Thursday, July 2, 2009

A big sister for the big sister

Our synagogue showed Aladdin tonight on the hill behind the building and I took E to watch it. We brought our camping chairs, some popcorn and M&Ms, those glow sticks that you crack to activate and wear like bracelets, and bug spray. So we were well prepared. What I couldn't prepare for, though, was that this was the scariest thing E's ever yet seen.

Our girls are 22 months apart and one of the reasons we wanted them so close together is to foster a tight relationship. We have no local relatives and as our gene pool is playing out, it's possible our girls might never have first cousins. It's far from definite yet, but it's possible. And any cousins they might one day have will be distant in both age and miles. So it has been important to us that they have each other. L is young yet to understand the implications in verbal description, though she certainly turns to her sister physically for all manner of assistance, example and reassurance. For E, though, who is old enough to understand a bit about responsibility and trust, we speak with her often about her role as a big sister. We ask her to speak clearly, and not in nonsense words, as an example, because L learns language through mimicking E's speech. We talk to E about her unique ability to bring a smile to her sister's face. We talk about how she'll always care for her little sister. E takes this responsibility seriously. When no adult can make L smile, E can save the day by singing the first verse of The wheels on the bus go round and round, or by starting a tickle game, or by offering a hug or a hand to hold. When we don't understand what L's points and unhs mean, E often is able to translate successfully. And as committed as she is to caregiving for her sister, E is just as serious about a few older girls whom she deems caretakers to herself.

There is the 10-year-old girl next door, whom E adores and believes is a walking miracle. There are two five-year-olds in her school whom she tells stories about each day, one of whom reads stories to her and one of whom taught her where to sit on the first day in the big kids' room, but also taught her about the really important things, like princesses and fairies. And there are two or three girls from our synagogue for whom E reserves a special place in her heart.

One of those girls is Goof Girl, who was also at Aladdin tonight. They're a great pair, because as the younger sibling in her own family, GG loves someone to dote on; and a rising kindergartner, E sees GG as a big sister to adopt for her own. They sat conspiratorially close tonight, whispering plot lines. (E: Who's that bad guy? GG: "That's Jafar. He has issues.") They shared snacks and cracked glow bracelets together. And when a tense part in the plot would appear on the horizon, GG grabbed E's hand to hold each time. "This part's a little scary. You can hold my hand for it." And then, gently, "the scary part is over now, E. You don't need my hand anymore." And she'd take her younger friend's hand and gently remove it from her own and position it on one of the armrests between them.

As the movie climbed toward its climax and the hour climbed well past E's bedtime, she began to react uncomfortably. The plot line was a little aggressive and she asked to sit on my lap. As it got as scary as that movie gets, she squirmed on me. Put me down! she demanded. "Are you okay?" I asked her. I don't like what's happening in the movie. I need to get down. I need to go sit next to GG. And she did. She abandoned the comfort of her mother's love for the comfort of her older friend's hand. And she watched the movie to its completion.

She seeks these older friends with such trust and admiration in her eyes and it's such a beautiful thing, watching her place her heart in the hands of another. Pin It