For a very long time, if I was in another room and I heard Mary Virginia start crying, I’d run in, prop my hand on my hip, raise my eyebrows, and say, “David? Why is Mary Virginia crying?”
And then, because he is only three years old and needs a bit of time to come up with a decent lie, he’d answer my question, often with great detail.
“Oh, she’s crying because I was playing with this train and she took my track and then I hit her with this truck, Mommy.”
And he’d say it as if, once I found out that she TOOK HIS TRACK! I’d understand completely, so much that I’d walk straight over and whap her in the head again for good measure.
Occasionally he’d explain that she wanted something of his, like his favorite blanket, but she couldn’t get it so she was doing what she could do: scream.
Now that she’s older, I can decipher her cries. Does she need mommy attention or medical attention? It’s a fine line, but the difference is somewhere in the pitch and the amount of time she holds her breath between wails.
Most of what I do all day long is negotiate sharing and cheerfully suggest ways David can play with his sister. Mary Virginia will pick up a toy David hasn’t touched in at least six months, and I’ll see him from across the room clenching his teeth. Before his sense of injustice boils over and spills out all over my rug, I rush over and start reasoning with him. And, I’m telling you, no matter what I do or how hard I try, this sort of thing always ends with one of us in time out and the other in the kitchen eating Hershey’s Kisses.
Then one morning David walked into the living room and said, “Hey, Mary, want me to read this book to you?”
Then he sat down and he did it. He read the whole thing. Or more like a creative paraphrase. And I just happened to be sitting there with the camera in my hand.
And then — SPOILER ALERT! STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVE NEVER READ THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR!!! — at the end of the book the caterpillar turns into a butterfly. David was so excited to show his sister that he threw the book up in the air and hit her in the face.
I’m going to put these pictures in their baby books — all except the last one — so that when my children have children and they call me, exasperated, and ask if they ever fought as toddlers, I’m just going to sigh, look at these photos, and say, “I don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you guys always played so wonderfully together.”