August 16, 2008

The Worm Turns; the Younger Sibling Fights Back

I had always been fascinated how early the younger sibling figures out how to annoy the older sibling. From a journal entry in 1974, when Michelle was 15 months old, Anne was 3.

When Anne came home from nursery school, she asked me to read Green Eggs and Ham. She settled on my lap in the small black chair, and I began to read. Michelle immediately came over protesting, tried to climb into the chair. I assumed she wanted to listen to the story so I asked Anne to move to the couch, so we all could fit. But then Michelle started grabbing the book, bringing me her books to read.

I discouraged her, feeling she had had my exclusive attention for 4 hours; now it was Anne's turn. My friend Terry offered to read to Michelle, but she struggled down from her lap 2 or 3 times. I finished reading Green Eggs and Ham. Terry started to read to Anne and Erin, so I could read to Michelle. Michelle got down from my lap and tried to grab the book away from Terry. When that failed, she tried bribery--3 books, her blanket, a slip, her rabbit skin. Erin wanted the rabbit skin, but every time she took it away from Michelle she protested and only stopped when Terry took it back from Erin.

Finally Michelle used one of the cardboard blocks to climb on the ottoman; from there she lunged for the big black chair where Terry was sitting with Anne and Erin. She didn't quite make it and had to be rescued, but she had achieved her purpose--the reading stopped. I've noticed that she often starts fussing if someone picks up Anne, reads to her, pays her exclusive attention in any way, shape, or form

I'm glad to see such self-assertion on her part, even though I feel pulled in two directions now with both of them clamoring for exclusive attention. It frees me from being Michelle's defender. More and more I can let them learn to handle their disputes by themselves. I know Anne's worst won't really hurt Michelle, and Michelle's protests more than enough to warn me if any mayhem is actually occurring. Once or twice lately I've rushed in ready to scold Anne, when Michelle's protests had absolutely nothing to do with her. For the first time since Michelle was born, I can't read to both of them at the same time. Anne's being away at school mornings seems to have encouraged Michelle to increase her demands. If she could get rid of Anne in the mornings, why not all day?

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