Half-term always pops up just when I think we’re still starting a new school year. My perpetual behind-the-times state is felt acutely during this break, because it also coincides with my youngest daughter’s birthday. Must confess, I count on it to cull her invite list to something resembling manageable, she’s such a pleaser she never wants to leave anyone out. Once the birthday stuff is over (v. successful this year, thanks very much for asking), everyone starts to relax a little.
They’re in different schools now, my two, and the break is staggered. This gives us a great chance to let them enjoy not being in each other’s company for a bit. One visits Grandma for a few days, for example, then the other, in turn. Together? Never. Not in a million.
There’s been a great deal of promotion lately about keeping siblings together in care and adoptive homes. In principle, I agree. Loaded four words, those, I know. I really do agree. I couldn’t imagine life without my two together. And yet…
Both of my children know, after several years with us, that they find life much easier when their sibling isn’t around. They carry such intense attention-needing scars from their early days that sharing their care-giver is, every single day, a source of great stress and, on occasion, unbearable.
A running family joke my eldest created a few years ago, and now oft repeated by both, goes ‘Mummy, daddy, I think I would have made a really good only child!’ The first time she said it a pause followed. We didn’t quite know what to say. Then her sister laughed. ‘Me too!’ Then we all laughed. It was funny because it was just so obvious.
Their father and I had our own mathematical version. In most families, 1 child + 1 child = 2 children. We had our own formula. Our family felt like: 1 child + 1 child = approximately 5 children (give or take .5).
Anyway, we are currently enjoying the company of our eldest, while her sister visits her grandma. In a day or so we’ll swap them over. Grandma enjoys them enormously on their own and refuses to believe they are each part of the two-headed monster that appears when they are together.
It’s also obvious, to us, that their bond with each other is important. And we spend enormous amounts of time and energy helping them nurture it. From time to time it’s good. Others? Well. Let’s just say it’s hard to appreciate its value a lot of the time.
At night, when they’re asleep, I imagine them as adults. Sisters sharing an incredible past, overcoming difficulties, those vast leaky buckets of attention-neediness shrunk to a fraction of their former size. They emerge as friends. Well, I can still dream, can’t I?