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Becoming the Big Sister




At the lofty age of 4 ½, Ruth has many nights of experience over her little sister Elaine who is only 2 ½.  Ruth had spent the night with Husband and me about every third week for the past two years.  And even though Elaine has stayed with us several nights, last week was the first time these two sisters have stayed together.  Just the two of them, without their two older siblings who usually lead the way for these two little sisters.


While we ate supper, Ruth said, “Elaine, after we eat, we’ll go in Pop and Gran’s bedroom and dance.  Okay?”  Roll and skip and hop and twirl to the melodies of Old McDonald had a Farm and The Itsy Bitsy Spider.


When I said it was almost time to put on pajamas, Ruth took charge.  “Elaine, stop!” she said.  “We’re going to put on our pajamas and brush our teeth and then Gran will read us some books.”  When Ruth stays alone, she plants herself in either Husband’s or my lap and stretches out reading time.  But not this night.  “Elaine, let’s sit on the floor together,” Ruth said.  I sat in a wingback chair, read, and showed the girls the pictures.  After the first book, Ruth wiggled beside me in my chair and whispered, “Elaine might want to sit in your lap.”  With both girls close, I read another book and Ruth shared words of wisdom.


“Elaine, do you know what we eat for breakfast at Pop’s and Gran’s?”  Ruth asked.  Elaine shook her head.  It’s hard for her to talk with her thumb in her mouth.  Ruth said, “Oatmeal Squares.  Do you know what Gran puts on them?”  Elaine didn’t.  “Sprinkles.  Do you know why we get sprinkles?”  I think Elaine had stopped listening.  “When you stay in your bed and don’t get up, you get sprinkles.”


I didn’t know that breakfast sprinkles were perceived as a reward for staying in bed.  And if they are, then I’ve given the reward many times when it wasn’t warranted.  “Now, Elaine, Pop will take us to bed.  You stay in your bed (a crib) and I’ll stay in mine (a king size bed.)  We’ll be right in the same room,” Ruth said.


Ruth told me, “Gran, I can get up and get Elaine a drink if she needs one.  You and Pop don’t have to come upstairs.”   I wish all had gone according to her plan.  Ruth stayed in her bed, except when she got up twice to hand Elaine a glass of water.  But, Husband and I each ‘checked on’ Elaine several times before she finally fell sleep.  The next morning Ruth said, “Gran, I think me and Elaine both need sprinkles.  She tried really hard to stay in her bed.”  What’s cereal without sprinkles?


Lest you think a four-year-old is capable of bestowing sisterly love and guidance throughout an entire evening and morning, you should know that there were some glitches.  When big sister pushed a drawer shut on little sister’s fingers.  When big sister wanted the toy that little sister held in her hands.   When little sister wanted to put on her socks without big sister’s help.


This overnight visit reminded me that children need opportunities to be in charge.  A chance to be the leader and the one who knows what to do.  And don’t we all?












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