My dear Pumpkin,
It may seem as though I favor your younger sister over you. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When you snatch a beloved book from her, followed by her inevitable screams, my knee-jerk reaction is to demand you return it to her. I impatiently tell you that we don’t take from others without asking permission first. Then, upon seeing your serious and contrite expression, I go on to say that Peanut is younger than you and you have to show that you’re a good big sister.
When Peanut looks up and sees that you now have a toy phone in your hands as a consolation prize, she drops the book like it’s nothing, and moves in for the kill. Before you can react, she swipes the phone from your unprepared hands, leaving you in shocked indignation.
“Mama!” you cry out (and righteously so). You look to me for guidance, protection.
“It’s all right,” I hear myself say before I can stop myself. “She’s just a baby. Let her have it.”
Your face falls, and you walk slowly to your little kitchen to lick your wounds. I’ve taken her side. Again.
I AM DISMAYED BY MY BEHAVIOR, BUT FEEL AS THOUGH THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO. PEANUT IS AT HER “TERRIBLE TWO” PHASE, WHERE REASON AND LOGIC GO TO DIE. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I CAN EXPLAIN TO HER HOW MUCH SHE IS HURTING YOU, HER BIG SISTER, BY HER BEHAVIOR.
I am dismayed by my behavior, but feel as though there is nothing I can do. Peanut is at her “terrible two” phase, where reason and logic go to die. There is absolutely no way I can explain to her how much she is hurting you, her big sister, by her behavior.
This scenario is repeated at least four more times that day. Each time, you are the loser.
I try to explain that you are the one who should share, be understanding, and give Peanut what she wants, because she is The Baby and you are The Big Sister. I try to ignore the look of disappointment and injustice etched on your features. You feel betrayed.
I know it can’t be easy for you.
I know, because I’m a big sister too.
It must be so hard for you to understand it all now, but someday, you will. All the arguments, fights, shouting matches—and I almost always side with her.
I can try to explain to her. But trust me, she won’t get it. And you do, even if you don’t yet understand all the reasons why it has to be this way right now.
You are sweet. You are strong. You are brave. You are the eldest child, an unsung hero.
I thank you for your trust, and for still believing in me.
This article has also appeared in Women’s Web. To read it, click here.