When we adopted our nearly 4-year-old son, it felt completely natural and right for him to copy the sibling closest to him in age, his 6 year-old sister. He needed a tour guide to escort him through his new life and she was mostly happy to fill that role. What I didn’t realize was that over a year later, I’d be trying to break him from his “minion” status and get him to express his own opinion. Or find his own opinion.
In our early months together, if big sister asked for a popsicle, whether or not he actually knew what the word popsicle meant, he was sure to wave frantically and yell “Me too! Me too!”
Totally understandable. He didn’t want to miss out, and yet the poor kid wasn’t sure what anybody was saying, and so of course he was eager to jump on any passing bandwagons, be they popsicles or brussel sprouts. And even if he didn’t particularly like the brussel sprouts once he found out what they were, if his sister liked them, I guarantee, he’d force a smile, swallow another, and ask for more. That is, of course, if she asked for more.
Once we got past the language hurdles, the I-must-do-everything-my sister-does mentality stuck. Case in point, last week’s trip to the grocery store:
*The kids pick a red fire truck cart and squeeze in behind the double steering wheels.
*In the produce section, Cholita announces that she doesn’t want to ride in the fire truck and wants to walk.
*XiXi cannot exit the fire truck fast enough.
*Now I’m pushing an empty fire truck with two kids trailing, one clearly annoyed, and one watching his sister closely for her next move.
*In the bread aisle, Cholita says that she actually does want to ride in the fire truck and resumes her post.
*XiXi jumps in so fast you’d think he was headed to a real fire.
*In the canned goods section, Cholita says that she now wants to ride in the front seat of the cart.
*XiXi almost falls out of the fire truck, yelling “Me too! Me too!”
*He sees there is only room for one, looks completely at a loss, and is soon in tears.
Now, I have 5 children and understand that for the most part, this is normal sibling stuff. The youngers copy the olders for various reasons, sometimes just to annoy the heck out of them. But I really don’t think that’s XiXi’s intention. I believe he honestly feels lost without her guidance.
Window shopping with them yesterday in our little downtown, both with spending money burning holes in their pockets, XiXi hardly glanced at an item if his sister hadn’t already shown interest. When we’d gotten to the last shop and I asked them if they wanted to buy something, I purposely asked XiXi first and told Cholita that she’d get her turn to tell me her choice in a minute. XiXi bit his thumb nail, nervously glanced at his sister, and literally could not come up with an idea on his own. Cholita, not necessarily the queen of patience, jumped in that she wanted the pen with all the different colors. I don’t think XiXi actually said “phew!”, but the relief was certainly there in his voice when he said, “Yeah! The pen with the different colors! That’s what I want too!”
And then, because she’s decided that having a minion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Cholita said, “Never mind. I think I’ll get something else instead.” But she wouldn’t tell him what that something else was. It was torture for the poor kid. Pure torture. I asked my teenaged daughter to take Cholita to buy whatever it was she wanted to buy and I knelt down and asked my sweet little boy, “XiXi, do you really want the pen?”
He bought the pen. His sister bought a ring. And although Cholita likes the ring, she’s been enviously eyeing the pen, because I think that’s really what she wanted all along. She’s fairly easy to read that way. But XiXi?
We’re still learning. Completely in love. Completely excited about the journey. But still definitely learning.