Today...I'll tell you about my younger child.
Persistence---who incredibly never gets as much ink as her elder sister but whose behavior, antics and personality often, amazingly enough, put her older sister into the shade---is having a little trouble with her English. Her Italian accent is a little thick despite (a) never having lived in Italy much less visited there and (b) having never spoken or learned Italian (Spanish and French, although related, are not the same).
After a day before of stuffing the toilet with an entire roll of toilet paper and then flushing, creating massive overflow and mess, TWICE; pulverizing her breakfast and then dumping the crumbs all over the floor, pulling out all the toys and throwing them everywhere the floor while I tried to handle problems one and two and...more that I won't trouble you with, she stayed up until 10:30 p.m.
I had been solo parenting for quite a while, broken up only by a short visit from my mother, probably the only thing that saved my sanity.
So you can imagine how happy I was to see Persistence the next day at 5:30 a.m.
Let's start the story there and I'll tell you a little about Miss Persistence, and how there's something Italian in the state of Texas, with a heart and personality big enough for a state that loves big.
Note: Persistence's love of books is a salve to my mommy heart, which is so wounded from Patience's ongoing rejection of anything book or reading related, unless, of course, it is science or science fiction, and even then, only rarely. She's a doer, not a reader. But Persistence. Ah child of my heart. Loves her books. Wants to read frequently. Sleeps with books as if they are loveys.
Scene: Room dark with incessant cloud cover, pitter patter of incessant rainfall. Sleeping mom in bed. Enter small girl child in hot pink Dora pajamas, clutching a doll as big as she is, two books, and a blanket.
After tossing all of her Eee-Eye-Ohs (E.I.O.s aka Essential and Important Objects) Persistence leaps on to my body on the bed and jumps up and down on me.
"Mama, Mama, You awake-a?"
"Mama, Mama, doggie awake-a me up-a."
"bladgrr gum gigi dog next door..."
"Mama, Mama, Im-a hungee."
"Food eat yeah innaminute...here watch TV..." click on TV, roll over, pull blanket over face
"No, no Noggin, Mama, I wanna watch-a Born Babies show."
"Mama, Mama, get-a up-a. Tome on, tome on Mama, tome on downstawahs."
"Mama, Mama, Im-a hungee, hungee Mama, wanna watch-a Born Babies show."
Repeat. Add increasing persistence, volume and intensity. Keep up until Mama drags sad tired carcass downstairs to fix food and turn on the show.
After a tremendously huge argument with Patience over play-dough, do abrupt about-face and ten seconds later say with enormous emotion, as if reuniting after years of separation, "Tissy! My tissy!" and hold out arms in mute appeal for hug, which Patience provides.
I race into the playroom. Who is hurt, what happened?
"Mama, Lila is cwying, she's-a sad, we make-a her a bottle." Lila is her favorite baby doll. Lila is the size of a small nine month old baby or a large eight month old baby. She's very realistic. She gets us into lots of trouble.
Like the time the lady at the restaurant nearly had a heart attack because she thought I was carrying a real baby like a football, face down, and tossed her carelessly onto the booths bench.
Like the time the older woman called the police about the "baby" trapped in the car.
Like the time the other mother at school thought I dropped the "baby" on the sidewalk.
Persistence is a little mother, to all babies real and plastic alike. I offered to a lady in a restaurant once to babysit anytime she needed because her 8 week old entertained Persistence into behaving so well in public we got to finish our meal rather than beating our usual boxed-up meal hasty retreat with 22% tip.
We make-a a bottle for Lila, which Persistence feeds to her. It's a magic bottle: you tip it, and the milk vanishes as if the baby is really drinking.
"There! All done!" Persistence announces. "Now we read-a her dis book and she go nighty-night."
We read Lila doll Curious George Goes to the Dog Show and get her settled into the baby bed in the playroom. The playroom is set up like a little house, with a bedroom including a small bed and a couple of doll beds, a living room with a small love seat and TV, a kitchen with cabinet, stove and table, and the play area with shelves of toys and books.
The room is dominated by cute stuffed animals for the most part, but other than that it looks like a messy girl's dorm room---if the girl was about twelve inches tall---with loads of small outfits, shoes, and accessories flung crazily about. In a few corners are small terrariums with things like june bugs, earth worms and roly polies hiding in dirt. Other corners hold build-a-bug games and jelly insects. Legos are trip hazards in the center of the floor, but Patience will "lose her marbles" if you deconstruct her construction.
This one is an agility course for her new beanie cow.
Persistence, in trying to step carefully around the course, accidentally falls onto it.
"Oh no oh no oh no!" she cries.
"It's okay, I'll fix it," I tell her, partner in crime, conspiring to hide the deed. I attempt to put the complicated design back together. I fail. I decide honesty is the best policy.
"We'll tell her together," I say, and we wait with trepidation. I plug my ears in anticipation of the shriek.
Sure enough, Patience returns from her room a minute later, "AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH my cow course! My cow course! PERSISTENCE!!!!!!"
"Hang on there," I say, trying to make That Noise Stop, "She was trying to get around it and it was an accident. We'll fix it and maybe we should move it someplace other than the walkway here."
"I don't want to!" Patience says, bursting into tears.
Persistence walks to her, "Ssshhhh, sssshhhh Tissy, it's-a otay, I sowwy," and pats her back. She walks to the crib, gets Lila, and hands her to Patience in silent sympathy and compensation.
"I don't want your stupid doll!" the angry Patience cries.
"Hey now, wait a minute, she's saying sorry, trying to help, make it better the only way she knows how...I know it's sad your course got broken but we can fix it, yeah? And she's sorry. All of this matters. Okay? Let's listen and think for a minute."
Patience carries on. I see Persistence's bottom lip quivering, and her chin wrinkling. I know what's coming. She's clutching the insulted Lila closely, patting her back, wanting to give and receive comfort somehow.
"Okay count of three Patience you're going to take a deep breath and calm down..." I say.
Like an omega dog, Persistence is careful to not overstep younger sibling boundaries for a while...careful to defer just enough, careful to play up the little tiny bit of baby sister that lingers. Patience responds just as Persistence would hope. She is careful and patient with her, pays more attention to her, helps her, guides her in playing.
The situation is diffused. They play together nicely for ten more minutes before the next eruption.
But later, as they leave on an outing with their father, I notice Patience take Persistence's hand, and little Persistence smiles a small smile of joy and triumph. A minute later, Patience races back in, "I just remembered we left on the TV! I have to pause Persistence's show or she'll miss the Born Babies!"
The TV we turned on, and they promptly left the room. The show we started, just before they started playing something else elsewhere.
It was a big act for a small thing.
I pictured Persistence sitting cozy and comforted, secure in her car seat, smiling, thinking, "My sister, she-a love-a me."
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert