Tag Archives: siblings

It’s Not That Kind of Help


Katie had a lot of homework on Tuesday, and she was most sincerely and demonstrably not happy about it.

Since the kids get out of school about forty-five minutes before I leave work, they usually sit in the conference room down the hall from my desk and work on homework until it’s time to pack up and go.  As I tried to cram a few more essential tasks into the few minutes of working time I had left, I could hear Katie’s whining and indignation at having so much homework to do (and on a video game day–the gall of her teacher!) all the way down the hall.  It was getting progressively louder as she increased her volume by increments until she was sure that I could fully appreciate the injustice of her burden.

Caleb, who just can’t bear to see his sister in pain, offered this advice:  “You should pray about it, Katie.”

“That won’t help,” she moaned piteously.

“Yes, it will, Katie!” he said firmly.  In the past few months, Caleb’s burgeoning faith has received a great boost through answered prayers, and he often asks me to pray for him before school or when he’s scared at night.  He persisted in reassuring his sister.  “If you pray, God will help you.”

“Caleb,” she said, with the exaggerated eye roll that only older sisters can properly manage, “I’m supposed to do the work by myself.”

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do


After sharing a room with his sister for all five years of his life, Caleb is not sure how he feels about having his own bedroom.  More to the point, he definitely doesn’t love it that Katie has her own room, a room into which she can retreat at will and close the door on his brotherly pleas for attention.  Tonight, wearied by an unrelenting string of knock-knock jokes, she did just that, leaving Caleb standing forlornly alone in the hallway.

Not to be deterred, Caleb got down on his belly on the floor and directed his comments to the crack under the door:

“But Katie, I love you and I want to play with you!”



The door did not answer.

I couldn’t stand it.  I was on the verge of bursting into to Katie’s new retreat to demand, cajole, and otherwise compel her cheerful cooperation when I remembered that the promise of giving her a sacred space all her own was one of the reasons we moved in the first place.

Instead, I gathered Caleb up onto my lap and tried to soften the blow with some uninterrupted Mommy attention.

It worked pretty well, if I do say so myself.

All the same, as much as we looked forward to being able to provide the kids with their own space, it’s a little bittersweet to close the book on this room-sharing chapter of their lives.  I’ll miss the sound of their giggles as they kept each other awake long after lights out.  I’ll miss the tent castles they erected around their bunk beds with blankets and pillows.  I’ll miss the joint goodnight rituals and Caleb asking to be lifted into the top bunk for our nighttime prayer.  I’ll miss tiptoeing back in hours later to say a prayer of my own over the two sleeping forms in the bed, gazing at the beloved faces with helpless adoration and a painful recognition of how quickly my time with them is passing.

I’m glad I have those memories.  I’m glad they do.

I’m also glad that they’re stretching their legs at last and enjoying some long-awaited independence and privacy.

But I’m still not sure how I feel about that closed door.

I suppose in a few years I’ll be the one on the floor, talking to the crack.

Brotherly Love


I was driving Katie to school yesterday morning when a longsuffering sigh rattled forth from the back seat. I shared the sentiments behind the sigh; it had been a pretty chaotic morning, due in no small part to the kind of sibling bickering that makes one seriously doubt the possibility of peace on earth.

“What’s up, Katie?” I asked. Apparently the question opened a floodgate of pent-up frustrations.

“It’s just that Caleb really gets under my skin!” she lamented. (She just learned the idiom “gets under my skin” this week, so I’m proud to see she’s already incorporating it into her practical language. At least, I think I’m proud.)

“Yes,” I commiserated, “Little brothers can do that sometimes.” (In truth, I was thinking of my own little brother, who once cut the hair off my Barbies and then melted their heads on a cookie sheet just to see what would happen. I’m happy to report that he survived his doll-mutilation phase and went on to become a normal, productive member of society.)

I was just about to go into my critically acclaimed “Loving Your Family Even When They Get on Your Nerves” speech when Katie made it clear that she wasn’t yet done with the airing of grievances.

“He chatters all night while I’m trying to sleep, and in the morning he wants me to come down and turn on the light even though his bed is on the bottom and he’s closer! And he keeps saying that his name begins with a ‘K’ and mine begins with a ‘C’ even though he knows that’s not true! And he tries to climb on my back for piggyback rides when I don’t want him to! And he talks while I’m trying to read to him, and keeps turning the pages before I’m done with them! And he copies me! And he follows me around and won’t give me any personal space! And you know what else he does?…”

When she finally paused to draw breath, I leapt into the gap. “I know Caleb annoys you sometimes, but don’t you think you also do things to annoy him? Big sisters can sometimes be bossy and irritating, too, you know.” (Now I was thinking of myself as an oldest child, and the many times my mother had to step in to remind me not to be so domineering of others. I clearly remember saying to her once, “I’m not bossy, Mommy; it’s just that I have all the good ideas!”)

“Why don’t you try to think of some good things about your little brother?” I went on, “I’m sure there are lots of things you love about him.”

Seconds ticked by.

“I can’t really think of anything right this minute,” she said.

“Well, think about the fun times you have together,” I prompted, concerned that I had clearly neglected to nurture this delicate childhood relationship. “Think about the nice things he does. Can’t you think of anything good?”

“Well…it is fun to teach him stuff,” she finally admitted, “like how to create things with paper and tape, and how to make a tent out of blankets.”

“Good! That’s good, Katie. Can you think of anything else?”

“Umm, he likes to watch me play video games. And he’s always happy to see me when I come home from school,” she added. “And also, he gives me lots of hugs (even though sometimes I don’t want any.)” I ignored the little grumble at the end and gave her an encouraging wink over my shoulder.

We were pulling up to the front door of the school when Katie thought of one more thing.

“You know what else, Mom? Caleb thinks my jokes are really funny!” she said, before slamming the car door with a grin.

I grinned, too, as I pulled away.

At least one of us does.