May 20, 2016
By Ekta R. Garg
One morning earlier this week as we drove to Seven’s school, we talked about some of the summer camps the kids will attend in a few weeks. Nine can’t wait to go to Hogwarts camp, and Seven stayed quiet as she listened to her sister chattering about some of the elements of the series. I sensed that she felt a little left out, so I asked her what camp she couldn’t wait to start.
“Magic Tree House,” she said immediately.
This child has pledged her undying devotion to siblings Jack and Annie. I asked her which sibling she liked better, and she said Annie.
“Because she’s adventurous and she likes animals.”
“Well, it makes sense why you like her better,” I said with a grin.
“Yeah, Jack worries too much,” Nine said. She’s read through the series several times too and has spent a considerable amount of time with Jack and Annie.
“Let me guess,” I said, “Jack is the older one.”
“Yup,” the girls said.
“That’s why he worries so much and why Annie’s so adventurous,” I replied.
“Except we’re not like that,” Nine said.
“Yeah, I definitely worry more than Di-Di,” Seven added.
“Really?” I asked, surprised at her admission. I mean, I know she gets anxious fairly fast—this has been an enduring trait of Seven’s since she was an infant—but I didn’t know the worries had become a part of the sisterhood.
I tried to ask her what she worried so much about, but by then we got closer to her school and her brain switched into school mode. She didn’t say anything to that effect, but I could see it in her face. She approaches the various facets of her life with a laser-like intensity.
Still trying to figure out how to cultivate that and curb it all at the same time to help her with balance.
Nine and I wished Seven a good day in school, and I pulled away from the front of her school. As I pulled out of the school’s drive and onto the road, I glanced at Nine in the rear view mirror.
“So what else does [Seven] worry about?” I asked.
“Um, let’s see,” Nine said. “Do you want the most recent things or just the stuff in general?”
Wow. I didn’t know we’d compartmentalized these issues to this level. I asked Nine for the most recent things first.
“Well, she’s worried about the recital,” Nine said, talking about the girls’ music recital this weekend. Both have played in recitals before, but this is the first time Seven is playing her cello. What’s more, the kids are playing a short song together and alternating between the harmony, the melody, and the baseline of this song.
“Why is she worried about the recital?”
“She’s worried because we keep changing things and that Mr. S. has signed us up to play this song and that we’ll mess up.”
I told her not to get so worked up, that Seven’s cello teacher was completely open to the variation they wanted to play for the recital. In Seven’s cello lessons, more than once her teacher has expressed a wide open spirit to the kids being creative with the piece. I got the message loud and clear; somehow Nine and Seven missed that part of it.
“I knew it!” Nine said. “[Seven] just worries so much.”
“Well, it’s part of our job as big sisters to help our younger sisters feel better.”
“It can be annoying,” Nine said.
“It can,” I concurred. “My little sister is 30 and she can be annoying sometimes. But she’s also my little sister, and I love her.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to be a big sister.”
“I understand,” I said. “But think of it this way: if you didn’t have [Seven] you wouldn’t have anyone to complain to about your parents or someone to play with.”
“I would have Dadu,” she countered.
In the last several weeks my older child has gotten really good at this. The comebacks. I appreciated that she thought of her grandfather right away. I also wanted her to understand just how much her sister needed her. If Seven enjoyed and appreciated adventurous endeavors, her personality also demanded a counterbalance. Which Nine, by her simple presence as an older sister, provided.
I didn’t know whether I could say all this and whether she’d understand. She’s a mature kid, but she’s also nine years old. Some days she reminds me that behind that inquisitive gaze framed by her glasses hides a little girl.
“Yes, you would have Dadu,” I said, “but I think it’s good to help your sister too.”
She acquiesced fairly easily, and not long after that Nine got out of the car in front of her own school. I drove away with another bit of insight into my daughters’ lives. The one who worries and the one who reassures her. Even with the minor complaint from Nine on ferrying the duties of an older sibling, I think she’ll do okay in that role.
Which means I won’t have to do much worrying in the future.