Now with three kids of my own—two of whom seem to have looked up “sister behavior” in the Really Big Book of Familial Cliches—I’m routinely dumbfounded by the way my children act toward each other.

My girls—one 6, one 4—go from cuddling to screeching in less time than it takes to say, “Who wants hot cocoa?” They both want the same mug. They want to race to the kitchen. They make up the rules as they’re running from the couch where they had just been reading while snuggled in a blanket—rules that give the rule-maker an advantage and declare what the winner gets to do, how much cocoa she gets, which prizes she’ll receive, how she’ll get to help me pour the milk or scoop the chocolate. They push and grab at each other in an effort to win their made-up contest. And then someone gets hurt. And then someone cries. And then someone shouts.

And then one gets the other an icepack from the freezer and delivers a mumbled apology. Or starts freaking out more. It depends on the day.

They freely share clothes and compliment each other on their fashion sense, except when they’re angrily accusing each other of stealing outfits. The older one frequently goes out of her way to say how bad the younger one looks in certain ensembles. I thought this sort of dialog only happened in sitcoms to convey family strife that can be overcome with a few words of wisdom after 23 minutes of hilarious tension.

They bicker over who gets to wash their hands first, and then they either patiently take turns or a fight breaks out. They each complain that the other isn’t doing any work when they’re cleaning their room; such complaints are often delivered listlessly from the floor. Glasses of juice and milk have to be exactly even, as do slices of cake, bowls of soup, and rounds of Plants vs. Zombies played on the iPad.

I have never before met two people who seem to love and anger each other so thoroughly. The little one tattles, which is behavior we’re discouraging, although the habit does alert us to the older one’s often ill-thought-out and dangerous antics. We make allowances for tattling if the tattler makes the house a safer place via the tattling, but that’s a fine line to walk with a 4-year-old, who still sort of equates tattling with lying, and so maintains she’s not tattling when she says her sister stuck her tongue out at her. “But it’s true!” she insists when we tell her to deal with it herself.

The older one can be quite mean to her little sister, but her little sister often relentlessly copies her—another behavior I thought had been made up by uncreative TV writers—and goes out of her way to push the exact buttons to get a big reaction. These are the sorts of buttons only someone who knows you intimately can push.

I don’t think I will ever truly understand what it’s like to be stuck with someone who shares your parents with you. All I can do is stand back and watch. And referee. And call my wife in to look when I peek in their room at night to see the girls sharing a bed, holding hands in their sleep.

Did you fight with your siblings? Or are you lucky like me? (Or did you wish you had a dozen brothers and sisters?)

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