Big Sister, Hard Lessons

The Cooper household has some interesting family dynamics. I am the youngest of four children and my husband is the eldest of two. And, as you know, we have two children which makes one the elder and one the younger. As parents, I probably tend to empathize with Jane's struggles as the youngest, more than I do with Ana's struggles as the eldest and my husband probably does exactly the opposite.

(I say this knowing that you will assume (correctly) that we both love both of our children to distraction and there is no overt favoritism going on here. Just some sneaking sympathies...)

Having confessed that I have a little soft spot for Jane (8), I will also tell you that my older daughter Ana (10.5) is possibly the best big sister ever. She is an extremely patient and kind person in general and she loves and enjoys her little sister. (Well, you know, most of the time.)

I will also tell you that Jane can be a little stinker. She wants to be "big" so much that she just glosses right over the fact that she is younger, until it behooves her to play the baby and scream and cry to get her way. For the most part, Ana handles this with grace and resignation.

Every once in a while, though, even ANA has had enough.

Take yesterday, for example.

The girls had been playing a protracted game of School for days, which involved a whole classroom of stuffed animals, plus Ana doing all the stuffed animals' schoolwork. Jane was the teacher --and by teacher, I mean complete and utter dictator. Oh my goodness, when Jane gets bossy, it is just...


Finally, Ana had enough. She submitted a paper (ostensibly written by a three-year-old) and promptly received an "F-" on it. And that, as they say, was THAT.

"I'm not playing with you anymore, Jane," she said calmly.

Jane screamed and cried and grieved over the injustice of the world for about ten minutes. And then she launched her attack.

"Air Mail for Ana Cooper!" she shouted. And down came a letter, launched from the top of the stairs.

Ana sat, unmoved, reading her book.

"Air Mail for Ana Cooper!" Jane shouted again. And down came another letter, launched from the top of the stairs.

(Note the still dictatorial tone.)

Nope. Nothing doing. No notice taken by the Big Sister, who sat reading her book.

Little sister came down the stairs five separate times. "Ana, can we play school? I promise to act nicer."

"No, I'm reading."

More mail. (This one says (mostly), "I will let you be the teacher! I will also let you be in charge of the game.")

Ana yawned and turned the page in her book. Then she stood up and took her book into the bathroom.

Jane slipped another letter under the door. (Dear Ana, I also REALLY wish we could play right this very minute. LOVE, your Buddy, Jane.)

No notice from Ana. Jane finally realized that Big Sister really meant business this time.

The next letter --a heartfelt plea:

On the back: (PSS: The pencil is for you for keeps! Love Jane.)

"Jane," said Ana. "I don't want to play with you. I am reading."

"But Ana, PLEASE!!"

"Maybe tomorrow."

Jane's little face crumpled. Tomorrow? Tomorrow was SO not today! Tomorrow was too FAR.

She ran back upstairs. In a little bit, the last two letters.(To make up, this is for you. The only stickers I have. Sorry. (Sorry.)

By this point, *I* offered to play school with Jane, who looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. "No, I want to play with ANA."


Ana, however, has none of the push-over of her mother in her. She remained calmly detached and never did play school with Jane.

*I*, however, was feeling so bad for the little one that I was on the verge of offering to HAVE ANOTHER CHILD so that Jane would have someone to play with. (Despite the fact that this would require some sort of medical miracle. Details, people, details.)

Ana is wise, though, and she totally understood that if she gave in, she might never have the upper hand again. SHE knows how to teach appropriate consequences. SHE'S the oldest.

Her mother? Not so wise. Not the oldest. Definitely pouring herself a glass of wine.


MadMad said…
Too funny! And wow - talk about determination (and persistence) on both parts! Also? Jane is a much better speller than my son...
hokgardner said…
That resembles a lot of the stuff that goes on at our house with the sisters. The younger one cries at the drop of a hat, and the older one mostly ignores it.

Except there was one day when older on had had enough with the younger one and told her she wasn't going to play with or talk to the younger one for the rest of the day (all of half an hour since it was almost bed time). Younger one comes into the living room and crumples, saying it's her "worstest day ever" because her sister won't talk to her. Older one caved immediately and offered to read younger one stories.
Hannah said…
Oh my gosh, Ana is CHILLED STEEL! :-) I'm such a pushover myself, even as an eldest child, that Jane probably would have had me by the second charming letter. Definitely by the third.
Ann in NJ said…
Sometimes the best way to help them work out sibling things is to not help, isn't it? My own children are not nearly so steely, and when the littlest whines and cries, I usually do ask one of the older ones to play with him, because I can't take it anymore!
kim said…
Wow! I was the oldest, and I have got to admire Ana's strength of character. On the other hand, how damned cute is Jane?!
LaDonna said…
As a fellow oldest, I applaud Anna's resolve. If Jane was my little sister, she would have had me at "Can we please be pals again?" Reminds me so much of the old Hanna Barbara cartoon with the little dog jumping around the big bulldog. "We're friends, George. Right, George? Aren't we? Huh George, Huh?" (The reference to "Of Mice and Men" not withstanding)

Ah, the difficulties of motherhood when we have to stand back and watch our children resolve their own conflicts.

(And RE: your almost offer to have another child....BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!)
Barbaloot said…
I came to your blog cuz we have the same name:) And that is one of the best stories I've ever read, so now I'm coming back cuz I like your writing style. I love how much personality your two kids both have.
I'm the youngest--but the only girl so I was usually coerced into playing games that involved wrestling. The rarely ended without me in tears... :)
DK said…
Oh. My. God, your kids crack me up.

("Suddenly - a wolf!" Best plot turn EVER.)

I totally admire Ana's ability to maintain her boundaries and not be manipulated by Janie's sisterly wiles. Can she be a shrink when she grows up? Please? Can we just put our bid in now?

Poor Hurricane... (Kim - SO damn cute!)
Barb said…
That story is actually the first story Ana ever wrote. "Jane was walking in the woods. Suddenly, a wolf." I have it in my book somewhere but now I can't find it. The girls have been reading my book to each other all makes me blush.
Nobody You Know said…
Girl pour one for me, my heart is breakin'.
Miriam said…
We read this aloud as a family this morning. Madeleine (eldest) is so proud of Ana. Sarah (Jane's age and a middle with a big heart) is impressed with the stickers and pencil. True, true peace offerings to be sure.

I am impressed with your double parenthetical statements AND with Jane's little tiny sorries within the bubble letter sorries AND especially with Ana's lovely calm manner of teaching a lesson. (I'm the oldest.)

Best. Post. Ever.
Miriam said…
P.S. Nablopomo and Nanowrimo... how much will Barb's blog readers suffer this month?
Nobody you Know is right -- my heart's all twisted up for her! Lovely post!