February 8, 2009

3rd Child, 4th Child

Anne and Rose, 1978; Michelle and Rose, 1981; Rose and Carolyn, 1982; Rose and Carolyn, 1986

In this and my previous post on my two older daughters, I am concentrating on their very different environments. Then I will tackle the far more fascinating question of persistent individual differences and siblings' impact upon one another. Because I kept journals and wrote graduate school papers when Anne and Michelle were young, I tend to write less about Rose and Carolyn, my third and fourth daughters. Again, they grew up in a different world than their older sisters. By Rose's birth I was a La Leche Leader and a fervent believer in attachment parenting. Both were born at home, both nursed as toddlers, both enjoyed the family bed in infancy. Both were carried far more in the front back and back pack than their older sisters. I had developed my own mothering style; I was no longer captive to the latest book I had read.

Both had wonderful older sisters. When Rose was born, Anne was 5 and Michelle was 3 1/2. I had absolutely no worries about their trying to hurt her. My only worry was that one of them would try to carry Rose around and drop her, but that never happened. By two months old, Rose loved lying on the bed and watching her sisters jump up and down. Anne and Michelle loved to make nests on the floor for Rose, and they would all play happily for a very long time. Michelle particularly spent countless hours amusing Rose. We have more pictures of Michelle with baby Rose than we do of me with all of my daughters combined.

Rose's first two years was absolutely tied to her sisters' schedules. During her infancy, I had to take her out three times a day regardless of the winter weather. Michelle went to nursery school five long city blocks away, five days a week, 9 to 12. Anne went to grade school in Soho, near the World Trade Center. Her dad took her down on the subway; I had to meet her bus on 23rd St. and 7th Avenue at 3 pm every day. Getting infant Rose and tired, napless, 3 -year-old Michelle to that bus stop every afternoon was extremely stressful. I put Rose in the corduroy snugli and wrapped an old peacoat of my husband around both of us. During Rose's second year, their dad took both Anne and Michelle downtown; Michelle attended a Montessori nursery school two blocks away from Anne's school. In addition to meeting Anne's 3 pm bus, I took Rose in the backpack on the subway every day to pick Michelle up at nursery school at noon.

It got easier the year Rose was 2 and Michelle had joined Anne in grade school. I only had to do the 3 pm bus pickup. Several days a week Rose went to a toddler playgroup a block away. Rose was traumatized by the move to Maine when she was 2 1/2. Before we bought our house in Bangor, we rented an apartment in Hamden Highlands; we had a frog pond right next to the house. Suddenly we owned a car; the kids could play outside without Mommy. I quickly found a playgroup for Rose, and she was excited about the first meeting. We got out of the car and were quickly led into the barn with a cow, horse, pig, and ducks. Rosestart crying hysterically. Playgroup was supposed to involve elevators, not barn animals.

Our lives had changed dramatically when Carolyn was born in 1982. We lived in a house, not in a high rise; we owned a car for the first time. Both Carolyn and Rose spent lots of time at Anne's and Michelle's school. Skitikuk, a unique school for 45 children 5 to 18, was in a old barnhouse, with abundant fields around; they even had ducks and three horses. I taught a baby development class with Carolyn as the experiment. We always went to the weekly talent shows. I found a playgroup for Rose without horses, and when she was 4, she went to nursery school three days a week and took gymnastic lessons.

When we moved back to Long Island, Rose was 5 and Carolyn was 17 months. Thankfully, the grade school was a block and a half from our house. Carolyn went to playgroups until she was 3, nursery school 2 mornings a week when she was 4, and 3 mornings when she was 4. She saw her grandparents at least three or four times a week. She got to be an adolescent and a 3 year old simultaneously, as she was exposed to her sisters' friends, TV, movies, music. She knew all of Madonna's songs and told everyone, "I am a material girl."

Carolyn had adoring, doting older sisters until she got to be about 5, and everyone discovered how much fun it was to tease her. She was an incredibly good loser, so she was welcomed to play games with her sisters by the time she was 4. From kindergarten to senior year, any teachers who had all four of them found Carolyn the most delightful, the friendliest, the best adjusted. Her older sisters were enthusiastic about her visiting them at college.

When I need either complicated event planning or delicate personal mediation, I call Carolyn.

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