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September 10, 2009

This Wonderful Life: Who are these little girls?


There are two children in my house who bear a striking resemblance to my daughters. They are adorable, smart and energetic.

Like my daughters, they can spend hours drawing and coloring or watching DVDs about princesses and adventures. They even answer to my daughters’ names.

And yet, I ca’t help but be suspicious about their true identity because these girls have been nice to each other.

Mornings around Schoolhouse Farm are always difficult. There is only one bonafide morning person in our home, and that’s Bee.

The rest of us do what we can — Papa at a determined pace, me in a fog of overnight caffeine withdrawal, and Posey with either a mischievous clown face or an outright scowl.

For her part, Bee doesn’t have much patience with people who aren’t morning people.

So I was dreading the first day of school just a bit.

In her excitement to start the new school year, Bee had planned her ensemble down to the smallest detail, and declared the night before that she was going to wake up early, get dressed immediately and make her own breakfast ``because that is what first graders do.’’ (Clearly, she hasn’t met a lot of high school students.)

Her unmitigated enthusiasm for school is wonderful, don’t get me wrong.

And her self-sufficiency is even more admirable.

But in a house full of non-morning people, it’s wise to keep the one morning person occupied.

I set my own alarm extra early so I could be on top of my game. I predicted that Bee would be up and ready to board the bus approximately one hour before it arrived. That would give her plenty of time to get antsy and look for a diversion to fill her spare time - something like parroting her little sister’s conversation (``Stop copying me!’’) or reminding her father and me of some vague quasi-promise we may or may not have made three years ago whose fulfillment has become urgently and immediately necessary (``Remember that time you said it would be fun to go back to that museum in Philadephia? Remember? Remember when you said that? When are we going to do that?’’).

But that’s not how the morning progressed, and that’s what makes me so suspicious.

Bee was sitting calmly at the kitchen island eating her breakfast when Posey woke and, still rubbing her sleepy eyes, recounted a dream about Bee and a castle and a knight who saved her.

``You tell the best stories,’’ Bee said, in one of the few spontaneous, genuine compliments she has ever given her little sister. Moments later, Posey told Bee she was beautiful. Then Bee helped stir Posey’s oatmeal and kindly passed it to her.

Then Posey said, ``Thank you.’’

Then a sparkly unicorn flew down from the top of Panther Mountain and beckoned us to ride her far away to a land where eating chocolate makes you rich and buying shoes makes you smart!

Okay, so that last part didn’t happen, but it is no less fantastical than what did transpire.

Having grown up with only a brother, I have no direct experience with sisterhood. I ask a lot of questions to adults and children who are old enough to be a little reflective. The answers span the full spectrum.

It got easier as we got older.

It got so much harder when we were in middle school and high school. They’ll probably always be friends, like my sister and me.

If their relationship survives past college, they might have a chance at beginning a friendship.

One young friend with keen analytical skills said of her relationship with her younger sister: ``We are closest friends, but we can be the worst enemies.’’

I don’t doubt that for a minute. Girls can have a rare talent for being hurtful to other girls, and being close with someone means they know all your weaknesses, and you know theirs.

The challenge is to teach your daughters to lift each other up, cheer each other up and, when the time arrives, back each other up.

And if at all possible, teach one of them to make coffee.

Elizabeth Trever Buchinger knows you are, but what am I? You can connect with her at www.moremindfulfamily. wordpress. org.