The Best Gift I’ll Ever Give Them

During our family reunion this summer, the aunts asked me how Riley likes being a sister. I enthusiastically replied, “Great! She loves her sister! They hardly have disagreements.” And it was true. Riley loves her sister and has since the day I brought her home. I was worried that it would be a difficult transition for her. Going from being an only child to one-half of a pair is tough, and Riley unwaveringly believes in doing things her own way. So, I was pleasantly surprised and very proud as I watched her bend and make room in her life for her new little sister. She affectionately refers to her as “my baby” or “honey, honey,” a term she adopted after she once heard me say it. She will correct me if I tell her that she and I will be doing something, upset that I might be leaving Maddie out. “And Baby, Mom,” she’ll tell me. To this day, Riley has only asked to send Maddie back two times. Not bad for a little girl who spent two-thirds of her life with all of the attention on her.

Maddie was equally and instantly as taken with her older sister. Riley could do no wrong, no matter what physically Morning timeuncomfortable thing Riley was doing to her. One day, as I folded laundry nearby, Riley rolled onto her two-month-old baby sister and, taken with joy, spread her arms and legs into a snow angel pose and exclaimed, “Baby Sistah!” Horrified, I rolled her off of Maddie, certain she was squished. She wasn’t. She was grinning ear to ear. I knew then that they would be best friends, always.

Now, though, I fear that these two best friends have come to a point in their friendship where the rubber is meeting the road. They have each done a little growing and a little changing. Now, one month after my confident proclamation, disagreements have taken over the house. We are now on a rotation of who will be buckled into the car seat first. If it is Riley’s turn, she will happily let Baby know it. If it is not, she will pointedly tell her that it is not her turn tomorrow. During playtime, Riley turns her back to her sister and takes whatever toy she is playing with to a new location if she even thinks Maddie might be coming toward her. Without my consult, each sippy cup was declared either Riley’s or Maddie’s. Heaven forbid I mistakenly put the blue cap of Maddie’s sippy on Riley’s cup. Such hysterics I have not seen before.

Maddie is not without fault. Her stubbornness is just as far reaching and an octave louder than her sister’s. Should Riley ask her to use the piece of chalk she is using, Maddie will hug it close to her chest, turn her head away, and screech. She is appalled when Riley’s foot begins to encroach on her side of the couch, and should Riley’s eyes wander to Maddie’s food, she lets us know vocally how troubled she is.

I often find myself channeling my aunt Beth. Having successfully raised two girls who are great friends, I long for her wisdom. When the heat of battle hits, I instinctively repeat the words she used: “Be nice to your sister! She’s the best gift I’ll ever give you!” I imagine the words are sinking in behind the blank stares they return to me. I guess that pearl of wisdom will take a little longer to have an effect than I would like. For now, I’ll need to invest in some earplugs, some yoga classes, and good wine and will remind myself when needed that best friends doesn’t always mean best friends consistently. I’ll be sure to remind them of that too, when they need it.

Best Friends