Addie and Nolie and I were playing "dollies" in Addie's room yesterday. Addie wrested a dolly from Nolie's clutches and screeched at me: "Mommy! Nolie is ruining my LIFE!"
There are many levels of strangeness for me, in this little vignette. First, it's weird for me to play dollies. I don't think I was really a dolly kid (Mom, can you correct me?). I do remember doing a lot of soulful crooning along with my Whitney Houston and Kenny Loggins records, and I remember obsessively brushing the hair on a My Little Pony doll, but mostly dolls bored me. I was a kid who liked decorating her room, putting everything in just-so order and then sitting back and appreciating the peace that order brought. That was the extent of my playing with dolls, after a certain age. I preferred to dress them and put them in rows and then looked at them. After ordering them in this way, "playing" with them would have just messed them up.
Doesn't so much about me make sense now? How difficult it is to have kids who actually play with their toys, who want to throw them around and stomp on them, take them apart and drool on them? It's so counter to my every last instinct. That said, I'm sure there was a time when I did these things to toys. I just don't remember. Or maybe I didn't. My mom passed on a lot of my old toys to us when we had kids, meaning they were preserved in pretty good condition for over thirty years. Addie and Nolie's toys, by contrast, are pretty well trashed already. Hmmm.
The other level of weirdness is the whole sibling dynamic. Eric and I planned to have the girls pretty close together in age, and luckily the plan worked. So Addie and Nolie are not too far apart in age, and will ostensibly be sharing clothes, toys, and playtime. Nolie is just getting old enough now that Addie wants to play with her, and they can sit in the same play space for fairly sustained periods of time, co-existing peacefully. That is, until Nolie crams her finger into Addie's belly button, or Addie grabs a fistful of Nolie's belly and squinchy-squinches it in retaliation.
But I'm confused about how siblings are supposed to interact. I grew up with one brother who was four years younger than I, and to be frank, I was a total ass to him. I took out all sorts of pre-adolescent rage on him, pounding on him as hard as I could, blaming him for things I did, or generally ignoring him. I'm ashamed that I was such a terrible sister. So it's probably no surprise that we weren't close for a long time, only recently coming back into each other's lives in lovely, gratifying ways.
Friends and neighbors had different relationships with their brothers and sisters, so I have an inkling that not all sibling relationships were like mine. I know some sisters and brothers are very close, almost best friends; others hate each other seemingly from the get, and grow into adulthood never speaking to one another, except maybe to utter "You're dead to me" at awkward Thanksgiving gatherings. Others are merely curiosities to each other, wondering at the genetic chance that somehow landed them in the same family. Others are more like mine, a fragile detente dependent on careful respect, love, and a healthy amount of geographical distance.
In other words, I look at Addie and Nolie as they crack each other up, or cover each other in slobbery kisses, or scream at each other in despair and anger, and have no good guess as to what's coming.
Finally, of course, is the weirdness of Addie feeling like Nolie is "killing her life." I had to stifle powerful laughter at that one. It occurs to me that I'm getting to know Addie better every day, as she figures out how she feels about things, and ways to express those feelings in ways that are uniquely her own. Nolie I love passionately, joyfully, but I still am not sure who she is, apart from this hilarious, yummy little baby. Part of this is probably that it's difficult for me to know someone except verbally--it's the fundamental way I make connections with others.
But there is part of me that also really connected with Addie's meaning. Addie had plans for her dollies, ideas for how things should be, and Nolie came along and messed them up. Addie did feel this was "killing her life," and a teensy-tinsy part of me understood. Whenever things go out of order for me, or don't go as planned, there is some small child in me who feels the world has come off its axis, the great ship unmoored. I try to not let this be the predominant impulse in my life anymore, but it's still there, in tiny twinges now and then. So I get what Addie is saying, but have to also laugh at how much like a three-year-old I still am.