“Oh Zuzu, I know you’re in there….do you wanna build a snowma-a-a-n?” I hear the soft rumble of Sugarplum’s giggle from my lap as she watches the Quail crack up tossing her head back, eyes full of laughter. We are sitting in the bathroom, me on the side of the tub with Sugarplum and her blankies trailing to the floor. The Quail, hands folded neatly on her lap, trying to go to the bathroom. Zuzu is in the next room over hiding under my Grandmother’s hand-made afghan; refusing to join us at the requested time on a school day morning. Come the weekend will be another story for this lot. But at such a young age they’ve already acquired the weekday sleep-in habits of their teen years to come. It’s 6:20 and I’ve had a quick morning run and come in to get the girls ready for school before getting myself cleaned up for work. Last night was Open House at the girls’ elementary school and homework wasn’t done before we hurried them off to bed later than our typical routine. Zuzu was told that she needed to rise and shine quick like a bunny this morning so she could finish her math game before it was time to go. But she’s tired. And she isn’t feeling the shine part of the equation. I’ve already stopped the nighttime birdsong, turned off the elephant nightlight and turned on the overhead light. I’ve rubbed her back, peeled the covers from her too-warm skin and sang a round of Rise and Shine and still she curls into herself ignoring the morning’s expectations. I’ve used my cheery voice, my practical facts of the day voice and my stern voice. She’s not responding. She’s not alone in her desire to slumber.
The Quail, our best sleeper by far, is now our early bird. She’s a school girl now you see. She has a My Little Pony backpack ready to go with a cereal bar snack, a cup and straw for water, her boomerang folder and a stuffed elephant to share with her classmates for this week’s learning about the letters E and F. Kindergarten began 8 weeks ago and the newness of it has yet to wear off. The Quail gets to go to school just like Zuzu now. Sugarplum on the other hand, is still in pre-school and prefers to not be reminded of that fact, that difference that keeps her from her sisters.
These girls- they watch each other with eagle eyes. Patterning their vocal trills, dance moves, sass and love after one another. Weaving their independent selves in and out of the fabric of their sisterhood. Sugarplum has hit toddlerhood running. Mostly after her sisters. A couple of months ago we finally moved her out of our room and into the practically outgrown crib that operates in more of a toy-chest mode rather than bed. And a couple of weeks ago she got her big-girl bed. Along with comes more freedom than I’m entirely comfortable with. Now when one sister rises, she can be certain that the tiniest Sister-Lou-Who will trail after with her blankies crumbled into her fist. Even though she doesn’t go to school as early as the big girls, Sugarplum rises with them, trotting from room to room quipping tiny adult narratives in her sweet, sweet babygirl voice.
“Oh, where are my shoes Momma?”
“Oh, dere dey are.”
“Oh, I need a diaper. I go potty. I need cream.”
“Where my dess?” I get dessed now.”
“I get the Cheerios. I use small spoon. Where my milk?”
As the Quail, finishes up going potty, I help off with her nightgown. “No momma. Not my jammies. Dere, Dere mine. Bad Momma. Time out. No cake.” She points to the doorknob where; sure enough, her pjs from two nights ago hang. She had been angry the night before, when her tired mom, a little too eager to send her off to sleep, had insisted she wear her sister’s pajamas, after a brief search for her own hadn’t turned any up. “Sorry Quail. You can wear them tonight.” I soothe, pulling her shirt over her head and reaching for her shorts. Just as I turn back to flush the potty I hear a scream and tiny fist flail out as Sugarplum grabs the missing jammies from the doorknob and hightails them out into the dark hall. The Quail is mad now. She starts lecturing her little sister in half articulated, fully emphatic phrases as her brain pushes them out quicker than her mouth can round. And I wonder why we hadn’t been able to locate them the night before. I sigh, turning away from their chaos to the all too still bed of Zuzu. Still laying there, stroking the satin bowtie on her stuffed lovey, tears drip down her face from her red-rimmed eyes.
“Are you crying Zuzu? What’s going on?” My voice fills with concern and I sit down by her pulling her into my chest. She acquiesces, sniffling as she tells me her sisters were just laughing at her and it crumpled her heart. I ask what she means and she says it’s my fault because I was singing again. Staring at her, not processing this slight she took in so very deeply, she explains that I sang the Frozen song and they laughed at her just minutes earlier. Rolling my eyes heavenward I’m about to explain that they weren’t laughing at her, when her clearly wiser sister pushes her way in between our bodies to hug her tight.
“Sorry Zuzu. No cry. Sorry.” The Quail’s eyes are filled with love and I feel tiny feet pound into my back as Sugarplum parrots the Quail, now lying on her back behind me. Somewhat assuaged by their gathering around her, Zuzu wipes her eyes and gets up to begin her day.