My eldest daughter is 7. It means she is still adorable (in my eyes) but it also means she has passed that irrepressibly cute and innocently beguiling phase that Inky is falling headlong into, like a flirtatious screen queen.
People coo over Inky all the time. She is so charismatic, so cute, so amazing. Of course we think so too, but lately I’ve become acutely aware that Scout is in her formative years, where personality and self-esteem is being tested and re-evaluated. We thus need to be careful that we balance all the adulation her 2 year old sister gets, with affirmations that Scout, too, is brilliant (and she gives us plenty of examples every day). I am pretty careful not to compare them, but I can’t control what other people around us do and say.
It has meant putting myself into Scout’s shoes (trying not to drown in Strawberry Shitcake in the process) and try to see what she sees. I think she probably sees an awful lot of Inky getting her own way. An awful lot of being cast in Inky’s shadow – this blonde, blue eyed chubby dynamo who is bossy, wilful and charming. Inky gets her own way a lot. Part of it is our time-poverty, but it’s laziness too. And having the wool pulled over our eyes whilst getting a monumental toddler wedgie (note: it makes “walking like you have an entourage” difficult with wool up your bum-crack). Scout isn’t exactly quiet (hell no) but she does spend a lot of time reading, or drawing her comics, or writing. She’s generally a gentle and compassionate kid and minds her own business whenever Inky is not there trying to shove a texta up her nose or steal her Pillow Pet. #notsponsored.
So I’ve embarked on an operation of balance – making sure both our kids get what they want some of the time, and not get what they want some of the time. It sounds really basic, but it’s something Husband and I have foregone a little of in the pursuit of a calm household, which has often meant giving into Inky, probably at Scout’s expense. It’s not something we’ve done deliberately, but it’s something I’ve been made conscious of through the occasional flash of “early years regression”.
I’m guilty of thinking Scout is the big sister so she can “sister-up” and “take care of herself”. I do pay Inky more attention because she’s smaller, I don’t know her as well as I do Scout and she is more dependent on us (although sometimes I wonder). But Scout is only 7 and I forget that sometimes. I forget that she’s still a kid while I’m treating her like a mini-adult. She is a typical 7 year old, acquiring attitude at the same rate Dexter acquires glass slides, but I think my expectations of her are sometimes too high.
I think it’s important that we give her the space to be independent, be a free thinker, but we are much harder on her than Inky. Yes, that might be age appropriate, but I want Scout to stay on the trajectory that she’s on – towards being a confident young woman, riddled with self-esteem, not someone who thinks she is in anybody else’s shadow.