“But she likes it,” my middle daughter insists, a pleading expression on her face. I scoop the baby into my arms, rescuing her from her big sister, who is having a hard time grasping my firm no-banging-toys-on-Violet’s-head rule.
I sigh. It is at least the third time we’ve had this exact conversation, and I know how it is going to go.
“Just because she isn’t crying doesn’t mean you should hit her on the head with the ball. It’s not a good game. Would you like it if I hit your head over and over with the ball?” I am seriously tempted to do this. Even though these beautiful girls are both mine to cherish, I feel a very strong urge right now to put my older daughter in her place, to defend the baby with my body.
Yet for months I have been trying very hard not to give Caitlin reason to resent her little sister. She had a hard time accepting her role as the middle child, and she can see that Violet absorbs a lot of my attention—attention that used to belong to her. Somehow I know coming down too hard on Caitlin will not help matters. With difficulty, I swallow the feeling that she is old enough to know better.
Caitlin huffs and rotates her body away from me. She is annoyed I caught her, annoyed that she lost access to her living doll baby.
Sweet Violet does not protest being snatched away from the truck she was playing with, just like she did not protest being used as a human anvil. She has already moved on to smacking me in the chest and attempting to scratch the freckles right off.
I stand there for another minute, studying the back of Caitlin’s head, her rumpled hair. She is ignoring me and has begun to play with a few stray trains that happen to be nearby. I am left feeling superfluous as I watch her, shifting my weight back and forth and trying to decide whether this is a battle worth pursuing, or whether I have already said enough.
One of the great struggles of my overly wordy life is learning to just be quiet after delivering my message. Letting it simmer. Not beating the dead horse. (See what I mean?)
I sigh again and move off, smushing my nose into Violet’s cheek and nuzzling until she giggles and twists to grab my glasses. I like to try to press my love right through her skin.
Maybe that’s where Caitlin gets it from.
Caitlin has an unflappable belief that she is Violet’s favorite person. In the mornings when I am waking everyone up, Caitlin bounds into her sister’s room and dances wildly next to the crib. Violet is happy when she catches sight of me; she is often already peeking over the wooden rail and smiling when I open the door. But when Violet sees Caitlin, she seems to spark to life. She bobs up and down, stamping her feet against the mattress. Her eyes follow the frantic flailing of Caitlin’s limbs, and she squeals to mirror her sister’s enthusiasm.
“She’s happy because she sees me!” Caitlin informs me, grabbing my hand. “She loves me.”
It’s never I love her. Always the other way.