When they get along it is priceless. G & I almost hurt our arms, stretching to pat ourselves on the back for the great job we’ve done in parenting these little best friends. I love to sit and listen, from a small distance, listen to the complicity, the giant plans, the negotiating. They come up with the most amazing ideas sometimes, and they (each) have a tremendous capacity for compromise…when it suits them.
And then there are the times, too many of them, I’m afraid, when I wonder why I bothered to have children at all. What did I do wrong to create two souls so completely bent on tormenting each other? How did they learn to be so cruel? Why can’t they see the big picture? Or walk away, or turn the other cheek? At these times, I try to remind myself that they are, in the end, best friends. So close in age that they don’t know there’s a pecking order, so close in spirit that they are equals, despite the 19 months between them. When the bickering is unstoppable, I dig deep for the memories of the other times, the joyful times, the times of teamwork, and usually I find them, and can get past the horror of the moment. Or, if not, I can send them to their rooms until they remember that they love each other.
Today we’ve had both. The morning started with hugs and kisses and happy greetings, but deteriorated into a series of battles over such enormous inconsequence that my husband was ready to walk out. Then, after a break – dance class for T and shopping for D – they were reunited and happy, and have been since. I can hear them downstairs, working on Hallowe’en crafts, chatting in a way that I can imagine growing as they grow up: two sisters who sneak into each others’ rooms at night to gossip or share heartbreaks or dreams, and then later, Sunday morning phone calls from across town or across the miles.
I don’t have that with my sisters. I love them, and they love me, but we’ve never been close, despite the tiny age that separates us. Maybe it was the Three. I’ve always felt that three is difficult: someone always left out, personalities formed in the shadow of birth order. I knew, when I had my second daughter, that I would not have a third. I couldn’t bear the thought of my precious T becoming the middle child, not after have grown up behind my middle child sister, and seeing the trials and disappointments of her life. So, they are two, and I watch them, as closely as I can without them seeing me watch them, for signs that their road will be different than my own.
In moments like now, I like to think it will be. The sound of their conversation drifts up the stairs to me (punctuated by occasional outbursts or threats, to be sure), and I am happy. Happy enough to go downstairs and face the colossal mess that is the inevitable result of such collaboration.