As a parent of three girls all four years and under life is interesting to say the least. What has become fascinating to watch is the relationship and interaction between my oldest and my middle daughters- a four year old and soon to be three year old at the end of this month. My four year old is in pre-K which has been wonderful. Learning her numbers, writing her name and most important becoming formally socialized to other children. She has done great- whatever that means for pre-k, right?! The fact is through her school socialization she has grown used to a day to day school routine complete with following specific rules and having clear expectations laid out to her each school day. She has developed an acceptable pattern of behavior complete with spelled out guidelines and boundaries. Consequently, car rides home from school and conversations around the dinner table are often focused around her explaining her day- what she did and what her teacher said. Like most first-born she is a rule follower, at least as much as a four year can be! Moreover as a parent it is really cool to see how open she is because I know that as she gets older that most likely will not last. So I take what I can get right now. . .
Now for my middle child she has yet to have any formal schooling. She lives in her own world and has not yet been “benefited” by having rules and instructions laid out to her by anyone really other than us- her parents and her day sitter. So what is the culmination of all of this?
A clash of cultures. 1492 all over again. My oldest assumes rules and patterns of behavior preached, learned and followed at school will be applied at home. She mistakenly (by no fault of her own) thinks that her younger sister has been socialized accordingly. The disconnect is tremendous some afternoons when they square off. For my middle child all bets are off. Everything is a zero sum game with her. For example, sharing does not come easy for her, nor does waiting her turn or waiting until someone else is done playing with said toy or object. In her mind, whatever it takes in that moment is most important- indeed the ends always justifies the means.
Often my oldest thinks by merely asking her younger sister if she can play with a toy or a doll that such a kind gesture will be reciprocated by giving over said toy or doll. . .she becomes apoplectic when this does not happen. My middle daughter revels in achieving this response from her older sister. And in fact looks for these opportunities. One of her favorite pastimes lately is to stand in front of the TV while my oldest is watching. INSTANT REACTION. Mission accomplished in her book.
My middle child is not bound by the normal constraints of cooperation, sharing, teamwork and playing together unless she can immediately see the benefits. Her world can be a savage world of the haves versus the have nots. . .and when she is in the have not camp our entire household becomes aware.
In many respects playing in our household between my two oldest is not unlike America’s involvement in Vietnam. My oldest, much like America constantly needs to adjust to the fact that there exists no front lines and the normal rules of engagement do not always apply. For God’s sakes too don’t assume anything and have your head on a swivel at all times.
If nothing else it makes for an interesting household on most days.