My eldest daughters compliment each other like a happily married couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. When one can no longer walk, be they too tired or weary from growing pains, the other swoops up to offer piggy back’s ride or wagon’s pull. When one can not sleep, be they too restless or scared from a nightmare, the other cuddles in to offer a bed-time lullaby or story from nearest picture book.
This week’s school start found these two at their familiar opposite ends of the spectrum. My youngest didn’t look over her shoulder, bite her bottom lip and fidget her fingers before classroom’s entry. My oldest didn’t wish the school day was longer or for anything other than to be home with baby sister and me.
This week’s school start also found these two sisters at either ends of an invisible line.
This invisible line is sketched when boys play with boys, run past girls to tug a braid or shout silly things.
There’s no denying the pain felt from sharing a nap time or sleepover’s bedtime story with a boy who giggles with you only to turn up near recesses’ hop scotch, where you’re dreaming of the Barbie you’ll play with after school when he runs by, all boy-pack hyper and yells, girls are made of frog lips and old cat fur!
I remember the Fall in third grade, eating my fluffernutter sandwich (yup, I’m a Yankee) with a boy after school and pinky-swearing with him in my basement that I wouldn’t tell anyone at school how much he loved playing My Little Pony only to reach the last week of school when he chased me at recess, called me names then refused to pick me for his kick ball team.
Lessons I don’t care to teach: boys will be mean to you on the playground if they like you, boys will be mean to you on the playground and still play happily with you on weekends or whenever other boys aren’t around. This is all alright. The one you marry will pick you first, always and never say you smell like whale breath.
I have one daughter that would laugh and call a boy silly for saying she was made of old pet fur and frog parts and another that will walk away and wipe a tear.
I can not carry my babes in my arms forever. One would jump right in, given the chance, but I must admit an almost seven year old in a sling is a bit unsightly. My eldest is learning the language of play as leaves change around her and feeling new knowledge roll in like tide in an unfamiliar room. She’s learning to speak up, making sure her words don’t have tears tagging along in her message.
My middle daughter’s humor and thick skin just might be the anchor of our family. She runs ahead, so sure of herself only to look back and offer a pinky to a struggling sister or a knock-knock joke to a sad sister.
Still, there’s no denying this place where we are right now. It’s hard to watch, this hardening of her heart. My firstborn is learning that speaking up isn’t giving in. She’s learning to smile, to create amidst words heard she doesn’t like. She’s bothered by the injustice of playground social order and she’s only six. Her heart is so full with all that space shared with the love of passed-on great grandparents.
When the school bell rings I want to hold on a bit tighter with my hugs, knowing I can’t hold my daughters in my arms forever. I want to know all about what made them laugh and know how their heart was lead to create each and every day. I want to know their wishes for tomorrow.
If confidence is gained from a mastery of the monkey bars, then practice is at the top of our to-do list form now on.
My wish for my daughters is simple: the confidence to ask why, the courage to keep trying and the creativity to always find their way.