I sweep up the crumbs from breakfast, noting an oily patch on the island. I run a rag through it, squint and figure that will have to do until Saathi decides it is not. Tiny lego pieces are littered at my feet. I mutter under my breath as I pick them up and toss them into a ziplock bag. I find a string of beads, a magnifying glass and a mickey mouse pendant amidst my pans. Sun glasses peek from between boxes in the pantry.
My world is overrun by my children. I set things in order, restoring a balance of sorts. A half page flutters to my feet as I sweep a clutch of papers from another table. Half done homework, reminders about the fall jamboree, invitations to volunteer at a local event. I put them into the recycle bin and turn the paper over. Stick figures representing the three siblings. Two with yellow hair, one with black. They all sport wide eyes and matching smiles.
The past week has been a turning point in sibling dynamics. Ammu and Laddu have always been drawn to each other. In the past few days, it has been very apparent to anyone watching. Ammu feeding her food, Ammu gently holding her hand as they walk downstairs. Laddu looking in wide eyed awe as Ammu forces one of Laddu’s outgrown dresses on a stuffed elephant.
“Elephanty needs to go potty” Laddu exclaims. Ammu digs through a drawer and comes up with a swim diaper several sizes too small for Laddu. The two of them hunch over the sofa as Ammu puts the diaper on the elephant. Laddu roots around a jumble of things on the floor and holds up a hair band for elephant. Together they put a hair band on, slip a bracelet on one leg and take turns playing with her.
Each morning as she wakes, Laddu looks for me and the next moment calls out for her sisters. “Ammu! Pattu!” she calls loudly until they appear. At night, Laddu tags along as I tuck each child in, bestowing hugs, kisses and whispers in each willing ear.
Ammu stomps around the kitchen in her fluffy pink shoes, Laddu runs behind her screaming, tugging at her dress so she will stop. The minute she does, she bends, pulling at the shoes until Ammu tumbles and sits down. The two battle it out until one of them walk around victoriously and the other dissolves into a puddle of tears. Pattu rarely joins except when Laddu marks her sights on something she holds. A book, a puzzle piece, a toy.
Watching my kids reminds me of my childhood. It reminds me that one of the earliest lessons my siblings taught me. Life is unfair, inherently so. It also taught me that there was nothing I could do about it. All through life I soldiered on, taking failures with grace and aspiring to things knowing they would not happen.
I wonder if my children are learning the same lessons as I refuse to interfere, letting them resolve their battles themselves. I also wonder if they will march through life a tad more confidently knowing there are parts of themselves in their sisters that will be there for them should the need arise. That there will be warmth at the end of the phone that will hold on when words seem insufficient. I sure hope so but if it doesn’t they would have already learnt their lessons.