My Beautiful Struggle + [story]

The hard work of a 4-year-old

We had a bit of a rough morning at our house. On top of my general pissy demeanor, there was stomping and fit throwing by the girls at random times. Finally, I decided to be a mom, rather than a housekeeper, and Miss M and I had a heart-to-heart about being a sister.

I reminded her that I'm a big sister, too. We talked about our favorite parts of being a big sister - helping with babies and getting to tell our little sisters about what they can look forward to when they're bigger. I shared how I would play with my sister, and when we got bigger, we were cheerleaders together and played basketball together. "And you know what?" I asked her. "Aunt Gigi is my best friend now. I talk to her all the time. It's so great to have a sister."

Then we discussed what we liked least about being the big sister. When I shared that sometimes it's hard when little sisters don't understand or act big, tears started spilling out. She nodded her head and bit her lip and cried, "I just wanted her to ask and say please!"

It was in there, somewhere, all buried beneath her Big Girl work - the pain and frustration of always being the big sister. The demands of being asked to help the others. The its-not-fair's and what-about-me's. The desire to be seen and understood above all the expectations.

And I almost missed it. Because laundry piles reached the ceiling. (No disrespect to the laundry: one of my kids was out of pants. Legit.) The work of the house seemed louder than the work of being a parent.

My daughter didn't need a floor she could walk through - she needed a mom she could talk to, and who recognized her need for connection. She needed to be heard, that though she's capable of the work of being 4 - specifically that of being the big sister - she appreciated the recognition that it's not always easy.

Adults want that all the time, so I'm surprised I missed it for my kids. We want someone to realize the simple act of getting dinner on the table and clothes in the correct bedroom sometimes takes a 4-point action plan. We sit with girlfriends, sharing stories of how we juggle kids and activities and work because we need to hear that we're not rowing our boat alone. Right now I specifically sit at the feet of women whose kids are in school and they no longer spend every day wiping snot from crusty noses because I need to remember that this tunnel is short and there will be a time that we will decrease our disposable paper product usage.

Sometimes just being a big sister, or a mom, a friend, a daughter, a cousin, an employee, a client, a partner, or a member gets tough. We just need someone to sit on the couch and recognize our efforts, however lopsided, inadequate or perfect.