Elma was singing, twirling around a lamppost in the way that only partially abstracted three year olds can get away with. And then the singing stopped, and the wails started. She’d been skipping through a tiny narrow gap between two posts that was definitely not designed to fit humans, misjudged it slightly, and bounced into the very solid reality of one of the posts.
It wasn’t too bad a bump, not even hard enough to bruise, but the shock and dismay were enough to provoke her very loudest announcement of the occurrence. And I couldn’t go to her.
The reality of life with three children is that you will never ever have enough hands, you just have to make do with the ones available. Most of the time I’m just fine with left and right, I’ve got my strategies for holding hands to cross the road (I hold Elma and Pip and Kitty holds Elma’s free hand) and serving out supper (anyone who asks to be first will be going last, even if I have to dig to the bottom of the pile for H’s plate to get started) and making sure that the girls feel that life is as fair as I can make it (fighting a loosing battle on that one I know), but going from one to two teaches you rapidly that you cannot meet every need immediately, and two to three only solidifies that. You simply cannot parent two or three in the same way that you parent one. When Kitty was little every squeak was answered immediately, and occasionally by both parents, because there was not a single other call on our attention that was more important than our tiny daughter.
With three you just know that there are times when you’re going to have to chose, to pick one child’s needs over the other and hope that the one you didn’t choose can at least try to understand both the delay and your decision.
And with Pip half in half out of the sling, and both of us standing out in the middle of the road to get him into his car seat, it was a horribly hard easy choice; I needed to finish putting Pip in the car and then go and sort out Elma. And even though that probably only took seconds, in my head the subconscious mummy guilt stretched seconds into forever.
But as I came around the corner of the car to scoop up my darling girl, I saw someone had got there first; Elma had run straight to Kitty, and Kit had opened up her arms for her sister. They were stood on the pavement, Elma with her arms wrapped tightly around her sister’s waist, head pressed up against her tummy, tears soaking into the gingham of her school dress, as the sobs continued to roll through her, and Kitty, hugging her back for all her might, rubbing her back and dropping kisses onto the top of her sister’s head.
These two little girls of mine, turn and turn about thick as thieves and fierce rivals as sisters will be. I mostly see them at home, within our family unit, and it’s then that they can relax and most press each other’s buttons and so while I know that they love each other, and can see how much they enjoy playing together, I get very little evidence of the pair of them against the world.
Until of course circumstances spell it out in glorious technicolour.
That’s the gift of sisterhood, the one that means that I really ought to give the mummy guilt the heave ho, the one that means that I don’t need to worry that I can’t buckle wriggly babies into car seats while also giving cuddles and soothing bumped heads; these two will have each others’ back no matter what.
Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments