Lately I’ve found myself teaching my oldest girl important life lessons, like how to make bread and how to prepare a Mountain Dew with just the right amount of ice and a straw (for me), and how to clean the bathrooms — things I want her to know before the new baby comes so she can help keep things going around here. Sometimes I could learn from her: somehow she’s trained her two younger sisters to wait outside her door and ask “Can I come in please?” before entering her room. I told her that whatever she requires of them I could require of her, so to think that through carefully.
When she is enthusiastic about getting her chores done, she can pied piper those kids into racing to see who can finish first. All this without a single Love and Logic course. Is that just the prerogative of the first child? I remember my mom asking me to set a good example and to get my younger siblings to do things on Saturday mornings. Instead I hid in the bathroom and read (actually, that sounds really familiar, Sally).
But I still have some wisdom to impart, bit by bit as she’s old enough to handle it:
#1 Always check a new box or bag of groceries or household items carefully, so you don’t open the wrong end or ruin the zipper on the easy-reclosable opening. I demonstrate this for her on a regular basis, just for emphasis, because it’s tragic when you open a 2-pound bag of Twizzlers right UNDER the zipper.
#2 Always check your fountain drink before leaving a drive-through or gas station. There’s nothing worse than driving away with a slightly bitter soda that needed the syrup bag replaced. This one I haven’t been able to teach from my own actions; it’s one of those mistakes you only make once in life, so dire are the results. But when she got her Sprite from Costco last week, it was a teachable moment right there in the parking lot.
I do teach her important stuff, like the meaning of sex, or why we don’t drink alcohol (Hint: it’s not in the 10 Commandments, like she was trying to tell Susan), but sometimes, though she inherited a mean voice to rival my own (maybe THAT’s how she got the younger girls to keep out of her room), she seems to intuit how to do important things. (And I can’t tell you how I cringe whenever I hear that voice coming out of her mouth.)
Last night there was only a small section of pie left. Tom had already had some, and Spot hadn’t come downstairs for scripture time, or finished her dinner (which was a friendly peanut butter and jam sandwich, I might add). So I divided the rest between Sally, Susan, and myself. Spot started crying, the broken-heart crying, not the tantrum-crying (which is much easier to ignore). I held her in my lap and rubbed her back with one hand as I shoveled in pie with the other, telling her I was sorry she’d made the choice to not listen to scriptures and not eat her dinner.
Sally went to the cupboard, got a plate out, and cut off the larger half of her piece for Spot.
Maybe that’s why they welcome her like banshees every afternoon, and why Susan will hole up in her room late at night doing the reading lesson I futilely cajoled her about earlier. Even though it bugs me when people say their kids teach them so much, I’d like to have some of that mystique she weaves around them effortlessly, magically, but somehow I don’t think a mother is ever going to be as idol-worthy as a big sister.