“Frozen” and my quest to cultivate sibling friendship

elsaandannaThis past weekend, while watching “Frozen” with Lily and a few of her friends, I sat in the darkened theater, hoping against hope that the “act of true love” needed to save the story’s spunky heroine would involve the young woman’s long-estranged sister instead of the male lead.

Well, wonder of wonders, folks. It DID. And I couldn’t have been happier.

Not just because “Frozen”’s creators deliberately chose to forgo the tired, predictable Prince Charming paradigm; but also because I’m currently doing my damnedest to cultivate a positive, enduring sense of closeness between my two young daughters.

And every narrative that underlines the idea that siblings matter, and are to be treasured, subtly advocates for my cause. Continue reading

Shopping for trouble

mylittleponyWe often see lists of what people fear most, and some old mainstays are public speaking, death, flying, vomiting – but I bet if there was a subsection of mothers with young kids taking that survey, “spoiling my child” would be on there somewhere.

Because no one wants that. It’s not good for mommy and daddy, not good for the kid, not good for other humans. Everybody loses, right?

So nearly every parenting decision is haunted by this anxiety. Your every instinct drives you to want to see your child happy all the time – but you’ve got to teach her, too, that sometimes, you don’t get what you want, and that’s just how the world works. Period.

Then there’s that temptation to just avoid the “store showdown” all together.

This is why, when I need to buy birthday presents for other kids, I usually bend over backwards to do it on my own – on the way home from work, or on a day I’m working from home and running errands.

Today, though, as a means of getting Lily to preschool without a fight (this was one of those very occasional “but I don’t WANT to go to preschool” mornings), I told her I’d pick her and Neve up a bit early and take them shopping to pick up gifts for two little cousins’ upcoming birthdays.

In a way, this was a good thing. It got me what I wanted – a battle-free morning – and it would take care of a task that needed to happen before tomorrow afternoon.

The down-side?

On the drive there – we weren’t even in the store yet – Lily says, from the backseat, “Can I get something too, Mommy?”

Oof. Continue reading

“Lily, please don’t lick your baby sister.”

Believe it or not, I actually had to utter this hilarious sentence quite recently, during one of Lily’s many affection-fests with Neve. (The sentence was punctuated, for good measure, with, “That’s gross.”)

For while I was initially terrified about Lily feeling pushed aside and/or threatened by Neve’s arrival, Lily has instead been quite obsessed with the baby – to the point that the problem is now about finding a balance between bodily protecting the baby and not completely dousing Lily’s enthusiasm for her beloved sister.

Lily always wants to hug Neve, and she’s a bit aggressive in doing so, squeezing the stuffing out of Neve, or yanking Neve’s head up from her seat so Lily can wrap her arms around her neck; Lily often kisses Neve all over her face, even when Neve is recoiling in overwhelmed confusion; Lily likes to rock Neve roughly in her bouncy seat, and playfully poke her in the face with her finger, and force toys into Neve’s tiny, curled fingers; and more than anything, Lily wants to carry Neve, at every minute, and no matter the circumstances (sitting in a chair, walking down stairs, walking from pre-school to our house, etc.).

To her credit, Lily – after about a million admonishments from us to be “gentle!” and “careful!” – has gotten better with time. She actually does a pretty good job of holding/carrying Neve now (though we still constantly shadow the pair, with our arms ready to catch Neve at any moment); and she’s gotten better about her hugs.

But something Lily still struggles to understand is our repeated pleas to not wake the baby. (This is particularly a problem because Neve is, by nature, a baby that likes to sleep quite a bit.) Lily just can’t quite contain herself when the baby’s in the room. She’s always itching to play with her and shower her with affection.

It never occurred to me for an instant that our situation would take this turn. In a sense, it’s a good problem; I’d much rather have Lily wild with love for her sister than slyly trying to harm her, or telling us to take the baby back for a refund. But a good problem is still a problem.

For there’s still a lot of anxiety in the room, as a parent, when you’re trying to keep your one child from literally smothering the other with love. When it gets to be too much, we try to lure Lily toward another activity (making dinner with Daddy, watching part of “Sesame Street” or a favorite movie, etc.), and this usually works.

But then, you also have nights like the one when I called out to Joe every five minutes, “How long until dinner?”

I of course hope that Lily always has a spirited, affectionate love for her sister, and that they grow to be friends in the years ahead.

I just have to make sure that Neve survives babyhood so that maybe SHE can enjoy the relationship, too.