This year, as I’ve mentioned before, MG has school two days a week which involve waking up before any of us are ready, rushing through the morning routine of breakfast, dressing, and detailing; all the while I feel like a constant time minder, chirping “hurry up”, “do this next thing”, “let’s go”.
The three days she doesn’t have school, we have a more relaxed morning, but I do like to go to the gym 1 or 2 of those days, and also schedule play dates and office appointments, which means we are once again leaving the house in pursuit of something.
That leaves only one or two days a week where we don’t have somewhere to be. Seeing that kindergarten is just around the corner, I’ve made a conscientious effort to slow down on these open days before our lives are much more dictated by the school calendar.
Embracing this seeming descent to the end, I’ve taken to letting MG (loosely) decide the schedule for those days and I’ve learned so much about her by giving her this freedom.
Nine times out of ten, she chooses to have a “home day”. Her requests often suggest pajamas all day, a few minutes of shows, favorite books to be read, care-taking for her “babies”, a picnic lunch (of course denied in the winter), and some alone time in the afternoon while Bea sleeps.
That’s a schedule I can readily agree to, but for my own sanity, I always have some sort of “sub plans” if I feel the game of “baby” lingers on just a little too long, or I can no longer stand to read the same book for the fourth time that morning, or I feel the words, “I’m bored”, on the verge of little lips.
Last week that hat trick was blueberry muffins, the week before it was play-doh princesses, and this week it was manicures.
Giving MG this freedom to choose taught me that she’s a homebody, that she prefers pajamas to clothes, and that she still wants me to give her some direction with how to spend her time. But I’m also learning more about Bea by spending this more dedicated time with both of them.
In the past few months, we’ve watched our baby become a shadow of her sister. Still fierce and independent, sure, but when it comes to new situations, she turns to MG as her teacher and then carefully models her behavior.
When I asked the girls this week if they would like me to paint their nails, MG said yes enthusiastically; while Bea watched MG’s response first and then carefully nodded her head too, I’m sure not really knowing what she was agreeing to.
MG led the way to the bathroom and then sat on the step stool while she waited for me to supply the paint. Bea fussed as she tried to also find room on the stool for her bottom, not sure if there was an alternative.
MG picked out one color for her toes and a different one for her hands. Bea watched her decide and then chose something similar but slightly different.
I told MG to fan her toes out while I worked on them first; Bea carefully mimicked MG, then withdrew when she realized it wasn’t her turn, and then carefully arranged them again just so when I turned her way.
If I asked MG a question, Bea repeated the answer before I could ask. Just like a pole-parrot, it was coming out instinctively. Not in an effort to define, but an effort to learn.
It’s in these times, when something is new and foreign, I realize how much learning Bea does from her older sister. It’s not me she is seeking to imitate, but her older sister to whom she gives her full attention.
In twenty years, I presume I won’t remember much about these “home days”, other than what I can find in my brief notes about them. If that’s the case, then I want to remember the background noise of the washing machine, which seems like it is eternally churning through it’s cycles on these days. I want to remember the feel of little bodies trying to climb on my person during a story, the peachy scent of their hair close enough to taste. The smell of the crock pot promising an easy dinner. The relative silence of hungry mouths appreciating a good lunch. The way stretching limbs and wayward elbows feel from the inside of me, reminding me that she, too, is already a part of our days. The way a little sister, soon to be a big sister, looks to her older sister in moments of question.
And I know I don’t have to write this one down because I will surely remember, that these were great days indeed.