On our way to a new playground, two miles from our home, I asked Katherine to get out and walk, rather than make me push a fully-loaded stroller up an interminable hill. She dutifully joined me, holding tightly to the stroller handle, and Nathaniel reached up from within his perch to touch her. She giggled, looked down at him, and said, “I like you very much.” Surprised, I asked her, “What was that, honey?” She looked up and repeated, “I like him very much, “and then added, “I like him all the TIME.”
I was very surprised, and very happy. It would be cute coming from any older sister, but it is particularly surprising in a little girl who has really struggled when putting together sentences, who only recently started referring to herself as “I” or “me” instead of “you,” and who often pushes Nathaniel down when he invades her territory.
A day or two later, when the kids and I were at the park, running through the grass, Katherine carefully took Nathaniel by the hand to lead him in a circle around a large, old tree. When they reached a particularly high root, she gave me a bit of a guilty look and then put her arms around his middle to hoist him over. Nathaniel, usually quick to sound the alarm when Katherine interferes with his independence (his screech really turns heads), was unusually docile, and quite focused on rounding the tree. Then the two kids, hand in hand, ran to join me on the path.
Last year it rarely felt like I was really the mother of two children. I had one baby, and I had one little kid, and those two things were so different that it was hard to see similarities between the two. But now, with two runners, two climbers, and two cute talkers, I am really enjoying watching them play alongside one another, and, occasionally, together. The difference between the times of squabbling and the times of working together can usually be summed up by the difference between being cooped up at home and playing outside. We’ll try to make the most of it this summer.