Hey Oldest Child: You’re His Sister, Not His Mom

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Sister taking care of baby

You would think that with there only being a 355-day age gap between my kids, they would consider themselves to be more like equals instead of older sister and younger brother. That’s what I thought would happen for the first couple of years. And if you thought the same thing, then you and I would both be mistaken since my daughter takes her role of big sister very, very seriously.

When my son was in his terrible twos and would hurt himself, I’d do what any parent would do: Rush over, make sure nothing was broken or bleeding, hug him until he stopped crying, and then we would both resume our regularly scheduled programming.

My daughter, on the other hand, went full-on maternal. She would run over with me, then run off to grab his blanket, pillow, Mickey Mouse doll, sippy cup, and any toys nearby to help him feel better. She would ask if he was okay, give him a hug and a kiss, and stay with him until he toddled off to do his own thing.

It didn’t take long to realize that she was a better mom than I was. She was born with a natural mama bear instinct that would rival that of any seasoned parent. She genuinely loves taking care of other people which is wonderful and something I admire in her. It’s a trait which will serve her well in her later years, and served her well for the first few years of her brother’s life, but it started to become an issue later on.

It was all fine and good and adorable at first. After all, what parent wouldn’t want an extra little helper around to alert them when their little brother is in peril or take them a snack when you’re on the phone? With me being the always uncertain mother and her being more maternal than anyone else on the planet, we made a good team taking care of her brother. He was a lucky dude.

However, my son is almost 4 now, and he’s pretty much over having two moms. Frankly, I am too. My daughter’s days of bringing him a blanket are long gone and have been replaced with her mimicking my discussions with him about listening, obeying, and keeping the bath water in the bath tub. So now instead of getting one lecture, my son gets two, and he and I are actively trying to put a stop to it which isn’t easy for either of us. He is through with the double nagging, and I don’t blame him.

He wants to put her in her place as his sister, and I’m trying to teach her to worry more about herself than others which is counterintuitive to her very nature.

While my talks with my son are more of the respect and disciplinary nature, my discussions with my daughter are more about autonomy. It’s time for her to be her almost 5-year-old self and worry only about herself unless her brother is in dire straits. I explain to her that it’s not necessary to alert me to every one of her brother’s wrongdoings or echo everything I say when I’m speaking with him. It’s time for her to merely enjoy being his sister, his playmate, his friend.

I don’t want to encourage them to get into trouble (of course), but part of me does want to subliminally tell them to bond over creating some good-natured mischief. Shenanigans like turning their mattresses into slides or creating pillow forts in the den are the foundation for a good sibling relationship, in my humble opinion. You’ve gotta do stuff together, create memories, and have fun with one another. I want my kids to grow up to be best friends.  And they’ve started down this path which is warming my heart a little more every day.

It’s been an adjustment for all of us. I don’t want my daughter to feel like she has to parent her brother, and I definitely don’t want my son to resent his sister. I encourage my daughter to go play by herself instead of hovering over her brother, and she’s learning to leave him to his own devices. The one person getting the long end of the stick is my son who for the first time in his short life finally just has one mom, and one sister. He’s coming into his own as well during this transition, and I’m confident in time we’re all going to enjoy our new roles.

This post first appeared on Scary Mommy


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