I warned Elise last week about today.
“I’m writing about you Monday,” I said.
“Dear Lord,” she said. “About what?”
“Details of potty training,” I said as we drove to school, just the two of us (Marie stayed home “sick.”) “I’m going to tell about how we had to give you pee-pee prizes.”
“And how you still have to?” she quipped.
I love that girl. Quick with the wit. First, sometimes, in fact.
Being first has its advantages. Being second and third in the sisterhood line behind a big sis like Elise? There are huge advantages to that, too.
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With age comes great responsibility? Relative age, anyway. My eldest daughter taught her sisters so much she might not even realize! I’s just being in position of automatic authority. They’re so much better for it.
Sometimes, the little two aren’t hyper-appreciative. Sometimes, the little two gang up on the big one. Imagine two allosauruses jumping a T-rex.
They’re brutal, sometimes. Elise might wear the biggest cleats in the house, but, like that full-grown golden lab who thinks she’s still a lap dog, Elise remains at her core an under-6, kindergarten sweetheart.
This puts her at a disadvantage – a tender heart among two coyotes she helped to rear.
Here are five gifts, Elise, you’ve bestowed upon your sisters.
Had you never worn the ruby jersey of the mighty U6 Clear Creek Red Raptors, what would I even write about?
Adventures and misadventures with teams called Frogs, Tigers and Mysteries (coolest soccer team name ever?) unfolded in front of your sisters – who sometimes even paid attention. With any luck, to this day, any scrum that breaks out in the house holds a soccer ball between three kicking Valkyries.
You forged through as a kindergarten pioneer, thriving and cutting and coloring from your first day in school, despite the tears (okay, they were mine.)
You set a high expectation for any other Pacheco girl who ventured through Queen’s Grant. Teachers adored you, boys feared you on the playground. Anyone in any office took notice that any day with you would be sweet and friendly with an 87% chance of goofiness.
Whether it’s the awkward kid in third grade who wants to give you the chips out of his lunch every day or the steady boyfriend you met on a camping trip, you’ve given your sisters a primer on boys.
Boy craziness afflicts neither of your sisters. Neither compelled to compete for a boy’s attention. There’s kindness – or at least empathy – in how you’ve dealt with those with whom interest isn’t mutual.
They’ve not put it into practice yet, but there’s also a model for how to love freely for your sisters to see. To love.
We started a bit too late, didn’t we?
We still found a match, though. Amid the chaos and deluge of junk mail, you narrowed your search, hit reset. “Find me a school in the mountains,” you asked, “where I can play soccer.”
Elise, welcome to Warren Wilson College. Warren Wilson, meet your new, kickass goalkeeper.
Marie might balk at the idea of MORE school, but she knows the time is now to look. Grace has already picked out Wake Forest.
You hear me, Deacs?
Loyalty and protection
Years ago, you and Marie jumped bad on a boy for roughing up your little sis in a bounce house at a friend’s birthday party.
I didn’t stop you. From the day you helped give Marie a bath in the kitchen sink (tease her on this at your own risk!), you’ve modeled a protective arm and loving service.
It shows when Marie strokes Grace’s hair as they watch TV together. Watch how little kids flock to Grace, because of her innate big-sister skills that live and thrive – even without a younger sibling to practice on.
Elise, your little sisters might tease you for singing the instrument part of songs on the radio, or for epic-length stories, or appreciation of Dr. Who.
But just watch them.
In their own ways, they’re strong and loyal, skilled and confident, full of love and wonder and even a good dose of spit and vinegar when they need it. As parents, we can take only partial credit, love.
Sisters like these are made by sisters like you.