Monday, 5 April 2010

The Sisterhood

Scrumptious was born 8 years and 9 months after Truly. Did we plan it that way? Ha Ha. Ha Ha. The universe scoffed at my family planning attempts. Besides, I’m really not that organized. My sister, on the other hand, is that organized. She had three children, each one exactly two years apart, and all three born in the same month. Now that’s family planning. I would have loved for it to happen that way for me too. But it didn’t. So I reconciled myself with it. And I have come to realize that, while my sister got what she wanted, I got what I needed.

My daughters may not be playmates in the sense that siblings closer in age are playmates. They will never pass each other in the school corridors because they will never be in the same school together. They won’t share Legos and Barbies and clothes and shoes. They may not bond in the same way as two sisters who are closer in age. But, nevertheless, they are extraordinarily close.

And, over the years, I have come to see that there are some real perks to a wide age gap between siblings:

Babysitting services. Truly is 14 and Scrumptious is 5 so it’s legal now (I think). However, advance booking is essential. Because the social life of a 14-year-old is a lot busier, a lot more important, and a lot more difficult to rearrange than theatre tickets for ‘Jerusalem’ (according to the 14-year-old in my house).

No competition. Scrumptious is crossing hurdles that are so far back in the dust for Truly that there is no need for crowing, ‘Oh yeah? You may be able to read that Jelly Bean book but I can read ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ So there.’

No ‘borrowing’ or exchange of goods. Truly doesn't want to borrow her little sister's Groovy Girls, crayons or Charlie & Lola books any more than Scrumptious wants to borrow her big sister’s Hollister jumper, Ugg boots or 1,001 cheapo Top Shop bangles.

Historical reference (aka Did Mummy really traumatize/screw you up/give you a reason to spend 25% of your salary and 10 years of your life on the therapist’s couch?) As it turns out, this one is proving the most useful lately.

A few weeks ago, I took Scrumptious to a birthday party. When we got there every little girl in the room was wearing a dressing up costume. Except Scrumptious. I re-read the invitation. Nothing. No mention of coming in costume. How did all the mothers know? I really let my little girl down and the misery showed in her crumpled face. Eventually, she rallied and joined in the dancing (she learned from Truly) and it was okay. But still. I failed her.

I told a friend of mine about it and she said, ‘Do you really think she’ll be traumatized by this? Will she really remember it as one of life’s major disappointments when she’s older?’

Well, I really don’t know. It’s kind of funny the little things you remember from childhood.

So I asked Truly, ‘Do you remember the time you had to miss your best friend’s party when you were six because I punished you for fibbing?’

‘Um, no. I don’t remember that.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘So it didn’t scar you for life, then?’

‘I guess not if I can’t even remember it. But I do remember my 7th birthday party when I had all my friends for my first sleepover.’

‘Huh. That's good. Do you remember the time we were in the States and I lost you in Macy’s?’

‘You LOST me? Geez, Mum, how could you?’

‘Yeah, but do you remember it?’

‘No, not really. How did you find me?’

‘A lady took you to the desk and you had me paged and I came and picked you up.’

‘Mum, I wish you hadn’t told me that because now it will haunt me. It will be one of my bad memories from childhood.’

Hang on, how does that work? I don't know. But I have some hope that our kids will cut us mothers a bit of slack in the memory department. I'm hoping that they'll remember the time we played the 3-hour marathon game of Monopoly or the time we took them to their first concert or let them bake bread and get flour all over the newly cleaned kitchen. Hopefully, the Easter bonnet parade and the birthday party without a Princess Jasmine costume will not measure on the mother failure richter scale at such a high level as we think it will.


  1. Stopping by from SITS. Lovely post!

    It is funny, my husband and I were just sitting ont he porch last night discussing how much our kids would remember (they are 3 and 5) from things we do with them. (We just had a fabulous day of walking, shopping and eating!) And I think that they will remember very little but they will carry with them forever how loved they felt that we did such special things with them and how much we enjoyed showing them things and giving them experiences and all of the little life lessons that come with doing things out of the everyday.

  2. Maybe the solution is to never mention any of the bad memories and make up extra good ones, so that's what they'll remember!

  3. I hope my kids will remember the good stuff too. Love your blog!

  4. Elyse, Megan, MaryP--yes, hopefully they'll remember all the good memories and not the bad! Maybe we'll give them a selective memory bank to draw from.

  5. Lovely post. Unfortunately, my daughter remembers all the bad things and makes sure I do too!

    CJ xx

  6. I'm a big fan of manipulating memories. So if I've done some baking with one of them, I'll say something like "I love it when we do baking together. It's always such fun, isn't it?" and make it sound as if we're ALWAYS tossing out a few fairy cakes, rather than it being a once-in-a-blue-moon event. Or if it snows, I go out and build a snowman for 15 minutes, and then insist on them staying out for ages. When they come in all cold and shivery and bored, I say "I'm so glad we had that fun ALL TOGETHER in the snow", and then long after the event, I'll say "do you remember last winter when we ALL built that snowman TOGETHER?"

    I can't believe I'm so manipulative. However, it does strike me that I have very happy memories of my own childhood, and I'm beginning to wonder if my mum did the same. I mean, behaviour patterns do tend to repeat down the generations, don't they?

  7. Great post. I often wonder what they'll remember out of their childhood and what they'll need therapy for. I remember everything!

    Also, love your take on big age gaps. I'm glad you're so positive about it. I'm just beginning to see the benefits. There's an 7 year one between me and my younger sister. We were like ships that passed in the night with schools and stuff. But now we're close.

    There's an 8 year one between my son and daughter. I've just written about it actually (sorry to plug!)here

    Did you ever get to see Jerusalem?