Family ties |

Family ties

Christina M. Currie

It’s been 11 months and Katie has just now found the time to discover she has a sister. Nikki, on the other hand, has been waiting 11 months for Katie to notice her, and despite the unavoidable abuse involved (Katie is two), the baby’s never happier than when Katie is trying to force feed her a bottle or is trying to bounce on her stomach the way she does daddy.

Katie is resigned to the fact that the baby is here to stay. Some days she’s OK with it, some days she’s not. On the days she is, she’ll support herself on the baby’s stomach to lean over and give her a carefully-placed kiss. Though she can’t breathe, Nikki still manages a giggle.

In the bathtub, Katie fills a cup of water and tries to rinse the baby, something she’s seen mom and dad do plenty of times, but that she doesn’t quite have the knack of. If she doesn’t lose all the water on the way to the baby, her exuberance ends in a face full of water for her or the baby or me.

On the days she doesn’t recognize the fact that she has a sister, she yells if the baby so much as touches her when they are sitting together, steals her blanket and hides her bottles.

Nikki has her own defenses. She’s in the habit of stealing any bottle Katie leaves lying around (who can blame her, watered-down apple juice is 100 times tastier than formula) and she steals Katie’s blanket slowly so Katie won’t notice.

The baby doesn’t mind if Katie’s attentions are a little rough. She doesn’t mind the poking and prodding. She’s fine with sharing her toys.

Katie did realize early on (during her eye fetish phase) that Nikki was the only one who didn’t dodge fast enough to avoid her probing fingers.

I can see the pattern forming already. Nikki’s mute adoration and Katie’s “I like you when I’m in the mood.”

The baby is laid back and passive. Katie is stubborn and forceful. She’s like her seven-year-old brother, whom she adores in much the same way Nikki adores her.

It never fails to amaze me. Same genes, same environment, very different children.

When Nikki’s real parents show up, there’s going to be a fight.

When Katie’s real parents show up, there will be a lively discussion on what life is like on their planet.

Katie really notices Nikki when she’s got something Katie wants which is just about anything Nikki has.

Katie wouldn’t touch baby food when she was Nikki’s age. Now she’ll jump in, mouth gaping, to intercept a bite before it makes it to Nikki. Despite the fact that Nikki won’t eat because she’s so distracted by Katie, there is a benefit I never have to throw away leftover babyfood.

Katie hasn’t quite grasped the concept of sharing, but she’s got trading down pat.

When Nikki has the talking frog, Katie will trade it for a Post-it note (really, we spent a very amusing few minutes watching Nikki try to pull it off her head and laughed even harder when Katie saw how amused we were and reacted by stealing the Post-It from Nikki and returning the frog.)

When Nikki, by chance, gets ahold of the singing Barney, she gets one of her father’s work hats in exchange.

That’s fair.

Nikki has mastered the art of crawling (well, I’m not sure it can be really considered crawling. Not in the traditional sense. More like a military sense. Her stomach never leaves the ground, but she moves with a speed that only years of government training could match).

What that means is that there’s no escape for Katie.

What that means to us is that we have to watch where we walk. It also means the kitchen floor is buffed to a high shine (so, by the way, are Nikki’s knees).

I caught Nikki the other day with the cupboard open dumping all my Tupperware. Katie just outgrew that game. But, when she saw her sister doing it, Katie rushed into action, only she did one better. She dumped my pots and pans.

It was cute though. When all the tupperware was cleared out, Nikki crawled inside and Katie spent an interesting few minutes trying to shut her in.

I’m sure it won’t be the last time.

I’m an older sister myself with fond memories of dreams of hiding my sisters away (I picked the bathroom so they’d have water and planned to slip bread-and-ketchup pizzas under the door). My thought was that if they were out of sight, they were out of mind and my parents would forget them. So, I can see where Katie’s coming from.

That’s what big sisters are for.

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