We were smack in the “all has gone to hell” hour, which occurs just before lunch. Petra was screaming on the boppy for the one thing Petra screams for — a boob. Fiona was on the floor, chucking her bottle across the carpet because she was tired or she didn’t want her bottle or she didn’t like the grip on her bottle. Who knows. And I was shaky from hunger and sitting on the floor between the two, positioned to keep Fiona from grabbing or kicking Petra, which Fiona’s wont to do. With one hand, I let Petra suck my finger. With the other, I tried to reposition Fiona’s bottle. I asked her to drink.
But my back has not yet recovered from the demands of carrying a human on the front-side of my body. (Exhibit A. When I posted this photo once, a friend said, “My back is killing me for you.”)
So my body wasn’t having this floor-level multitasking. “Screw this,” I thought, and grabbed Fiona’s pacifier from the coffee table and put it in Petra’s mouth.
But Petra spit it out and started wailing again.
Fiona looked down at her sister and started to cry. Not the “I’m not getting what I want” whine, but the pouty, frowning, red-faced, bona-fide expression that accompanies real tears. And real tears poured.
I stood her up. Was she upset that I wasn’t holding her? “Come here,” I said, and attempted to press her against my chest. She’d already put in a long morning of therapy, and I’d been nursing and holding Petra through most of it.
But instead of snuggling up against me, Fiona reached for her sister.
“Are you upset that she’s upset?” I said, and felt a little tickled by the sweetness. She’d come a long way since the first weeks of Petra’s life, when Fiona only wanted to claw at her little sister’s nearly bald head. She’d learned a gentler touch, and had even held Petra’s hand the other day. Now this blatant expression of empathy? As in, I hurt when my sister hurts? This was awesome. This was the seed from which the deeper sisterly bond would emerge, the one I share with my own sister, who I e-mail or call regularly about any number of issues, including my thoughts about my career and my fears about Fiona’s health and and my evolving attitude toward skinny jeans and my convictions on the perfect ballet flat.
“Aww,” I said, and let Fiona reach her sister.
She would stroke Petra with compassion, I figured.
Fiona would touch her sister gently in a tender expression of love.
At which point Fiona snatched the pacifier that had popped out of Petra’s mouth, attempted to put it in her own mouth, and stopped crying.
Note to self: How easily the well-meaning parent crafts delusional narratives.
Sisterly Bond is still a work in progress.